Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) in Dogs

Overview of Canine Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD)

Osteochondrosis Dissecans, frequently called “OCD”, is a condition that occurs as a result from osteocondrosis (OC). Osteocondrosis is a condition of abnormal cartilage development. OCD describes a flap that forms as a result of this abnormal articular cartilage development. This loose piece or flap of cartilage causes secondary joint osteoarthritis. These problems generally occur early in the dog’s life, as opposed to the “wear and tear” arthritis that people manifest later in life.

Cartilage is the tissue, normally at the ends of long bones, which contributes to pain-free motion. OC is a congenital defect in normal joint cartilage development that results in either a loose piece or flap of cartilage.

OCD occurs more in males than females, and some breeds are genetically predisposed including Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, Bernese mountain dogs, Old English sheepdogs, Labrador retrievers and Irish setters.

Osteochondritis dissecans can occur in the shoulder, stifle (knee), hock (joint below the knee) and elbow. OCD of the shoulder was once the most commonly recognized form of OC; however, a different complication of OC, Fragmented coronoid process (FCP), is now more commonly diagnosed. OCD of the shoulder occurs when there is abnormal ossification or development of the joint cartilage of the upper portion of the humerus. A layer of thicker cartilage results from the osteochondrosis. This thicker cartilage can crack, cause a fissure and dissect (hence the name dissecans) a cartilage flap. This causes secondary joint inflammation and lameness. OCD affects young, large-breed dogs. This condition also frequently affects both front legs.

The amount of secondary arthritis present when the condition is diagnosed is “there to stay”; however, most surgeons feel that if the condition is dealt with in a timely manner, further development of degneration could be lessened.

Diagnosis of Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) in Dogs

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize OCD and exclude other diseases that may cause lameness in young dogs. Many times, the veterinarian will suspect OCD based on signalment (age, sex and breed), history and clinical examination. In addition to obtaining a medical history and performing a thorough general physical examination, other tests that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:

Treatment of Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) in Dogs

Treatment for OCD in dogs may include the following:

Home Care and Prevention

After your dog has joint surgery, you will need to limit exercise for three to four weeks after surgery. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding physical therapy and medications.

Since many of these dogs have experienced rapid growth, some veterinarians feel that feeding lower protein diets without supplements may be helpful in decreasing the incidence of the disease. Discuss this issue with your veterinarian.