Osteochondrosis (OC) in Dogs

Overview of Canine Osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis (OC) is an important developmental orthopedic disease in young, large-breed dogs. It is considered to be a clinical problem of the same magnitude as hip dysplasia.

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. This loose piece or flap of cartilage causes secondary joint osteoarthritis.

Secondary arthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD) is very different from the primary arthritis that occurs in humans. The dog’s body recognizes the cartilage flap as abnormal and this induces the secondary arthritis. These problems generally occur early in the dog’s life, as opposed to the “wear and tear” arthritis that people manifest later in life.

The joints involved with OC in dogs (from most common to least common) are:

The amount of secondary DJD present when the OC 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 DJD could be lessened.

Diagnosis of Osteochondrosis in Dogs

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize OC and exclude other diseases that may cause lameness in young dogs. Many times, the veterinarian will suspect OC 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 in Dogs

Treatment for OC may include the following:

Home Care and Prevention

After your pet 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 animals 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.

In-depth Information Canine Osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis (OC) is being increasingly recognized as a leading cause of lameness in many large-breed dogs such as the Rottweiler, Labrador retriever, Bernese mountain dog and Newfoundland. OC is a developmental disease which means affected pets are born with a defect in normal joint (cartilage) development. This defect typically causes lameness at an early age.

This abnormal development results in various clinical syndromes. All of the elbow diseases that occur in young dogs secondary to OC can be lumped together under the term “elbow dysplasia.”

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

In-depth Information on Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize OC and exclude other diseases causing lameness in young dogs. The age, breed and clinical signs are characteristic for the disease and may cause your veterinarian to strongly suspect these conditions. OC should be suspected in any large-breed dog less than two years of age that is lame. Tests that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:

In-depth Information on Treatment

Treatment for OC in dogs may include the following:

Follow-up Care for Dogs with Osteochondrosis

Your veterinarian will usually prescribe pain medication to ensure your dog’s comfort, prior to definitive diagnosis and/or in the aftercare period from surgery. This can be done through the use of pills or narcotic pain patches (placed on the skin) that release a constant level of pain medication.

Prior to definitive therapy, you should limit your pet’s activity to reduce pain and minimize the chance of a pathologic fracture occurring. Your pet should not run, jump or play during this time and should be watched carefully. Give assistence when he climbs stairs or gets in and out of the car.