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What You Should Know About Osteochondritis Dissecans in Dogs

by Geoff Works |

Does your pup have trouble walking after a day of playing and walking? Are any of their limbs painful and warm to the touch? Chances are, your dog may have canine osteochondritis dissecans.


To help you, we have listed all the things you need to know about osteochondritis dissecans in dogs. In this blog, you will find the nature and signs of this condition, along with its treatment and recovery options.

What Is Osteochondritis Dissecans In Dogs?

Osteochondritis dissecans, or OCD, is the abnormal growth of cartilage in the bones of your dog. Normally, during a pup’s early development stages, they grow bones to replace the cartilages through a process called endochondral ossification. However, when your dog has OCD, the additional buildup of cartilage interrupts this process.

Mild cases of OCD lead to tiny cracks or flaps in the cartilage. However, in severe cases, it can grow larger and even develop away from the joint. This detached cartilage floats around the joint and can hinder further bone development. When this happens, your dog may feel pain and inflammation in the affected joint or even destroy it.

The cause of canine OCD is unknown, but a lot of factors contribute to its development. For one, it can occur when the blood supply to the bone is disrupted. Nutrient deficiency can also lead to this condition. Other factors that can cause OCD include your dog’s diet, genetic makeup, growth rate, joint structure, hormones, and trauma.

Moreover, large and giant dog breeds are predisposed to this disease. Dog breeds prone to OCD include Bernese Mountain Dogs, English setters, German shepherds, Newfoundland, Great Danes, Labrador retrievers, Old English sheepdogs, and Rottweilers.

What Are The Signs Of Canine OD?

Canine OCD typically occurs for pups between the ages of 6-9 months. It’s important to know these tell-tale signs of osteochondritis dissecans so that you can improve your canine friend’s quality of life in the long run.

The most common symptom of this condition is lameness in the affected limbs. It usually affects the shoulder joint, but can also involve the joints in the ankles, elbows, knees, hip, and spine. The onset of osteochondritis dissecans can be sudden or gradual.

Other canine OCD symptoms to look out for include the following:

  • Stiffness
  • Soreness
  • Limping
  • Swollen joints 
  • Pain in the affected area (especially when pressed)
  • Reduced range of motion in the affected area

If your pup exhibits any of the symptoms above, it’s best to seek help from your vet as soon as possible. Your vet will give your dog the treatment that they need. They can also guide you on how to help your pup recover and live a better life.

How Is Canine OCD Diagnosed?

To diagnose osteochondritis dissecans, your vet will need a thorough medical history of your dog’s condition. They will ask questions about your dog’s health status, the onset of the symptoms, and your dog’s lineage. They will also conduct an orthopedic examination on your dog’s limbs, examining the affected area for swelling and pain.

Your vet will then take multiple radiographic images of the affected areas. X-ray images help pinpoint the location of the abnormalities and lesions on your dog’s joints accurately. As an additional precaution, your vet can also ask for CT scans and MRI scans.

To clear your dog of other potential diseases, your vet may request a complete blood profile. This includes a complete blood count, chemical blood profile, and a urinalysis.

How Is Canine Osteochondritis Dissecans Treated?

Once your dog has been properly diagnosed, your vet will recommend treatment options that best suit your dog’s condition. These options will vary depending on how severe the lesions are. For mild cases like small cracks or flaps in the cartilage, your dog will need to make lifestyle adjustments to help its joints heal. For more severe cases of OCD, surgical interventions might be required.

Corrective surgery is needed for three reasons. First, this removes the flap or the floating piece of cartilage from the joint. Second, it takes away the unhealthy cartilage that can disrupt your dog’s bone growth, especially if it’s already massive. Lastly, the surgery will allow the underlying bone to develop scar tissue called fibrocartilage.

Your vet will recommend either an arthroscope or a surgical opening of the joint. Moreover, they will inspect the bone area for any defects or problems. If they spot an anomaly, they will remove it to get rid of any potential sources of inflammation. 

How Can I Help My Dog Recover from Osteochondritis Dissecans?

After surgery, your dog will need plenty of time to rest so it can heal quicker. Luckily, you can help your furry friend recover in different ways:

Let Your Pup Get Lots of Rest

Rest is essential to help your dog recuperate from the treatment operation. By getting enough rest, their body can easily repair itself, leading to a swifter and steadier recovery. Your vet can suggest that your pup rests in a cage for a few weeks along with restricted physical activity.

Limit Your Dog’s Movement

Along with giving your pup sufficient rest, It’s also important to restrict their physical activity for the first few weeks after surgery. This helps lessen the strain on your dog’s affected limb to speed up their healing process. Instead of the usual stroll in the park, it’s best to take them on short leash walks to contain their movement.

Perform Controlled Exercises

To keep your dog’s joints healthy and mobile during recovery, vets recommend doing controlled exercises with your pup. This can include Passive Range of Motion (ROM) exercises that keep your pup’s joints moving even when they are lying down. When in doubt, you can always consult your dog’s physical therapist for a tailored home exercise plan.

Control and Manage their Weight

If your dog is overweight, consider making dietary changes to help them lose weight. Any excess weight can place an unnecessary burden on your dog’s joints when they move. This, in turn, can slow down your dog’s recovery. A balanced diet can help speed up your pup’s recovery.

Follow Your Vet’s Prescription

Along with exercise and dietary changes, your vet will also prescribe medication to relieve your dog’s pain after surgery, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs). They may also recommend joint supplements to help repair and restore the condition of the joints of your dog.

Help Your Pup Recover from Osteochondritis Dissecans

Canine OCD is a tricky condition that can affect your dog’s quality of life when they grow up. Thankfully, with early detection, your pup can promptly receive care. You can help them recover by keeping their physical activity to a minimum and following your vet’s advice.

Looking for dog health tips and advice? Find more on the LickSleeve blog.



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