Osteochondritis Dissecans in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatment

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    What is Osteochondritis Dissecans in Dogs?

    Photo Credits: RehabVets

    Osteochondritis Dissecans, commonly referred to as OCD or OD, is a condition in dogs in which a cartilage flap forms during development and causes an inflammatory response. Sometimes, the cartilage flap splits and floats pointlessly about the interior of the joint, causing discomfort and severe damage to the joint.

    OCD is most often observed in the shoulder, although it can also be found in the knee, elbow, and ankle joints. OCD produces various degrees of discomfort and lameness, making it difficult for affected young dogs to remain active.

    What Causes Osteochondritis Dissecans in Dogs?

    Unfortunately, the cause of OCD in many cases is unknown. Genetics are considered to be a major cause of OCD, especially when present in the elbow. It has also been found that OCD is more common in dogs who have too much calcium in their diet or have nutritional deficiencies present. A disruption in the supply of blood to the bone or through the bone is a possible cause as well. 

    Who’s At Risk of Developing Osteochondritis Dissecans?

    Clinical signs of Osteochondritis Dissecans tend to first show between the ages of 6 and 9 months. It’s most commonly observed in large breed dogs that are rapidly growing. Additionally, OCD is more likely to occur in male dogs over female dogs.

    What are the Symptoms of Osteochondritis Dissecans in Dogs?

    There are a variety of symptoms that are typically presented in dogs with Osteochondritis Dissecans. The most commonly observed symptoms include:

    • Lameness (may be sudden or gradual)
    • Avoiding weight bearing on the affected leg 
    • Lameness worsens following activity or prolonged rest 
    • Swelling at joints and warm to the touch
    • Crying out in pain 

    How is Osteochondritis Dissecans Diagnosed?

    In order to properly diagnose OCD, your veterinarian will need to perform x-rays. In more advanced and difficult cases, a variety of other tests may need to be performed including arthrography, CT scan, or MRI. Several radiographs of each affected region may be necessary to get an accurate assessment of the various bones in joints. This may require a sedative or short-acting anesthetic in order to get optimal positioning for diagnostic positioning. 

    What is the Treatment for Osteochondritis Dissecans?

    The severity of OCD can range from a crack in the cartilage, to a cartilage flap, to a completely detached fragment of cartilage floating around in the joint, which is referred to as a joint mouse. Treatment is dependent upon the severity of the condition when it’s

    When a milder case is present, such as a crack or small flap of cartilage, it may be possible for the issue to heal if the dog is put on strict rest and activity restrictions for a few weeks. Additionally, medications will likely be prescribed to relieve inflammation and promote joint health along with passive range of motion exercises. 

    In more severe cases where the conservative approach does not succeed, the cartilage flap becomes folded in the joint, the abnormality is too large, or if a joint mouse is present, surgery will be required. Removal of the abnormal flap or piece of cartilage may be performed by opening the joint or using an arthroscope. Whichever technique is used, the remainder of the cartilage surface will need to be inspected to be sure it’s not also defective. 

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