Osteochondrosis Dissecans in Dogs

Picture of a white dog

OCD, also known as osteochondrosis or osteochondritis dissecans can affect a number of dogs. The most common locations it appears in are the shoulder and the elbow, but some pets can also develop it in the ankle or the knee.

In today’s article, we’re looking at everything you should know about this condition – from the symptoms and diagnosis to how it is treated and what the prognosis is for dogs.

What Causes Osteochondritis Dissecans?

There are several different possible causes, but there is also a breed predisposition that we will discuss in a section below. This means that a genetic factor is the first possible cause.

On the other hand, dogs that sustain trauma, have hormonal imbalances, or have unique joint architectures due to the lack of a correct diet are more likely to develop OCD.

Because this disease can be transmitted to future generations, it is of utmost importance that dogs that are diagnosed with it are not used for breeding.

Are Some Breeds More Likely to Develop OCD?

Yes. Osteochondritis dissecans tends to affect some breeds more than it does others. It is more common in the following types of dogs:

As strange as it might seem, there is also a predisposition regarding gender. Female dogs have a lower chance of developing OCD of the shoulder compared to their male counterparts.

The condition is also more common in larger breeds than in others and it tends to affect dogs with ages ranging from 6 months to 9 months.


The biggest issue with this condition is that some dogs might not show any symptoms until later in its progression. Whenever they feel any pain or discomfort in the affected joint, dogs will avoid using that limb

Pets that experience more severe symptoms will effectively get to the point where they avoid getting up at all. They will not be interested in going outside and they will try to avoid any sort of physical exercise. Some might become scared and withdrawn due to the pain they are experiencing.

OCD often causes muscle loss and lameness in either one or both of the dog’s forelegs.


Your veterinarian will be able to tell that something is wrong with your pooch’s joint while performing a standard physical examination. Whenever some pressure is applied on the joint, the dog will experience pain and try to get away.

As such, the first test that your vet will recommend is going to be an X-ray. Usually, this type of imaging method is straightforward and revealing enough so as not to add more tests for a clear diagnosis.

However, depending on the systems available at your local clinic (how old they are), a CT or other type of imaging examination might be necessary – especially before the operation takes place. A veterinary radiologist might have to be consulted for an exact diagnosis and they should write a report that is then given to the surgeon.

Treatment of OCD in Dogs

Treating osteochondrosis actually depends on its progression and severity. If the cartilage is merely cracked and the dog is fairly young and healthy, they might be able to recover on their own in a matter of one month or two – changes on their diet and activity will be necessary. In these cases, the vet will prescribe a number of drugs that will promote the recovery of the joint and also decrease the pet’s pain level.

While this approach might work for small cartilage flaps or cracks, it is not the right way of going about things for more severe forms of the condition. Your dog might have to undergo surgery in this case, and sometimes, it can be quite complicated.

It can also cost a lot depending on how challenging and long it is and the amount of materials used during the operation (anesthesia and special surgical materials that work for joints and cartilages). Consider getting pet insurance to make sure that you are able to pay for this procedure, especially if you are a pet owner of one of the dog breeds we’ve noted above.

Prognosis and Recovery

First of all, the prognosis depends on the exact area affected by osteochondrosis. For example, for dogs that have it in the knee, over 75% recover in about 3-4 weeks after the operation was performed.

That is not the same with knee and ankle osteochondritis dissecans. While some dogs might show significant improvement after the surgery, some will still experience lameness or at least a reluctance to use that particular limb.

These dogs might never recover their normal gait, especially when engaging in exercise. However, the operation is still recommended as otherwise, the dog might completely lose functionality of the limb.

When it comes to post-op care, dogs should be confined for at least one month. Even though they might express some interest in exercise and going outside (due to the lack of pain ensured both by the operation and the medications prescribed by the vet), it is extremely important that the tissues have enough time to recover.



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