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Resource Library: Osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis or osteochnodrosis dessicans (OCD) is a disease of young, fast growing, primarily large breed dogs. The condition is a result of an alteration or delay in endochondral ossification, which is the normal mechanism, where layers of bone replace cartilage plates in immature growing bone as the bone grows in size. If endochondral ossification is delayed by trauma, improper nutrition or changes in the blood supply to these cartilage plates, then a cartilage core is retained instead of being replaced by dense bone. The surrounding bone structure is thereby weakened. If this occurs close to a joint surface then the cartilage and bone near the joint surface is poorly supported or anchored to the underlying bone. As the patient grows in size, the weak joint structure will allow the cartilage to either collapse into a "sink hole" type lesion or a flap of loose cartilage to form on the joint surface. The joints that are most frequently affected are the shoulder, ankle (hock), knee and elbows. Some patients with a mild form of the disease can "outgrow" the problem if their diet is adjusted (control intake of large amounts of puppy food) and rest is enforced. Once large cartilage flaps/fragments or defects develop in the joint, surgical debridement is the best alternative. Timely arthroscopic inspection of the joint and removal and/or debridement of the affected cartilage damage will allow most young growing patients a full recovery. Early diagnosis and intervention before permanent joint damage is present will lead to the most favorable results. Once arthritic changes are present, the prognosis is les favorable particularly for lesions in the elbow or ankle (hock). Care after surgery usually entails early activity restriction (two to three weeks) with gradual increases in leash walks and swimming.

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