Congenital bone defects, also known as Osteochondrosis or OCD, is a somewhat common and painful disease in dogs that is characterized by abnormal cartilage-to-bone transformation. As a result, cartilage and bone fragments may break off into your dog’s joint space, causing mild to extremely severe discomfort and pain.

Osteochondrosis isn’t a form of arthritis, although it can and often does lead to arthritis. Larger breeds of dog have a genetic predisposition towards the condition, which generally results from rapid growth. The pain created by osteochondrosis is similar to “growing pains” experienced by many dogs as they mature from pups to adolescents to adults.

Cartilage is the bone tissue that contributes to pain-free motion. Osteochondrosis is a congenital defect in joint cartilage development that leads to the development of a loose piece or flap of cartilage. This loose cartilage can give rise to secondary degenerative joint disease. Secondary degenerative joint disease, which generally develops as a result of osteochondrosis, occurs early in the dog’s life as opposed to the “wear and tear” arthritis that many dogs experience later in life.

Areas most commonly affected by osteochondrosis include the shoulder, elbow, knee, and ankle.

Osteochondrosis (OCD) Symptoms
Unlike most diseases, the various forms of OCD don’t produce immediate, obvious symptoms. There are, however, several clues you can watch for, particularly if you have a larger dog:

  • Lameness and pain in the affected joint.
  • Restricted movement of the affected joint.
  • Muscle wasting in the most affected side.

Detecting the symptoms of osteochondrosis depends on where the problem is located. The dog may try to compensate for lameness caused by OCD by restricting its movement of the affected joint. For example, if your dog’s elbow is affected, it may swing his/her leg outward in a circular motion to avoid bending the elbow. Although osteochondrosis usually affects both sides of a bone, one bone end maybe worse than the other bone end.

Osteochondrosis (OCD) Treatments
Treating OCD is most often directed towards inhibiting further cartilage breakdown of the joint and toward decreasing the affected dog’s pain. Fortunately, there are a number of medical and surgical procedures available that can ease your dog’s discomfort and pain, thereby restoring its overall health and mobility to near normal levels. The type of treatment that your vet recommends will depend upon on such factors as your dog’s age, the severity of the problem, as well as cost considerations. Non surgical treatment of osteochondrosis will likely consists of exercise restriction, body weight management and pain management using analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs.