Osteochondritis Dissecans: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is a joint disorder that affects both humans and animals, including dogs. This condition occurs when a piece of cartilage and the thin layer of bone beneath it separates from the end of the bone due to inadequate blood supply. The separated fragment can cause pain, inflammation, and reduced joint function. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for osteochondritis dissecans in dogs, as well as preventive measures to help maintain your dog’s joint health.

Causes of Osteochondritis Dissecans

The exact cause of osteochondritis dissecans is not entirely understood, but several factors are believed to contribute to the development of this condition in dogs:

  • Genetic predisposition: Some dog breeds are more prone to developing OCD, including large and giant breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, and Bernese Mountain Dogs.
  • Rapid growth: Dogs that grow rapidly during their first year of life are at a higher risk of developing OCD, particularly if they are large or giant breeds.
  • Nutritional factors: An imbalanced diet, particularly one high in calories or calcium, can contribute to the development of OCD in dogs by promoting rapid growth and abnormal bone development.
  • Trauma: In some cases, an injury to the joint or repetitive stress on the joint can lead to the development of OCD.

Symptoms of Osteochondritis Dissecans in Dogs

The signs and symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans in dogs can vary depending on the affected joint and the severity of the condition. Some common symptoms include:

  • Limping or lameness
  • Stiffness or difficulty moving the affected joint
  • Pain or sensitivity when the joint is touched or manipulated
  • Swelling or inflammation around the joint
  • Decreased activity or reluctance to exercise

If you suspect your dog may have osteochondritis dissecans, it is important to consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Diagnosing Osteochondritis Dissecans in Dogs

To diagnose osteochondritis dissecans in your dog, your veterinarian will begin by obtaining a detailed history of your dog’s symptoms and performing a thorough physical examination. This may include:

  • Palpating the affected joint for signs of pain, swelling, or reduced range of motion
  • Manipulating the joint to assess its function and stability
  • Performing imaging studies, such as X-rays or a computed tomography (CT) scan, to visualize the joint and identify the presence of OCD lesions

Based on the findings of the examination and diagnostic tests, your veterinarian will determine the severity of the osteochondritis dissecans and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

Treatment Options for Osteochondritis Dissecans in Dogs

The treatment of osteochondritis dissecans in dogs depends on the severity of the condition and the specific needs of the individual dog. Some common treatment options include:

  • Conservative management: Formilder cases of OCD, conservative management may be recommended, which can include rest, activity modification, weight management, and the use of anti-inflammatory medications or joint supplements to help alleviate pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises can help improve joint function, reduce pain, and promote long-term joint health in dogs with OCD.
  • Arthroscopic surgery: In cases where conservative management is not effective or the OCD lesion is large or unstable, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended. This minimally invasive procedure involves using a small camera and instruments to remove the damaged cartilage and bone fragments from the joint, promoting healing and reducing the risk of long-term complications.
  • Open joint surgery: In some cases, open joint surgery may be necessary to address more extensive OCD lesions or repair damaged joint structures. This procedure involves making a larger incision to access the joint and may require a longer recovery period.

Preventing Osteochondritis Dissecans in Dogs

While not all cases of osteochondritis dissecans can be prevented, there are several steps you can take to help reduce your dog’s risk of developing this condition:

  • Feeding a balanced diet: Provide your dog with a high-quality, age-appropriate diet that is formulated for their specific breed and size to help promote healthy growth and bone development.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Obesity can place additional stress on your dog’s joints and increase their risk of developing OCD. Regular exercise and portion control can help keep your dog at a healthy weight.
  • Regular veterinary care: Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can help detect and address any potential health issues, including early signs of joint problems, before they become more serious.
  • Genetic screening: If you are considering breeding your dog, genetic screening can help identify dogs that may be at risk of passing on a predisposition for OCD to their offspring.


Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint disorder that can affect dogs of various breeds and sizes, causing pain, inflammation, and reduced joint function. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this condition, you can help ensure that your furry friend receives the best possible care and maintains optimal joint health.

Relevant Sources

  1. Veterinary Partner
  2. Veterinary Surgical Center
  3. Kingsdale Animal Hospital
  4. North Downs Specialist Referrals

By staying informed and working closely with your veterinarian, you can help keep your dog’s joints healthy and reduce their risk of developing osteochondritis dissecans. Regular check-ups, proper nutrition, and appropriate exercise are key to maintaining your dog’s overall joint health and well-being.



Rabies in dogs

Rabies is one of the most dreaded diseases encountered...

Patellar Luxation in Dogs:...

Patellar luxation, also known as a dislocated kneecap, is...

Bloat (gastric torsion) in...

Bloat, also referred to as gastric dilation volvulus (GDV)...

Skin Infections in Dogs:...

Skin infections in dogs are a common and often...

Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs:...

Elbow dysplasia is a common orthopedic condition affecting dogs,...

Kennel Cough in Dogs

Canine infectious tracheobronchitis or kennel cough as it is...

Popular Questions