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Ostechondrosis Dissecans in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Osteochondrosis Dissecans is sometimes called OCD, but it’s not THAT type of OCD. This OCD is a medical condition that occurs in dogs and affects the affected pups’ knees, ankles, and spines. Osteochondritis happens because the cartilage inside your dog’s joints isn’t whole, and friction causes pain when your pet tries to move around.


As you can imagine, when you rely on your four legs for almost everything in your life, this disease is painful and debilitating, and it is one of those conditions for which pet insurance was invented.  Unfortunately, this condition is not specific to dogs and also occurs in cats.   However, it most commonly affects young dogs of large to super-sized breeds so we will focus most of our discussion here on those “kinds” of dogs; so if you are the owner of a giant dog, take note! This article may be for you.

What is Osteochondrosis Dissecans?

Osteochondrosis in dogs stems from improper joint cartilage in the elbows, hips, or back. This debilitating condition makes your dog unable to perform smooth movements without catching the affected area on friction caused by improper cartilage formation, ultimately leading to pain, swelling, and discomfort.

The elbow variant…

This condition affects and impairs the coronoid process, which refers to the free movement of the joint. It can lead to an ununited anconeal process, which sees the bony perturbance at the edge of the elbow come loose from its ligaments. This can be excruciating for dogs, mainly when they can’t rest it.

Osteochondrosis of the elbow…

It is similar symptomatically to elbow dysplasia, and the two conditions often go hand in hand. You may also experience a diagnosis of a fragmented coronoid process. This means that the medial coronoid process isn’t working smoothly because one of the bones has been shattered. Once the articular cartilage is worn away, the bones are much more prone to do this than in the early stages of development.

When this condition affects…

The hip joint causes friction as the subchondral bone (the bone underneath the fragmented cartilage) rubs against the humeral head of the leg bone. The hip is a stifle joint, which is very complicated to fix issues in this area.

The third variant of osteochondritis…

It occurs in the shoulder, where the shoulder joint experiences the same symptoms as the others. Clinical signs of this condition include limping or pain in one or both back legs, trouble rising and sitting, and a characteristic walk where the dog will try hard not to move its back legs.

It is believed that…

To you and me, all variants of this condition are created during endochondral ossification – or when they are still in the womb. In all three variations, the pet may develop a cartilage flap, an OCD lesion, or lesions that cause further friction and pain.  Whether your pet’s condition affects the hips, elbows, or spine will be painful for the dog. This degenerative joint disease will get worse over time and might eventually lead to lameness if left untreated.

Most Commonly Affected Breeds

All dogs – even small ones – can be affected by this condition, and the risk of contraction increases if your pet has any other leg, hip, spine, or shoulder problems. That being said, these are the breeds known to be most at risk:

It is important to remember that this condition can occur in mixed-breed dogs and is not pedigree specific. It would be best if you always asked about your pup’s family history when you buy to lessen the chances of your dog coming with inherited diseases.

Treatment Options

Your vet may want to start your dog on NSAIDS or anti-inflammatory drugs to remove the pain if your pup genuinely suffers. A diet rich in glucosamine has been proven to help the joints too, but in this case, prevention is better than cure. Without surgery, there is no known way to remove the lesions altogether, and even then, it is not a guaranteed treatment. Often the lesions will return, especially in dogs who have not been diagnosed until after they are a year old.

Your vet may…

Please feel free to opt for the surgical choice, as it does have the best chances of success, although not with older dogs. Sometimes, the dog manages the pain well enough with little medical help and an extensive diet adjustment. However, your vet can give you more information about what that will entail. Some fatty acids have been found to support healthy joints, and the best way to avoid this condition is to provide your pet with joint care treats and supplements throughout their lives.

This brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals.  We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.  This is why if you feel your pet may have Osteochondrosis Dissecans (or any other health issue), you’ll first want to have them checked out by a vet ASAP!


An early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering them, but beyond that, diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!  This is also why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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