Article Release: Issue 2
Release Date: May 29, 2024
Written By: Dr. Tomas Infernuso DVM, DACVS

Animal Surgical Center Ocd In Dogs

What is Osteochondritis Dissecans?

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is a common cartilage disease in growing animals caused by a disturbance in the normal development of cartilage cells, particularly affecting the humeral head. The term OCD refers to abnormal cartilage that separates from the remaining articular surface. The OCD lesion can range from a small cartilage flap to a completely detached fragment of cartilage floating around in the joint, known as a joint mouse.

Multiple factors contribute to the development of this disease, including genetics (especially in Labradors and giant breeds), a high-protein and high-calcium diet, hormonal imbalances, and joint trauma.

How OCD Affects Dogs

OCD can affect different areas in dogs, most commonly the shoulders and elbows. Understanding the impact of OCD on these joints can help pet parents recognize symptoms early and seek appropriate treatment.

Shoulder OCD in Dogs: Clinical Signs of Shoulder OCD

Young dogs between 6 and 9 months of age may present with clinical signs of OCD, such as:

  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • Joint pain in the affected limb
  • Reluctance to exercise or play
  • Apparent laziness, often misinterpreted

Diagnosing Shoulder OCD
To diagnose shoulder OCD, radiographs and advanced imaging techniques like MRI and CT are typically used to investigate lameness. Imaging of the contralateral limb is also necessary to rule out bilateral disease. In dogs younger than 6-7 months, the diagnosis can be challenging due to the presence of growth plates. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive tool that can assess cartilage damage and guide treatment decisions.

Treatment Options for Shoulder OCD
The severity of OCD lesions can vary, from a crack in the cartilage to a completely detached fragment (joint mouse). Conservative therapy with restricted exercise and anti-inflammatory medications is rarely effective due to the progression of osteoarthritis.
A more successful approach is keyhole arthroscopic surgery, which allows surgeons at ASC to remove the fragment in a minimally invasive way. After removing the cartilage flap or joint mouse, the defect can be filled with normal cartilage and bone from another joint (osteochondral allograft transfer, or OAT). In other cases, a synthetic implant may be used to reconstruct a smooth joint surface (synthetic osteochondral resurfacing).

Prognosis for Shoulder OCD
The prognosis for shoulder OCD treated with a keyhole arthroscopic approach is good, especially when surgical intervention is performed early in the course of the disease, ideally as young as 6 months of age.

Elbow OCD in Dogs: Clinical Signs of Elbow OCD

Symptoms of elbow OCD can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the affected joint. Common signs include:

  • Lameness after exercise or prolonged activity
  • Reluctance to use the affected limb
  • Swelling or thickening around the elbow joint
  • Stiffness or decreased range of motion
  • Pain or sensitivity when the joint is manipulated

Diagnosing Elbow OCD
Diagnosing elbow OCD typically involves a combination of physical examination, radiographs, and advanced imaging techniques such as CT and MRI. Arthroscopy can also help identify joint structure changes and facilitate early intervention.

Treatment Options for Elbow OCD
The treatment approach depends on factors such as the dog’s age, size, overall health, and severity of the condition. Options include:

  • Conservative Management: For dogs with minimal symptoms, this includes rest, restricted exercise, weight management, and anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Surgical Intervention: For more severe cases, arthroscopic removal of loose bone (joint mouse) or cartilage fragments may be necessary.
  • Rehabilitation Therapy: Physical therapy, hydrotherapy, and therapeutic exercises can improve joint mobility, strength, and function.

Prognosis for Elbow OCD
The prognosis for dogs with elbow OCD varies depending on the severity of the condition and the presence of any concurrent orthopedic issues. With early diagnosis and appropriate therapy, many dogs can experience significant improvement and lead comfortable lives.


Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in dogs is a significant orthopedic condition that affects the quality of life of our furry friends. Whether it impacts the shoulders or elbows, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial for optimizing outcomes. At Animal Surgical Center, we are dedicated to providing the best possible care to help your pets live healthier, happier lives. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from OCD, consult with our team to explore the best treatment options for your beloved companion.

With Compassion and Care,
Dr. Tomas Infernuso
Animal Surgical Center

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