Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

Osteochondrosis is a term used to describe abnormal cartilage development in young, growing dogs. Cartilage is a type of connective tissue in the body that is not as hard as bone but is stiffer and less flexible than muscle. Hyaline cartilage is the type of cartilage that covers the ends of bone in all of the joints in the body to provide smooth, frictionless movement of the joint. Cartilage does not have a direct blood supply and therefore is very slow to heal.


Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is a condition that is thought to be caused by either abnormal development of hyaline cartilage in the joint or as the result of trauma to the bone underlying the cartilage. The end result is a cartilage flap (a piece of cartilage partially torn off from the bone) that develops causing inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joint. When this cartilage flap forms it leaves behind exposed bone.


Dogs with OCD usually are less than 1 year old (average is 4-9 months old) and have pain and swelling in the affected joint or joints and do not use the affected limb normally. They will often limp or have abnormalities in their gait which we call lameness. Some puppies will just become less active and unwilling to run and play like previously. Osteochondritis dissecans can affect the shoulders, elbows, knees, or ankle/hock and usually joints (i.e. both shoulders or both knees) are involved although it can affect only one joint.


Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive way to both diagnose and treat OCD lesions in people and in dogs. In arthroscopy we use a very small camera to enter the joint and identify OCD lesion in the cartilage.


Arthroscopy not only allows us a more extensive visual exam of the entire joint but also allows the pet to regain function of the limb much sooner after surgery than if the joint is cut into and opened for visualization with the naked eye. The tiny camera used with arthroscopy magnifies the small cartilage lesion and makes debridement very precise, leaving behind as much normal, healthy cartilage as possible. Click on the video below to see an example of this arthroscopic procedure:



We are proud to be able to offer arthroscopy at Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists for the identification and treatment of OCD and many other orthopedic problems in dogs and cats.

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