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Osteochondritis Deissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans, commonly known as OCD, is a disease of the cartilage that can affect various joints in a dog. In any joint in the body, two bones come together and movement is allowed between them. Where the two bones meet an exceptionally smooth area of cartilage covers their surfaces. This acts as a cushion and protects the underlying bone. If anything disrupts this smooth cartilage surface, movement of the joint becomes painful. In a dog with OCD, this cartilage is damaged or grows abnormally. Instead of being attached to the bone it covers, it separates or cracks. A loose flap of cartilage may form, or an entire piece may break loose.

It tends affects male dogs more frequently than females, most likely due to the males' larger size and increased stress on the joint. It generally occurs when the animal is between 4 and 12 months of age, though it can show up in older dogs.

OCD may affect the shoulder, elbow, knee or hock, although the shoulder is most commonly affected. The symptoms are lameness in the affected limb. Some dogs have a barely noticeable limp and others are unable to bear any weight on the leg. The lameness tends to worsen after periods of exercise and improves after rest. When it affects the shoulder, a shortened forelimb stride may be noted due to reluctance to flex and extend the shoulder joint. Occasionally, the disease will affect both limbs simultaneously and the dog may be reluctant to move.

The cause of OCD is considered to be multifactorial. It is thought that there are several factors that contribute to the formation of OCD lesions including trauma to the joint, genetics, rapid growth, hormone imbalances, and nutrition.

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