Osteochondrosis: Page 2 of 2


Medical management of osteochondrosis consists of weight loss and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. This is purely symptomatic treatment for pain and arthritis.

The definitive treatment of osteochondrosis is surgical. Depending on the joint involved, this procedure may be done with minimally invasive techniques using an arthroscope, or by conventional open techniques. The diseased, loose cartilage flaps or chips, are removed and the more normal underlying bone exposed. Post-operatively, a blood clot will fill in this defect. Over time, this blood clot will organize and remodel to form a new tissue called fibrocartilage, that will function a bit more like normal cartilage. While not as good as the normal Hyaline cartilage of the joint surface, fibrocartilage will provide a low friction surface that will improve joint function. Surgical removal of the flaps of cartilage and bone will help eliminate the pain that resulted in the lameness.

After surgery, leash control must be enforced to allow the incisions to heal, and the new fibrocartilage to develop. Rehabilitation can begin after a period of rest.


Despite early diagnosis and early surgical removal of OCD flaps, some irreversible damage may have already occurred before surgery, making some degree of osteoarthritis inevitable. The ultimate goal of the surgery is to relieve pain and to minimize the severity of the osteoarthritis that may develop.

Luckily, the prognosis for shoulder osteochondrosis is excellent. Dogs with this disease often become normal after surgery unless the lesion has been long-standing and arthritis has set in. The prognosis for elbow osteochondrosis is fair to good, but is not as favorable as for the condition in the shoulder. Significant osteoarthritis will still develop over time and may require long-term medical management.

The prognosis for stifle osteochondrosis is also fair to good unless the lesion is very large or significant arthritis is present. The prognosis for tarsal or hock osteochondrosis is only fair because this joint is not very forgiving of the arthritis that inevitably develops with this condition. Surgical removal of the bony/cartilage fragments will most likely help in the short term, but osteoarthritis will develop that may need further medical or surgical management in the future.


Prevention generally includes avoiding calorie-dense diets in large to giant breed dogs. Puppies should be fed giant breed growth formulations, and vitamin over-supplementation should be avoided. Maintaining a lean body condition also seems to decrease the risk of osteochondrosis.

However, even if you take these steps to prevent osteochondrosis in your dog, there is no guarantee that your dog will be free of the disease, as there are many unknown factors that come into play with its development.