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is a relatively common developmental disease that affects the cartilage and bone in the dog's elbow, knee, ankle or shoulder joints.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a disease of the joint cartilage. Any joint where two bones meet, there is a smooth area of cartilage that acts as a cushion and protects the underlying bone. Damaged or improperly formed cartilage results in painful movement.

This relatively common condition in young, large-breed dogs affects the shoulder, elbow, knee, and/or ankle (tarsal) joints.

As puppies grow, their bones elongate. The cartilage beneath the joint surface should convert to bone, enabling new cartilage to develop on the joint surfaces. With OCD, deep cartilage fails to turn to bone.

In addition, dogs with OCD have a “soft spot” in their cartilage that may develop into a cartilage flap, causing inflammation and joint pain. Dogs affected often limp during or after exercise. Physical examination by a veterinarian may reveal pain in the affected joint, however, a definitive diagnosis is made by radiographs (x-rays), CT scan, and/or arthroscopic exploratory surgery.

Veterinary OCD procedure

Depending on the joint affected, we recommend surgery to treat OCD. Our surgeons frequently use arthroscopy (minimally invasive surgery) to remove the cartilage flap and “clean up” soft cartilage. Small channels are drilled into the underlying bone to encourage blood flow and healing.

Recent advances in human medicine are now being used in animals. The “OATS” procedure replaces the cartilage defect left behind in many OCD cases and helps reduce the amount of arthritis in the long term.

Most dogs receiving arthroscopic surgery for this condition will recover over 4 to 6 weeks, during which time exercise is restricted. Most dogs with shoulder OCD (one of the more common types of OCD requiring surgery) resume full activity and feel much better after surgery.

Dogs that have OCD in the ankle (hock) joint, elbow, and knee may have a more variable long-term prognosis with traditional OCD surgery but have a better outcome with the new OATS procedure.

The board certified surgeons at WestVet have extensive training and experience with OCD surgical procedures and other orthopedic treatments.

Dr. Jeff Brourman, WestVet Chief of Staff

Please see your family veterinarian for a referral for a consultation with a WestVet surgeon. If you have questions about your dog’s joint surgery, contact us directly at 208.375.1600.

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