Canine Osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis (OC) is a term used to describe a variety of joint diseases all of which involve abnormal cartilage and bone development. These diseases can affect the shoulder, elbow, knee or hock joints. Degenerative osteoarthritis and necrosis will be a resulting outcome as abnormalities within the joint lead to further wear and tear. The immature joint cartilage may separate from the bone and float loosely in the joint cavity, where it will cause inflammation. The most commonly cited causes are heredity, rapid growth, anatomic conformation, trauma, and dietary imbalances; however, only heredity and anatomic conformation are well supported by the scientific literature. The way in which the disease is initiated has been debated. Although formation of a fragile cartilage, bone necrosis, and failure of blood supply to the growth cartilage all have been proposed as the initial step in the disease, the recent literature strongly supports failure of blood supply to growth cartilage as being the most likely. Osteochondrosis is most commonly seen in large and giant breeds of dogs. The disease may also affect vertebrae in the neck (Wobbler syndrome in Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes).


Arthroscopy has an important role in treatment of joint disease. In the shoulder, elbow, and stifle joints, surgical arthroscopy can replace the classical surgical methods of treating osteochondrosis lesions. With the established techniques, not only can the lesions be diagnosed with accuracy, but it can also be treated within the same procedure, making arthroscopy the treatment of choic. The advantages of arthroscopy in the diagnosis and treatment of osteochondrosis have also encouraged other veterinary surgeons to adopt the technique.

Nutritional management alone will not completely control osteochondrosis or any of the developmental bone diseases. However, osteochondrosis and other developmental orthopedic diseases can be influenced during growth by feeding technique and nutrient profile. Dietary deficiencies are of minimal concern in this age of commercial foods specifically prepared for young, growing dogs. The potential for harm is in excess consumption and over supplementation.


  1. Nutrition and osteochondrosis.Richardson DC, Zentek J. In: Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 1998 Jan;28(1):115-35
  2. Diagnostic and surgical arthroscopy in osteochondrosis lesions.van Bree HJ, Van Ryssen B. In: Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 1998 Jan;28(1):161-89



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