Osteochondrosis is a disturbance in the normal differentiation of cartilage cells, particularly joints as a result of failure of endochondral ossification, leading to abnormal cartilage thickening.
Osteochondrosis affects the immature joint cartilage (growth zone of the epiphysis) and sometimes leads to osteochondritis dissecans of the shoulder, distal humerus, distal femur, and tibial tarsal bone in the dog.
Among dogs, males have generally been shown to be affected more frequently than females. Nutrition plays a role in the development of osteochondrosis also, with high caloric intake the main factor. It occurs commonly in the shoulders of immature, large and giant-breed dogs such as Burnese Mountain dog and German Shepherds.
The lesion appears on the caudal surface of the humeral head. In some cases, the resulting defect occupies half of the area of the humeral head. The cartilage flap may completely detach from the underlying bone and become lodged in the back of the joint pouch.
Osteochondrosis does not usually cause clinical signs until a loose cartilage flap forms. Free cartilage flaps can lodge in joints and may increase in size with calcification becoming 'joint mice' (osteophytes) which can be seen on radiographs.
Affected young dogs often present with mild intermittent lameness, with lameness score directly related to osteophyte size.
Diagnosis is usually made with radiographic analysis of the affected joint. Arthroscopy usually reveals the joint surface having a distinct pattern of centripetally oriented split-lines centrally.
Treatment for young dogs is best achieved with corrective surgery. Surgery is indicated in dogs with persistent lameness that are unresponsive to rest and NSAIDS.
- Uni of Pennsylvania
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