From Dog
Osteochondrosis of the humeral head of a dog[1]

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.

A heritable link has been shown in some breeds, particularly Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs[2][3][4].

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[5].

It has been incriminated in the etiology of hip dysplasia[6].

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[7].

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[8].

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[9].

A differential diagnosis would include osteochondritis dissecans, osteomyelitis, ununited anconeal process, fragmented coronoid process, panosteitis and hypertrophic osteodystrophy.

Treatment for young dogs is best achieved with corrective surgery[10]. Surgery is indicated in dogs with persistent lameness that are unresponsive to rest and NSAIDS.

Supportive use of carprofen or meloxicam is recommended for palliative control of pain.


  1. Uni of Pennsylvania
  2. Lavrijsen IC et al (2012) Phenotypic and genetic evaluation of elbow dysplasia in Dutch Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Bernese Mountain dogs. Vet J 193(2):486-492
  3. Hartmann P et al (2010) Multivariate genetic analysis of canine hip and elbow dysplasia as well as humeral osteochondrosis in the Bernese mountain dog. Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr 123(11-12):488-495
  4. Olsson SE (1975) Lameness in the dog: A review of lesions causing osteoarthrosis of the shoulder, elbow, hip, stifle, and hock joints. Proc Am An Hosp Assoc 42:363
  5. Craig LE & Reed A (2012) Age-Associated Cartilage Degeneration of the Canine Humeral Head. Vet Pathol Jul 5
  6. Hartmann P et al (2012) Multivariate prediction of breeding values for canine hip and elbow dysplasia as well as humeral osteochondrosis in the Bernese mountain dog. Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr 125(9-10):432-440
  7. Ondreka N et al (2012) Skeletal morphology and morphometry of the lumbosacral junction in German shepherd dogs and an evaluation of the possible genetic basis for radiographic findings. Vet J Aug 21
  8. van der Peijl GJ et al (2012) Osteochondrosis dissecans of the tarsus in Labrador Retrievers: clinical signs, radiological data and force plate gait evaluation after surgical treatment. Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol 25(2):126-134
  9. Zeissler M et al (2010) Cartilage thickness and split-line pattern at the canine humeral trochlea. Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol 23(5):343-347
  10. Biezyński J et al (2012) Assessment of treatment of Osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) of shoulder joint in dogs--the results of two years of experience. Pol J Vet Sci 15(2):285-290