Osteochondrosis and joint
dysplasia have been studied in many species, in
particular in pigs. Where the animals were selected
for increasingly heavy end weight and rapidity of
weight gain, the higher the incidence of symmetrical
lesions in certain sites in joints and many growth
plates. Experimentally in pigs, the incidence and
severity of OCD was directly related to rapid growth
ie. rate of weight gain.
When the diet was
restricted and grown at a low growth rate, the
incidence of OCD was dramatically reduced (almost to
All dog studies in this
area have shown to support the concept that the high
caloric intake rather than the specific intake of
protein, minerals or vitamins influences the
frequency and severity of osteochondrosis and HD.
The causes of ED while not as thoroughly studied,
show similarities and probably similar outcomes.
The common conclusion
from studies in dog is that excessive calcium,
phosphorus and vitamin D along with a high energy
diet and rapid weight gain causing rapid growth, are
almost an ideal recipe for pushing the parameters
for normal structural growth and joint soundness
well beyond their normal limits, resulting in joint
disorders. The higher incidence of osteochondrosis
in males versus females is probably a direct
reflection of this as males are often ¼ heavier than
females at any one time, despite being born at a
Equally, this is
not to say that genetics does not pay an important
part in the body’s structural soundness, however
excessive rates of weight gain and thus rapid growth
result in pushing the body’s parameters beyond which
they can cope, particularly if they were not the
most structurally stable to start with. That is,
excessive rate of growth and weight will not create
severe HD or ED in itself; however, it can make an
existing problem considerably worse.
- OCD – Osteochondritis
Dissecans - genetic, nutritional and rapid growth
- Osteochondritis (OC) = an error
in conversion of cartilage to bone, resulting in
thickened and/or necrotic cartilage within joints
and growth plates.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
= progression of OC to cracks, fissures within the
cartilage, joint swelling and lameness.
- Osteoarthritis (OA) =
develops over time if there are remnants of
cartilage flaps retained within joints and
incongruent joint surfaces developed subsequent to
the OCD lesions.
Osteochondritis is a
developmental bone disease characterized by
defective cartilage in various to multiple joints.
The main feature is a failure of the cartilage to
properly convert to bone during the growth process.
Due to rapid growth, the cartilage cells divide at a
normal or increased rate, but the cells do not fully
mature and this can result in thickening of the
cartilage in various areas of the joint and a delay
in bone formation underneath. As the cartilage
continues to grow without being normally converted
to bone, it looses part of its nutrition because of
its increased thickness. Cartilage has no direct
blood supply and relies on nutrition from the joint
fluid and the underlying bone. The thicker cartilage
results in loss of blood supply, in turn causing
necrosis (death) of the lower layer of cartilage.
Once this happens, the overlying cartilage can
separate from the underlying bone (which can be as
the result of trauma) causing “flaps” to lift. Such
splits allow synovial (joint) fluid into direct
contact with underlying bone, creating pain and
inflammatory response. This in turn causes the joint
capsule to react and become inflamed as well.
Cartilage flaps or loose
sections that break away (joint mice) result in
continuing pain, and inflammation. Small loose
fragments can then attach to the joint capsule or
migrate into a connecting tendon sheath causing
chronic inflammation around the tendon sheath (more
commonly seen in shoulder OCD).
Early lesions of OC can go three ways:
OCD can occur in many different joints, most commonly in the elbows, followed by shoulders, and less commonly in the hocks. The affected joints can be single or bilateral. Different breeds have higher incidences or predilections for various joints to be affected.
- Heal through rest and appropriate treatment such that
there is restoration of the ossification process (ie. normal bone and
cartilage development and maturation).
- Remain unchanged or
- Progress to OCD, development of arthritis and
Radio graphically, cartilage is radiolucent so early changes to cartilage are not readily detectable until there is a delay in the bone formation underneath the cartilage defects, creating a “flattening affect or there are readily apparent defects in the cartilage. Osteoarthritis – develops further over time.
| Author: Dr. Hedberg 2010
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