Labrador Retriever Dog Gifts : Articles : Lab Health : OCD
By Shannon K. Steffen
Canine Osteochondritis Dessicans (OCD)
WHAT EVERY LAB OWNER SHOULD KNOW
About the Disease
About the Disease
Osteochondritis dessicans (OCD) is a hereditary disease that occurs early in the development of most large and giant breed dogs. The condition is noted by cracks and flaps in the articular cartilage. The symptoms of OCD can include, but are not limited to:
- Joint instability
- Degenerative joint disease
- Barely noticeable to severe limp
- Unable to bear weight on the leg
- Lameness worsens after periods of exercise
- Improves after rest
- Shortened forelimb stride (front shoulder)
- Crepitus (grating noise of bones rubbing against each other)
- Decreased range of motion
Symptoms usually develop between 4 to 10 months of age and may develop in several joints.
More than 10% of dogs develop OCD in one of more joints. It is most seen in large and giant breeds such as:
- Great Dane
- Labrador Retriever
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- English Setter
- Old English Sheepdog
- Golden Retriever
- German Shepherd
OCD of the shoulder occurs twice as often in male dogs than in female dogs. OCD of the hock occurs more often in female dogs.
Genes may play an important part in the cause of OCD but the jury is still out on this. Nutrition is the most widely found risk factor as a diet high in calcium increases the risk of OCD. Rapid weight gain due to high-calorie diets causes unnecessary weight on the Lab's joints and may also contribute to the disease.
As Lab owners, we are all told not to have our Lab puppy run or walk on hard surfaces for long periods of time as this may cause trauma or injury to the puppy's joints. Excessive workload, exercise, and rough play can cause the cartilage to separate from the bone and add further lesions on the cartilage. Period of rapid growth can also play a huge part in the occurrence of this disease. Lastly, restricted blood flow to the cartilage from an separate underlying disease may cause OCD as a secondary culprit.
There are a number of ways a veterinarian can tell if your Lab has OCD. Some methods include:
- Physical examination
- X-rays (radiographs)
- Positive contrast arthroscopy
- Crepitus (crackling noise of bones rubbing against each other)
- Noticeable Pain
- Restricted mobility or extension
These methods help the vet correctly diagnose the OCD and rule out several other conditions such as cartilage fractures, elbow dysplasia, panosteitis.
The goal of treatment is to alleviate pain, increase mobility, and prevent further damage to your Lab's leg. Once the disease is confirmed, the following factors will be taken into account when considering treatment options:
- Severity of symptoms
Conservative treatment is less expensive and requires less rigorous owner compliance than surgery. This treatment includes rest, confinement for 4 to 8 weeks, and weight control and is recommended when the symptoms are mild and the x-rays do not show lesions. During this time, the Lab may be placed on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Carprofen (Rimadyl), to reduce the pain and inflammation.
A low fat, protein, and calcium content diet will be required. In addition, the use of glucosamine/chondroitin products may be suggested. These supplements help build new cartilage, and block sulfates that break it down.
For the more severe cases, where large lesions are identified or conservative methods do not work, surgery may be and option. There is a high success rate for surgery and most Labs will recover without any further problems. Of course, that does not take into account those Labs that are prone to chew through bandages, open stitches, etc.
There is no proven method to preventing a Labrador Retriever from getting osteochondritis dessicans. The only prevention consists of carefully selective breeding, reducing strenuous activity while growing, keeping the Lab on softer surfaces when walking or playing, and maintaining a good balanced diet and weight. Labrador Retriever puppies are pure energy wrapped in fur and keeping them well exercised while trying to prevent OCD is difficult. However, with a closely watchful eye and some creativeness, prevention may be possible.