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OCD in Dogs (Osteochondritis Dissecans) 

Silver weimaraner in a field of dead brush

You have just started noticing your young dog beginning to limp. There are many different reasons that cause a young dog to limp. Osteochondritis dissecans is one possible reason, especially if you have a large to giant breed dog.

What is osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)?

Osteochondritis is the abnormal development of cartilage on the bone. This abnormal development is usually on the ends of the bone in the joints. Once this starts, the cartilage in the joint starts to separate from the bone, causing inflammation in the joint. OCD is most commonly is seen in the shoulder joints but can occur in most major joints such as the elbows, hips, and knees.

What causes OCD?

Blood Hound laying on a light wood floor

There are a few theories on why a dog may get OCD, but most of the cause of this disease is unknown.

Genetically Acquired

Veterinarians do believe that OCD is a genetic disease, meaning that they get this disease from their parents. Large breed and giant breed dogs such as Labrador retrievers, Great Danes, Rottweilers, and Bernese mountain dogs are more predisposed to this disease.


Any traumatic event to your dog's legs, even if they did not break a leg, can cause this disease. The injury will cause a decreased blood supply to the bone and the cartilage to die from the lack of blood supply.


Puppies who lived their early days on the streets with poor diets can also develop OCD. Proper nutrition early on is needed for strong, healthy bones. Large fast-growing puppies should eat food specific to their size. Large breed puppy food has all the added nutrients that are necessary to help your dog's bones grow fast and healthy.

What are the symptoms?

Dalmatian standing in front of a forest on a sunny day

Usually, the signs are vast and can range from a slight limp to not putting weight on the leg at all.

Favoring a paw or leg

Sometimes your pet may have a slight limp on one of their legs and favoring just one leg. Usually, OCD is only seen in one leg. This may be a gradual lameness that starts with just a slight limp that progresses into non-weight bearing but can also be a very sudden onset of not using a leg.

Joint may be swollen and warm to the touch

The affected joint may be swollen and very warm when you touch it. This is a sign of inflammation in that joint. This disease affects the shoulder joints typically. If your pet’s shoulder is swollen, seek veterinary care immediately to prevent further irreversible damage to your pets’ joints.

Inability to bear weight on the leg

Lameness is the most common sign seen with this disease. Just because your pet is limping does not mean that this is the reason for their limping. There are many different causes for a dog limping. Usually, with OCD, the lameness is worse right after your dog is done playing and better after they have rested. This waxing and waning signs of lameness should lead to a veterinary examination.

How is OCD diagnosed?

Big dog laying on a lake dock on a sunny day

If you have a young large to giant breed dog that is limping, it is best to go to your veterinarian for an examination. They will most likely check bloodwork and run some additional testing such as radiographs, joint tap, and maybe even a CT or MRI.


Radiographs are the most common way to diagnosis OCD lesions. Many different views of your dog’s leg will be taken to determine the severity of their disease.

Joint Fluid Analysis

If your pet has a large swollen joint, the veterinarian may take a sample of the joint. These samples will be looked at under a microscope to make sure that there is not an underlying infection in the joints, causing the pain and limping.

CT scan/ MRI

CT or MRI can also be used to see the cartilage in the joints of your dog. These scans will help determine if there is any free-floating cartilage in the joints. This procedure will most likely have to be done at a large specialty hospital or university hospital.

How can OCD be treated?

Brown lab puppy sitting outside looking at the camera with bright golden eyes

OCD lesions can be treated in many different ways. Usually depending on the severity of the disease and the owner’s financial abilities.


If the OCD lesion is severe, arthroscopy can be performed. This is where a veterinarian puts a small scope into the affected joint. They will remove any cartilage that is causing a problem or free-floating in the joint. The early your dog has surgery the better the outcome


If their OCD lesion is not very severe, pain medication and cage rest for 1 to 2 months is best. Limiting your dog's exercise and allowing their cartilage to heal.

CBD oil

CBD oil is a great supplement to give your dog wither they have surgery or just medical management. CBD oil has shown to help decrease pain associated with arthritis. If your dog’s OCD is not treated and allowed to progress, further arthritis can develop. CBD oil will help reduce the pain while they are recovering from surgery or as an aid during their medical therapy.

Natural Doggie NON GMO All-Organic CBD Oil for dogs

Natural Doggie NON GMO All-Organic CBD Oil for dogs


OCD lesions can cause a lot of unwanted pain for our pets. You can help reduce this pain by feeding a proper diet, decrease the excessive stress put on the joints, and screening all potential puppy's parents of disease. This way, we can help reduce the chance that our dog will get OCD. Any time you notice liming in your young large to giant breed puppy, seek veterinary care as soon as possible. It is best to figure out what is causing your pet pain and get treatment started as quickly as possible.

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OCD in Dogs By: Sara Ochoa

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM
Since she was a little girl, she knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals that makes her a great source of knowledge for others. She lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the Schnoodle, and Bam-Bam the bunny.

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