Osteochondritis dissecans, commonly known as OCD, is a disease of the cartilage that can affect various joints in a dog. In any joint in the body, two bones come together and movement is allowed between them. Where the two bones meet an exceptionally smooth area of cartilage covers their surfaces.
This acts as a cushion and protects the underlying bone. If anything disrupts this smooth cartilage surface, movement of the joint becomes painful.
In a dog with OCD, this cartilage is damaged or grows abnormally. OCD is a common, painful disease in dogs. It is characterised by an abnormality in the cartilage-to-bone transformation. As a result, cartilage and bone fragments may break off into the joint space. Osteochondrosis is not a form of arthritis, however, it often leads to arthritis. Larger breeds of dog have a genetic predisposition towards the condition, which results from rapid growth.
OCD generally occurs early in the dog’s life as opposed to the “wear and tear” arthritis that many dogs experience later in life. Males are at a higher risk of OCD than females and the age of onset is usually 4-12 months
Areas most commonly affected by osteochondrosis include the shoulder, elbow, knee (stifle) and ankle (hock) in young dogs. Osteochondrosis can occur on both sides (bilateral) and may involve several joints, but is rarely seen in the spinal column.
Hydrotherapy is renowned for being a gentle, non-weight bearing form of exercise that can help to reduce pain and swelling. It enables the dog to move freely in the water boosting circulation and reducing stiffness.
Dogs that have become stiff and arthritic appear to get a new lease of life as they realise that they can have a bit of fun and exercise without being in so much pain and it tends to rejuvenate them.
- Reduces pain – The soothing effect of the warm water encourages more fluid movement of the joints, leading to decreased levels of pain
- Reduced inflammation – Hydrostatic pressure applied by water can assist in reducing swelling or inflammation by forcing body fluid away from affected areas. This is assisted by exercising the limbs to enhance circulation
- Increases range of motion – A decreased range of motion can often be due to pain, swelling or stiffness. The dog will have increased range of movement when it is in the water due to reduced pain and swelling thereby allowing further movement range.
- Increased ROM increases “pump action” for synovial fluid – reducing toxins and increasing nutrients within the joint capsule
- Warmth of the water increases blood supply to surrounding soft tissues – helping to reduce spasm, stiffness and reluctance to move
- Improve quality of life