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Osteochondritis Dissecans, OCD, Castro-Castalia Bullmastiffs
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Osteochondritis Dissecans, OCD, Castro-Castalia Bullmastiffs

PierreNodoyUna de Castro-Castalia

Osteochondrosis or Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD), is a pathological condition in rapidly growing large breed dogs, very common in Bullmastiffs, that leads to a painful disturbance in joint cartilage development. The joint cartilage becomes thickened, and large, decayed areas develop. At this point, an intermittently tender, but manageable, OCD occurs.

It is often taken for one of those typical “growing pains” syndromes that affect large breed puppies that grow too rapidly, but the owner must be aware of its importance and refer any symptoms to the Vet, and have the puppy checked as it is important to prevent it from becoming unmanageable.

If the puppy is active and traumatizes this soft, decayed area, cracks, or fissures may form and extend into the normal cartilage until a large cartilage flap forms. At this stage, pain is present in the joint every time the young puppy moves around. When the cartilage flap falls into perfect position discomfort is minimal. As it shifts position, pain becomes acute, with joint swelling that is increasingly sensitive.

It must be outlined that although the two names are used to describe approximately the same symptoms, OCD itself refers to two parallel conditions: Osteochondritis means the presence of the inflammatory reaction in the bone marrow and joint, while dissecans refers to the flap of cartilage that is dissected away from its base.

The sites most commonly affected include the shoulder, the elbow, the knee, and the ankle (hock) in young dogs. The syndrome can be bilateral and, on occasion, involves several joints, although in Bullmastiffs it is known to primarily affect the shoulder and the elbow.

In some cases, the OCD is accompanied or worsened by another condition, called Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP), a failure of the growth center of the anconeal process, in the elbow joint, to unite properly with one of the larger bones, the ulna. This fusion should be completed by 16 to 24 weeks of age. Instead of a normal bony union, the UAP represents a large piece of bone connected to the ulna by a strand of fibrous tissue. The diagnosis is confirmed by radiography. Surgical removal of this unstable bony fragment minimizes progressive arthritis and is indicated as soon as possible to prevent further joint degeneration.

In some other cases, there may be also the presence of what is called a Fragmented Coronoid Process (FCP).  The coronoid process is a prominent medial projection of the ulna just distal to the elbow. FCP is difficult to confirm by means of a radiographic study for several reasons, because the visualization of the fragment can be difficult due to the superimposed radial head in most radiographic projections.

This explains why only too often the X-rays appear normal until the onset of secondary degenerative joint disease. Arthritis will build up as early as a few months of age and is first expressed by small bone spurs on the anconeal process and on the condyles of the humerus. On occasion, special diagnostic tests, such as a bone scan may be required to diagnose those "hidden" fragments of bone before they create debilitating cartilage damage.

Older dogs with this syndrome usually have severe arthritis of the entire elbow joint. Again, surgical removal of the unstable bony fragments minimizes progressive arthritis and is indicated as soon as possible to prevent further arthritic changes. While the intense pain and crippling arthritis seen in chronic cases is greatly improved by surgical removal of the coronoid fragments, residual arthritis will require some intermittent anti-inflammatory medication.

There seems to be a familial proneness to this condition, but in most cases it is the consequence of over-feeding the young puppies with highly proteinic commercial foods, combined with the administration of vitamin and mineral supplements; I personally advice puppy owners, to keep their puppies relatively underweight to avoid obesity and to ensure that puppies grow at a proper and slow pace. This has shown to be very beneficial for all of the CASTRO-CASTALIA puppies so far.

(Original text written by Christina of Lima-Netto and Federico Baudin specifically for this web page and protected with Copyright. Not even whole can be reproduced not partially by any way, without Castro-Castalia's express assent in writing)


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