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An interesting article by Dr. Becker talks about osteochondrosis, an orthopedic disease that occurs in young, fast growing dogs, especially large and giant breeds such as dobermans, retrievers, and great danes. The most common form of the disease is osteochondritis dissecans or OCD, a defect in bone development at the extremity of the bone. I remember when Yankee was young, I thought he had OCD in his elbows, but fortunately he doesn’t. Inflammatory joint disease often occurs as a result of these diseases, which then leads to degenerative joint disease.
These types of orthopedic diseases generally occur in the early stages of bone growth, before the growth plates close. The first year of a dog’s life is when the skeleton is most vulnerable to physical, nutritional and metabolic damage. The reason why large and giant breeds are at a higher risk is because they grow so quickly.
The article talks about how nutrition plays a role in creating these problems. Studies indicate that free-feeding and overfeeding, especially high energy foods designed for rapid growth are contributors. Dr. Becker then gives suggestions for ways to feed your large or giant breed puppy so this doesn’t occur.
If it does occur, hydrotherapy is an excellent form of conditioning to manage the disease. We have a couple of dogs we’re swimming right now that have degenerative joint disease, and the progress with these dogs is incredible. They’ve been able to go off most of their medications and are playing like puppies again.
If you’re interested in the article, the link is here.