Breed Predisposition to Osteochondrosis of the Shoulder

Osteochondrosis (OCD) is a disease characterized by abnormal development of growth cartilage. It occurs commonly in the shoulders of immature, large and giant-breed dogs. The lesion appears on the caudal surface of the humeral head. In some cases, the resulting defect occupies half of the area of the humeral head. The cartilage flap may completely detach from the underlying bone and become lodged in the back of the joint pouch. The causes of OCD are many and include genetic and nutritional factors. Clinical signs often develop when the dog is between 4 and 8 months of age. Dogs usually show a lameness of one forelimb that improves after rest and worsens after exercise. As the condition progresses, the dogs become consistently lame on the affected leg.

Limiting the activity of the dog and treating with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help some dogs with OCD of the shoulder. A trial period of exercise restriction (brief leash walks only) for a minimum of 6 weeks can be attempted. If lameness resolves, surgery may not be indicated. However, if lameness persists more than 6 weeks, surgical removal of the flap is indicated.

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The advantages of knowing which breeds of dogs are at increased risk for osteochondrosis of the Shoulder are evident. It can heighten awareness among breed club members, helping them make decisions about how to spend their foundation dollars, and it can lead to more emphasis being placed on methods to diagnose and genetically screen for the disease in that breed before animals are bred and genes are recycled to the gene pool.

Breeds at Risk for Osteochondrosis of the Shoulder

Bernese mountain dog, Border collie, Bouvier des Flandres, Boxer, BullmasChesapeake Bay retrievertiff, Dalmatian, English setter, German shorthaired pointer, German wirehaired pointerGerman shepherd dog, Golden retriever, Great Pyrenees, Irish wolfhound, Labrador retriever, Newfoundland, Old English sheepdog, Rottweiler, Standard poodle, Munsterlander, Mixed-breed dogs.


  1. Breed Susceptibility for Developmental Orthopedic Diseases in Dogs. Elizabeth LaFond, DVM, Diplomate ACVS, Gert J. Breur, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVS and Connie C. Austin, MPH, PhD
  2. Osteochondrosis of the Shoulder, Ann Johnson, DVM, MS Diplomate ACVS, The American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS)

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