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A Guide to Osteochondrodysplasia in Dogs

osteochondrodysplasia in dogs


We always want our dogs to be as healthy as possible. In some dogs, there is a disorder that can cause problems.

Osteochondrodysplasia is a genetic disorder also known as skeletal dwarfism. Just because your fur baby has osteochondrodysplasia, doesn’t mean they’re not perfect. But if you’re wanting to know more about this disorder, here is a guide to osteochondrodysplasia in dogs. What it is, what causes it, the effects, and the treatment options.


What is Osteochondrodysplasia?

According to the University of Prince Edward Island Canine Inherited Disorders Database:

Most bones in the body are first formed of cartilage, which is gradually replaced by bone early in life. Irregularities in this process will result in bones which are abnormal in size or shape. Osteochondrodysplasia describes a range of disorders which are characterized by abnormal growth of cartilage and bone. These disorders typically result in skeletal dwarfism, with the limbs of an animal being disproportionately short.

As mentioned, this is a genetic disorder. According to Wag Walking:

Osteochondrodysplasia (and achondroplasia) is a genetic disorder which causes a slowed development and growth of cartilage and bones that creates dwarfism and deformities. It is thought to be a hereditary abnormality of the growth receptor genes. This condition almost always affects all four of the long bones in your dog’s legs, but has been known to affect only two or three legs in some cases. The result is severe pain and discomfort for your dog that can eventually cause more serious problems as your dog gets older, such as arthritis and back problems.


What Causes Osteochondrodysplasia?

Along with genetics, there are a few other reasons a dog might get this disorder. These include things like:

  • Hormone imbalance
  • Diabetes
  • Malnutrition
  • Kidney disease
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Hyperadrenocorticism
  • Cardiovascular defects
  • And more

And while this disorder can be found in any breed of dog, there are certain breeds that it is more often found. These include breeds like pugs, Samoyed, beagles, and around 15 other breeds. Also, it only takes one parent to pass along the gene.

Keep in mind that if your dog does have osteochondrodysplasia, it is important not to breed him and pass along this genetic defect. Your dog is perfect no matter what but it is responsible not to pass along their genes.

There are various forms of osteochondrodysplasia. Each form has its own types of symptoms and growth defects.


What are the Symptoms?

There are quite a few distinct symptoms caused by osteochondrodysplasia in dogs. These include the following:

  • Spinal deviation in either side
  • A larger than normal head size
  • Bowing of front legs sideways (typically front legs)
  • Enlarged joints
  • Crooked teeth
  • Shorter than normal bone appearance
  • Lack of growth or poor growth
  • Bulging eyes
  • Smaller nose
  • Sticking out tongue

How is it Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is not always easy but sometimes it is. This is because some dogs are slightly affected to the point that nothing is noticed. In fact, sometimes they are so slight that it is only noticed on an x-ray meant to determine something else. On the flip side, some dogs have very prominent effects from osteochondrodysplasia so almost anyone can look at them and know they have it. To find out the root cause however, a veterinarian is needed for specific tests.


What are the Treatment Options?

Some dogs do not need any treatment. For those who are not having difficulty with things like walking or breathing – treatment isn’t something that has to be done. Yet, for those dogs where osteochondrodysplasia is causing problems, here are some of the treatments that may be ideal. There is no cure for this disorder but your dog’s quality of life can be elevated with proper treatment.

Pain Management

You want to make sure your dog is not in any pain. For those affected by osteochondrodysplasia, pain is sometimes a side effect. In this case, the vet can make recommendations on certain medications that relieve that pain. For lighter pain, NSAIDs are often used. For dogs with severe pain, there are other options. These include meloxicam, tramadol, and fentanyl.


There are not many surgical options that actually work other than one. One of the more advanced techniques can lengthen the dog’s leg bones. However, as with any type of surgery, let alone an advanced technique, it is expensive. Not only that but it is hard on your dog given the lengthy recovery time and painful healing. So for many, this is not always the best option – even if you can afford it.

Hormone Replacement

This is a treatment plan that has promise. The hormone used is progestin and it is the only one that has been shown to work correctly. If used, it is a long treatment plan that takes place every three to six weeks. This may take a few months to work or in some cases it can take years.

Knowing What’s Best for Your Dog

If your dog has osteochondrodysplasia, you want what is best for him. If it’s something that is not affecting your dog’s quality of life (difficulty breathing, difficulty walking, etc) then you don’t have much to worry about. But if your dog is being adversely affected, a visit to the veterinarian is imperative for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

While multiple vet visits are expensive, having pet health insurance is beneficial. Not only does it save money for emergencies, but it also helps for when your best friend needs long-term and ongoing care.


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