Osteochondritis (OCD), based on the veterinary information we have been given, is a condition that affects the smooth cartilage surface within the joints and most commonly the shoulder.We have a Spinone bitch who was diagnosed with this condition at the age of 4 months.We were sent by our vets, who had x-rayed both her shoulders, to an orthopaedic referral unit that operated initially on her left shoulder, suggesting the other would need surgery at a later date if it presented the same symptoms.There are some questions as to the cause of OCD, with no definitive answers reached, it seems, even within the veterinary world, and there are many opinions as to the best way to effect a cure.The following gives the history of Lottie, her symptoms and recovery, as well as some observations made along the way. If you have had a similar experience we would be interested to hear from you.

Lottie was born on 25th April 2003, one of eight – three boys and five girls.   [Her dam had a hip score of 7 and her sire 13].   Of the girls Lottie was the largest and as the litter grew she kept up with the boys in the weight stakes.   Rather unkindly, but in good humour, we nicknamed her Sumo, Miss Piggy and thanks to Gaynor from the puppy register, Big Bertha!   Although her size may have been a bit of a joke, she made up for it with her looks.   Lottie was a most beautiful puppy with wonderful dark cocoa brown ears and markings plus eyelashes any woman would wish for – a luscious Sophia Loren of the Italian Spinone world!    We had anticipated a totally brown roan litter but Lottie was a ‘brown and white’ and the first brown and white we had ever seen.   Her size did not cause her any problems feeding and her litter mates were hard pushed to compete with her for a nipple and somehow she knew the front ones were better than those at the back – wow, did she put up a fight when we tried to move her down the line to give the others a chance!!   Her size, however, did hamper her a little when we started weaning, as her legs seemed unable to lift her body off the ground, so she would adapt and do a swimming motion to propel herself along to reach the bowls.   Fearing, once she’d arrived, that she may miss out on the delights on offer she usually lifted herself into one of the bowls to eat.   What she didn’t eat at the time she could lick off later!!   [When we started to wean we fed a mushy mix of Welpi and tinned Pedigree puppy food].

Then almost instantly one day she walked!  And, then she was off – no stopping.   We moved the litter into a pen in the garden on warm days and soon they were allowed spells out of the pen in our back garden.    We would call “puppies” at feeding times and they soon knew what it meant and would come from all directions - Lottie was always first!!   Lottie’s litter-mates left us between six and eight weeks – as you gather we kept Lottie, as she made it plain she intended to stay – and she and her mum settled into a very harmonious life together.   Exercise was as gentle as we could make it for a puppy with boundless energy – familiar to any Spinone owner – and she had limited walking, on a lead.   We are fortunate to live in a spot surrounded by fields so later Lottie was able to run out with mum for short spells and experience the freedom of the countryside.   [We had fed mum on Eukanuba for some time and, to make it easy for us when it came to moving Lottie from puppy to adult food, we decided to put her on Eukanuba puppy food.   It has been suggested that, for Lottie, this was like feeding her with rocket fuel, whereas it would have been better to have her running on diesel and, possibly, the feed may have played a part in exacerbating the condition.   Both Lottie, and mum Lucy, are now fed Burns, plus fresh chicken, liver and tuna with supplementary fish oils and occasional bowls of brown rice – a delicacy they think!   Some minor problems Lucy experienced have also ceased since we moved to this diet].

At about 4 months Lottie would, occasionally at first, limp towards us and most usually this would be after she had rested or been lying down.   Once she had chased the birds from the lawn or the rabbits away from the other side of the fence the limp would disappear and she would regain her typical Spinone gait.    Lottie has always had a very fluid front leg movement with her paws flicking forwards in a most attractive fashion.  And, in spite of her early Miss Piggy appearance, she had by this age become rather model-like in stature with slim legs and body.   The limp unfortunately became more persistent with early mornings being the worst after she had rested for the night.   We took Lottie to our vets where she was x-rayed and osteochondritis was diagnosed.   [We obviously asked many questions about how and why, to which we were given many responses – possibly hereditary, possibly feeding, possibly growing too fast, possibly too much exercise/walking, possibly bad luck, possibly a combination of the aforementioned, but nothing conclusive].   It was at this stage we were referred to the orthopaedic unit and surgery was performed, removing a cartilage ‘flap’ the size of a five pence piece.  The results were immediate.  Despite Lottie doing everything we had been told to try and prevent her doing - jump up, jump down, climb stairs, leap at mum - her recovery was good throughout the allotted five weeks.  Her post-operative medication was Synuloz and Rimodyl.  The x-ray to her right shoulder had also shown the cartilage flap, smaller but visible, and we were prepared for this to be the next veterinary visit once limping started.   It has never caused her a problem from that day to this and we hope never will.   

It was a coincidence that we had one of her litter-mates, Millie, to stay for two weeks during Lottie’s recovery – a joy and a nightmare all rolled into one!  They adored being together, but how do you stop two nearly-5 month old puppies doing what they like to do best at that age!   Also, coincidentally, Millie had been showing signs of limping that had been so severe at one stage her owners were concerned they may not be able to walk her at all in future.    This, to owners keen to work Millie, was a potential double blow.   They also took Millie to their vets for examination, x-ray and advice.  The x-ray showed the same cartilage ‘flap’ but, instead of referral, it was suggested that as Millie was so young they would not be too hasty to choose surgery.  Instead, Millie’s vet offered a course of injections – Cartrophen injected once a week for three weeks – advising this would at best work or at least provide relief for up to six months.   Millie was also prescribed Cosequin capsules for 3 months.  Millie’s limping ceased, with no need for surgery and she has had no recurring shoulder problems to this day.  [Until she was 18 months old Millie was given Glucosamine and Chondroitin tablets plus Cod Liver Oil capsules.   Today she has none of these supplements but has oily fish daily – usually sardines – as part of her diet!  It should be said that Millie was not a Big Bertha and her growth has been very much as the ‘text book’ would advise].

Whether it was necessary for Lottie to have surgery is obviously up for debate, and we cannot be certain one way or the other, although comparison with Millie is understandable.  As far as both Lottie and Millie are concerned, now two years old, life is one long hop, skip and a jump packed with walks, fun and more walks.   Both have started their ‘working’ life and as usual are participating with tireless enthusiasm and energy!

Gillie Gomarsall