OCD...OMG! (Severe joint disease gets the better of one bulldog)
Imagine you were ready for your first dog since becoming a grown-up and having a family. You undertook careful research. Found a breeder by referral. Traveled several hours to view the premises. Picked the puppy of your dreams. Socialized her to the best of your ability and undertook puppy training classes. Then, on her very first romp in the puppy park…she comes up horribly lame.
Now you’ve got one well-loved, six month old American bulldog pup in the throes of multiple limb lameness. The cost for avoiding a lifetime of crippling arthritis? About $3,500…per leg.
If you had to guess, you’d probably think I was talking about severe hip dysplasia. But I’m not. Osteochondritis Dissecans (often spelled multiple ways just to confuse us) is the disease process in this case. And it’s not the oft-affected hip joints implicated here, either. With OCD, it’s the shoulder joints that bear the brunt of teensy flaps of cartilage rubbing painfully in what should be a smooth-as-silk joint.
It’s a disease of growing large breed dogs which seems to stem from a confounding array of factors. Labs, Rotties, Goldens seem predisposed but any large dog can get it, usually between six to nine months of age. Diet, genetics or trauma have all been implicated, but we still don’t yet know the truth of it. Such is the state of our science on the subject.
Predictably, many of these pups still run and romp, though they typically limp through it all. X-rays may reveal almost nothing, but teensy divets in the cartilage of the joint can usually tip us off, as in this AmBull’s case.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure. Crating her for six to eight weeks? Sure, it might help the lesions heal to the best of the body’s ability but studies have found that painful arthritis is the defining factor even in dogs whose owners are diligent about the confinement process. (Can you imagine sentencing a Lab to a crate for eight weeks? Do you think she’ll even heal while she’s bouncing off the eight sides of her cube for as many weeks?)
That’s why the only reasonable treatment option gets us into the fancy joint surgeries only our expensively trained surgeons with their pricey equipment can supply. In poor little Buddha’s case, it’s the minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure that’s at the ready. Unfortunately, her parents’ savings account is in the red.
It’s time for a new home, they’ve decided. They’ve done their best for her. The breeder has rejected her return. Know anyone with an extra $7K to blow on an otherwise well-bred beauty?