January: Osteochondritis dessicans (OCDS)

January Case of the Month: Osteochondritis dessicans (OCDS)

Osteochondritis dessicans (OCDS) is a relatively common developmental disease that affects the cartilage and joints of horses. Although we typically associate this disease with Warmblood breeds, we can see it in many other breeds including Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and Drafts. Its not uncommon to perform OCD survey radiographs before young horses are purchased or started under saddle. Early symptoms can include joint swelling with or without concurrent lameness.  Treatment typically involves surgical removal of the OCDs, removal of any fibrin strands in the inflamed joint, followed by joint therapies to further reduce inflammation and encourage cartilage repair. If treated early, prognosis for athletic performance is good, with little ongoing joint health management. If left untreated, most OCDs will results in chronic lameness and premature development of arthritis. In the last few months, we have found OCDs in 3 young Drafts, and Draft-crosses. Their presenting symptoms were all similar: sporadic joint swelling. Luckily they were all caught early, at ages of 2-4 years old, and they all should be able to return to full athletic abilities.