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Bone Deformity and Dwarfism in Dogs

Osteochondrodysplasia and Achondroplasia in Dogs

Osteochondrodysplasia (OCD) is a condition characterized by abnormal growth and development of bone and cartilage, leading to bone deformities and stunted growth. “Osteo” refers to bone, “chondro” to cartilage, and “dysplasia” denotes abnormal growth. Breeds such as great Pyrenees, Alaskan malamutes, Samoyeds, Scottish deerhounds, Labrador retrievers, basset hounds, and Norwegian elkhounds are prone to this disorder.

Achondroplasia, a subtype of osteochondrodysplasia, is marked by inadequate bone growth, resulting in shorter limbs, commonly known as dwarfism. This condition stems from a mutation in the fibroblast growth factor receptor gene. Selective breeding in certain breeds like dachshunds, Skye terriers, and Welsh corgis has encouraged this trait. Additionally, bulldogs, German shepherds, basset hounds, Boston terriers, pugs, Pekingese, Japanese spaniels, shih-tzus, beagles, English pointers, cocker spaniels, and Scottish terriers can also be affected.

Both disorders are inherited genetically.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms and types of osteochondrodysplasia and achondroplasia include:

  • Head size larger than normal
  • Undershot jaw accompanied by a shorter nose
  • Crooked teeth resulting from the shorter jaw
  • Abnormal bone shape
  • Poor or stunted growth
  • Bones appearing shorter than usual
  • Enlarged joints
  • Sideways bowing of forelimbs, with a higher likelihood of affecting front legs
  • Spinal deviation to either side of the body


The cause of osteochondrodysplasia is an autosomal dominant genetic disorder. This means that it can be inherited from either gender, and only one parent needs to carry the gene for an offspring to potentially be affected.


For diagnosis, it’s important to provide your veterinarian with a detailed medical history, including when you first observed symptoms of growth abnormalities and any information about your dog’s genetic background. Routine laboratory tests will include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis to eliminate other potential causes for the disorder. X-rays of the affected limbs will reveal abnormalities related to bone growth and structure, while spine X-rays will show similar abnormalities in cases of spinal deviation. To confirm the diagnosis, your veterinarian may take a tissue sample from the small bones and send it to a veterinary pathologist for further diagnostic evaluation.


Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your veterinarian may consider surgical intervention to address the issue. However, corrective surgery often yields unsatisfactory results. Many affected patients are prescribed pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications, as bone deformities can cause considerable discomfort. Your dog’s comfort level and life expectancy hinge on the severity of the condition. In cases where the condition is relatively minor, it’s entirely feasible for your dog to enjoy a comfortable and healthy life.

Living and Management

The prognosis for this disease varies depending on its severity. There is no definitive treatment available, and outcomes depend on the extent of the disorder and which bones are affected. Some dogs may find the bone dysplasia debilitating, while others may successfully adapt to smaller limb size and reduced mobility.

Dogs with osteochondrodysplasia are more susceptible to developing arthritis, especially as they age. It’s important to monitor for signs of arthritis and to be mindful of the risk of obesity, which is common in affected dogs. Maintaining a healthy diet and monitoring your dog’s weight and physical health are essential precautions. If pain medications are prescribed by your veterinarian, use them cautiously and strictly follow their instructions to prevent accidental overdoses. Due to the genetic nature of these disorders, breeding is not recommended.

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