Osteochondrodysplasia - skeletal dwarfism

What is ... ?: 

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.
Most of the disorders classified as osteochondrodysplasias affect the bones of the limbs, such that the limbs are short relative to body length, but some forms also affect the formation and growth of vertebrae, resulting in a body which is abnormally short. Breeds such as the dachshund and basset hound have been selectively bred for dwarfism; this discussion concerns the osteochondrodysplasias in breeds where dwarfism is not part of the breed standard.

How is ... inherited?: 

This condition is autosomal recessive in several of the breeds in which it occurs.

What does ... mean to your dog & you?: 

There is a range in the severity of problems caused by this condition. Mildly affected dogs may have short stature due to short limbs, with no associated clinical problems. Progressively more severe effects include bowed limbs, or limbs which are angled to the side, enlarged and deformed joints, joint looseness, lameness, decreased ability to exercise, and severe debilitation. Animals with this condition are more likely to develop arthritis and joint pain.

How is ... diagnosed?: 

Your veterinarian will make this diagnosis based on your dog's physical appearance; x-rays may be taken to confirm the diagnosis, or to screen puppies less than 13 weeks of age for this condition.

How is ... treated?: 

There is no specific treatment or cure for this disease. Intermittent joint pain can be treated with pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs (eg. buffered aspirin). In some cases, surgery may be recommended to help to correct a deformity.

Breeding advice: 

Affected dogs, their parents (carriers of the disorder), and siblings (suspect carriers) should not be bred.


Ackerman L. 1999. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs, p. 126. AAHA Press,Lakewood, Colorado

Johnson KA, Watson ADJ, Page RL. 1995. Skeletal diseases. In EJ Ettinger and EC Feldman(eds) Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, p. 2087 WB Saunders Co., Toronto

What breeds are affected by ... ?