The purpose of this study was to prove the feasibility of combining in vivo MR imaging with the Pond-Nuki animal model for the evaluation of osteoarthritis. In an experimental study, 24 beagle dogs underwent transection of the anterior cruciate ligament of the left leg (modified Pond-Nuki model). The dogs were randomly assigned into four groups and examined by MRI after 6, 12, 24 and 48 weeks. MR imaging of both knees was performed under general anesthesia with the contralateral joint serving as control. In group 1 (6 weeks postoperatively), the first sign detected on MRI was subchondral bone marrow edema in the posteromedial tibia. After 12 weeks, erosion of the posteromedial tibial cartilage could be observed, followed by meniscus degeneration and osteophytosis after 24 and 48 weeks. The contralateral knee joint showed transient joint effusion, but no significant signs of internal derangement (P<0.001). By combining in vivo MR imaging with the Pond-Nuki model, it is possible to detect early signs of osteoarthritis. The first sign was posteromedial subchondral bone marrow edema in the tibia followed by progressive cartilage degeneration and joint derangement. The in vivo model therefore seems to be suitable for longitudinal studies or monitoring the therapeutic effects of osteoarthritis.