Over the last two decades phase contrast x-ray imaging techniques have been extensively studied for applications in the biomedical field. Published results demonstrate the high capability of these imaging modalities of improving the image contrast of biological samples with respect to standard absorption-based radiography and routinely used clinical imaging techniques. A clear depiction of the anatomic structures and a more accurate disease diagnosis may be provided by using radiation doses comparable to or lower than those used in current clinical methods. In the literature many works show images of phantoms and excised biological samples proving the high sensitivity of the phase contrast imaging methods for in vitro investigations. In this scenario, the applications of the so-called analyzer-based x-ray imaging (ABI) phase contrast technique are particularly noteworthy. The objective of this work is to demonstrate the feasibility of in vivo x-ray ABI phase contrast imaging for biomedical applications and in particular with respect to joint anatomic depiction and osteoarthritis detection. ABI in planar and tomographic modes was performed in vivo on articular joints of guinea pigs in order to investigate the animals with respect to osteoarthritis by using highly monochromatic x-rays of 52 keV and a low noise detector with a pixel size of 47 x 47 microm(2). Images give strong evidence of the ability of ABI in depicting both anatomic structures in complex systems as living organisms and all known signs of osteoarthritis with high contrast, high spatial resolution and with an acceptable radiation dose. This paper presents the first proof of principle study of in vivo application of ABI. The technical challenges encountered when imaging an animal in vivo are discussed. This experimental study is an important step toward the study of clinical applications of phase contrast x-ray imaging techniques.