Elbow Dysplasia - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Health, last updated 26th, Sep 2014, Neha Manchanda

elbow dysplasiaElbow Dysplasia is a syndrome involving multiple developmental abnormalities of the elbow in a dog causing a difficult bait especially in the front legs. Large dog breeds such as Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Newfoundland, English Springer Spaniel, Chow Chow and a few others are more susceptible to developing elbow dysplasia. If a dog has elbow dysplasia, one or more of the following conditions may be present:

  • Osteochondrosis
  • Un-united Anconeal Process
  • Fragmentation of medial coronoid process
  • Elbow incongruity

Anatomy of an Elbow

An elbow joint is made up of humerus which joins with the radius and ulna. The anconeal process unites with the ulna at about 6 months of age and forms a curved depression in ulna.

When a dog has elbow dysplasia, there is a inherited developmental defect which may occur either as an individual or a multiple of symptoms. 

Elbow Dysplasia Causes:

Osteochondrosis is caused by a defect in the calcification process of the cartilage in the joint. In case the cartilage calcifies in an irregular manner as a result the defective cartilage forms over the bone and causes extreme pain and swelling due to the increase in the stress on the joint. Osteochondrosis seems to stem from the shoulder and elbow and cause lameness especially in growing puppies.

Fragmentation of Medial Coronoid process refers to the fact that the bone in the area is degenerating or breaking. Large breed puppies such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and St Bernards are  more susceptible to this genetic degeneration. Osteochondrosis and Fragmentation of Medial Coronoid Process generally occur in the same joint.

Elbow Incongruity happens when the radius and the ulna bone do not grow at the same rate of speed and causes wear and tear on the cartilage due to rubbing of the radius and ulna.

Elbow Dysplasia Symptoms:

Puppies with elbow dysplasia will show some significant symptoms which may start as early as 4 months of age. Some of the common symptoms that may present in case of elbow dysplasia:

  • Limping
  • Holding the leg away from the body while walking
  • Trying to avoid putting weight on the leg

In general, the puppy will try to avoid putting any weight on the affected leg. As they grow older, the symptoms will get worst and can be a lifelong problem for the dog and develop into osteoarthritis. The symptoms may aggravate especially after an exercise or activity.

Elbow Dysplasia Treatment:

In case a puppy is susceptible to elbow dysplasia, veterinary assistance would have to be sought. An X ray or MRI of the affected area will have to be taken to understand the extent of the degeneration that has happened to the bone.

The veterinary, based on the extent of degeneration, may advise medication or surgery. Many a times with surgery, the symptoms can completely disappear and bring a lifelong relief to the puppy or it may bring some relief from the pain and swelling.

Living  and management

Since elbow dysplasia is a genetic disorder, it will be advisable not to breed the dogs. Pet parents will have to be careful especially in day to day activities. Running, jumping, climbing stairs may be painful for your dog so measures will have to be taken to make sure that excessive activity does nt aggravate the pain for the pup.

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