Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs – Canine Elbow Dysplasia (June 2019)

Elbow dysplasia in dogs is a common condition that can. and does, run rampant through certain breeds based on genetics.

What is Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs?

Elbow dysplasia, in general, is complicated. It’s a condition that stems from abnormal bone, tissue, and/or cell growth.

Elbow dysplasia is one of the leading causes of forelimb lameness in Newfoundland, German shepherd, rottweiler, golden retriever, and other large to giant breeds of dogs.

Overall, it ties into malformation and the degeneration of the elbow joints, which causes lameness and pain.

The Different Types and Grades of Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is the general term used, but there are actually 3 different types:

  • United Anconeal Process (UAP)
  • Osteochondritis of the Medial Humeral Condyle (OCD)
  • Pathology of the Ulna Medical Coronoid (FCP)

The type of elbow dysplasia your dog has will depend on multiple factors, such as bone proliferation, bone spurs, and arthritic conditions.

Listed below are the different grades of elbow dysplasia with a minor explanation of each:

  • Grade 1 – minimal amounts of change in bone along the anconeal process of the ulna : around 2mm
  • Grade 2 – moderate amount of bone proliferation going along the anconeal process and subchondral changes in bone : between 2 to 5mm
  • Grade 3 – advanced degenerative joint disease that includes proliferation of the bone along the anconeal process : greater than 5mm

The type and grade of elbow dysplasia will vary based on genetics, advancements in disease, and other factors.

Causes of Elbow Dysplasia

Unfortunately, elbow dysplasia has been proven to affect more male dogs compared to female dogs due to the upper ulna.

In short, the upper ulna is a foreleg bone fragment that is located just below the joint of the elbow.

Dogs typically begin to show clinical signs between the ages of 4 to 10 months, with an official diagnosis typically occurring between 4 to 18 months of age.

Symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Listed below is a list of the symptoms of elbow dysplasia in dogs:

  • Pain when flexing or extending the elbow
  • Limited mobility and general motion
  • Holding the affected leg away from the rest of the body
  • A build-up of fluid within the joint, which is noticeable 
  • Audible grating of the joint and bone when moving around
  • Periodic or persistent lameness in the affected leg from rest, exercise, walking, etc

Elbow dysplasia typically occurs at a young age, but that doesn’t mean adult and senior dogs won’t develop it over time.

As I always say, if you spot any of the symptoms above, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Because elbow dysplasia plays on genetics, it can be difficult to prevent it. It’s not impossible to do, though, but you’ll have to start young.

An excessive intake of nutrition that promotes growth at a rapid rate can contribute to elbow dysplasia, so it’s important to keep your dog at a healthy weight. Exercise is very important for dogs in any case, but more so when preventing this type of condition.

Other than that, ensuring you aren’t breeding an affected dog is the best way to prevent elbow dysplasia in dogs due to the fact that it’s a genetic thing.

Regular Vet Visits

It’s very important that your dog see their vet on a regular basis if they are affected by elbow dysplasia.

Knowing how fast the joint cartilage is deteriorating is crucial in treatment and how aggressive it needs to be.

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