Elbow Dysplasia In Dogs

Overview of Canine Elbow Dysplasia

This is a condition of the elbows in dogs and is caused by abnormal growth or disturbances in the elbow joint. Experts presented a collection of theories to indicate the exact causes of the disease. These causes include defects in the cartilage, a sudden trauma, various genetic reasons, absence of exercise, poor diet, etc. These beforementioned factors can lead to an abnormal growth between the two bones in the foreleg located between the radius and ulna.

If the radius bone grows at a more slow pace than the ulna bone, it will become shorter and compact which will lead to an escalated pressure on the medial coronoid process of the ulna. This will cause damage to the cartilage(s) in the joint, even resulting in fracture(s) of the tip of the coronoid process. The process goes on to damage the medial compartment of the joint. If the ulna grows at a slow pace, then the radius pushes the humerus against the anconeal process and can lead to the damage of the anconeal process. According to some experts, the abnormal growth between the ulna and the radius, at times only occur during a pup’s growing up period, but can also persist when the puppy steps into adulthood.

Signs and Symptoms

This condition is prevalent in massive breeds, mainly the Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherds, and the Rottweilers. However, the reality is that the condition occurs in most of the breeds. Different races have predispositions to various forms of the condition. Ununited Anconeal Process or UAP is mostly a problem of German Shepherds. Medial Compartment Disease or the other variant Medial Coronoid Injury is prevalent among many other dog breeds. Sighthounds are free of the disease.

It's unfortunate that if the dog’s elbow joint gets damaged after a cartilage loss, the existence of Medial Coronoid Fragments or an Ununited Anconeal Process will be a  dangerous circle of inflammation which can further the cartilage damage. In the long run, progressive arthritis of the elbow joint will happen and will lead to pain and loss of function of the joints.

Dogs affected by elbow dysplasia often show signs from an early age, typically from their first five months, but some may first be diagnosed after four to five years. Affected dogs develop front limb lameness that typically worsens eventually. Lameness is usually worse after exercise and typically never wholly resolves with rest. Often both fore legs gets the condition, which can make detection of lameness difficult, as the gait is not asymmetric. When both elbows are involved the dog usually becomes unwilling to exercise for long periods or may even refuse to complete a walk.


Diagnosis of elbow dysplasia starts with a combination of several clinicaexaminations, primarily through an x-ray exam. Usually, the dog will have minor to severe pain on bending fully or extending the elbow joints.  Many times, the vet will make the dog walk few steps or trot a little to detect any lameness. X-rays will generally show signs of the condition called Arthritis; X-ray exams can also recognize the existence of small bone particles in the joint or an ununited anconeal process. The vet may also refer some other specialists, such as a vet surgeon for more advanced diagnostics.


The treatment will vary from dog to dog, and also on the severity of the condition. In many of the cases, the vet may also recommend surgical intervention. If the case is mild, then the vet will probably recommend NSAID drugs to reduce the intensity of pain and inflammation that comes with elbow dysplasia.  NSAID drugs are a great option whether or not the surgeon performs a surgery. There are different kind of NSAID drugs on the market. The dog’s vet can prescribe those specific drugs that are appropriate for the dog.

Some NSAID drugs can have side effects in the form of gastrointestinal irritation. Long-term administration of drugs like the Corticosteroids is typically out of the recommendation list for dogs with a variation of the condition. It is because these drugs can cause cartilage damage. Chondroprotective medications, like hyaluronan, glucosamine, polysulfated glycosaminoglycans and chondroitin sulfate, may help to reduce joint inflammation and pain. These before mentioned drugs may help limit the progression of cartilage damage in our furry friends.

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