Elbow dysplasia in dogs
Elbow dysplasia (abbreviated ED) includes various diseases. They have in common that through them the elbow joint does not fit together and work smoothly. As a rule, both elbows are affected. Whereby one usually becomes conspicuous earlier.
The following deformities of the elbow joint lead to ED:
- a fragmented coronoid process (FCP for short), a detachment of the inner coronoid process of the ulna
- Osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD for short), a cartilage detachment on the inner rolling hump of the humerus
- an isolated processus anconeus (IPA for short), a detachment of the ulnar process of the ulna.
Furthermore, a step formation may occur between the radius and ulna. Malformations of the joint surfaces are also possible. The latter two may be present either alone or together with an IPA, FPC, or OCD. The coexistence of FPC with OCD or with IPA in a joint is also observed.
Interesting: ED occurs exclusively in dogs, not in cats.
How is the elbow joint structured?
The elbow joint is made up of three joint partners: the ulna, radius and humerus. They form a hinge joint.
How does an ED develop? What breeds are affected?
Elbow dysplasia is hereditary. Influence on the expression have a wrong diet (too high energy, calcium or vitamin D content). It leads to too rapid growth of the dog. Too much physical activity in the first months of life also promotes ED. These include too long walks, jumps, quick stops, tug games and Frisbee games. At the same time, obesity, overloading and incorrect loading promote the development of ED. Male dogs are affected more frequently due to their higher body weight. It is predominantly medium to large breeds that are affected. Examples include Labrador and Golden Retrievers and Newfoundlands,. But also Rottweiler, German Shepherd and Bernese Mountain Dog.
Since the joint partners do not fit together, arthrosis develops. It progresses further and further. The body tries to help itself. It does this by forming bony growths at the edges of the joints. This is because they bring stability to the joint (see also blog post on HD). Dogs with ED lose muscle in the affected front leg. The muscles in overloaded areas of the body tense.
What are the symptoms?
Young dogs show the first signs between the fourth and seventh month of life. If the joint is slightly misaligned, osteoarthritis may be the only sign of ED. The elbow joint shows a clear restriction of movement. It is painful to move. As a sign, the elbow is pressed close to the body. As a result, the forearm is rotated outward. The dogs are often sensitive to touch at the elbow. The joint is swollen and heated. Early signs include stiffness in the morning or difficulty getting started after resting. Lameness and reluctance to move occur. Many dogs avoid doing things they previously enjoyed doing without difficulty, such as getting into the car.
How is elbow dysplasia diagnosed?
Your veterinarian can detect it by x-ray and CT scan, as well as diagnostic arthroscopy.
What are the treatment options?
If dysplasia is detected, osteoarthritis is often visible in the joint. The elbow joint tends to develop osteoarthritis very quickly. There is a possibility to surgically remove the pieces of bone and cartilage. If surgery is not desired, the dog should be supported with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications. However, removal of the fragments is often unavoidable.
You can relieve pain and ease tension with physical therapy. The mobility in the elbow joint is also restored. Furthermore, a normal motion sequence is trained and muscles are built up. These measures are necessary after surgical removal of bone and cartilage fragments. But also indispensable in conservative treatment. Furthermore, you can support your dog with gold acupuncture or nutritional supplements.
Especially for young dogs, I recommend the pre-x-ray at about six months of age. Especially if they are to be active in dog sports or act as service dogs . This should happen regardless of whether you want to breed with your dog. Even with ED free dogs, I recommend not starting dog sports until the end of joint development. This is at the earliest at the age of 12 months.
You can help your dog with an ED! In my next blog article, I’ll show you two effective and easy-to-implement exercises to try. With it you train the musculature, the coordination and the mobility of your dog.