What is Elbow Dysplasia?
Elbow dysplasia is a congenital issue and generally affects large breed dogs. The humerus, radius and ulna bones that make up the dog's elbow do not fit together perfectly leading to areas of abnormally high contact pressure and pain. Elbow Dysplasia is an over-arching term that refers to multiple problems that affect your dog's elbow. The other disorders that are considered elbow dysplasia are:
- Fragmented medial coronoid process (FCP)
- Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)
- Ununited anconeal process (UAP)
- Medial compartment disease
What are the Symptoms of Canine Elbow Dysplasia?
Regardless of which of the 4 forms of elbow dysplasia your dog has, the symptoms are the same.
- Forearm lameness or stiffness (usually worse after exercise and difficult to spot if both elbows are affected)
- Less enthusiasm to go for walks or play.
- Front paws pointing outwards and/or elbows held at a strange angle.
- Swollen, puffy elbows (in severe cases)
Most dogs will start to show symptoms between 5 and 18 months of age but with more mild forms the symptoms may not show until arthritis has developed. Elbow dysplasia is not a curable condition and symptoms will have to managed throughout your dog's lifetime.
Treatment and Management
In order to diagnose and determine which form of elbow dysplasia your pup has, your veterinarian will have to perform X-Rays. Depending on the severity of the condition of your dog's joint there are a few ways to proceed with treatment.
Arthroscopy surgery is the best method for handling extreme elbow dysplasia cases as it is minimally invasive and allows the veterinary surgeon to see the true extent of the damaged elbow. The surgeon will surgically introduce an arthroscope scope that shows images of the joint. Using those images, the surgeon can repair the damage and file down the cartilage malformations.
Elbow replacement surgery is currently being developed and researched but it is still a long way out. It may take years for a workable surgical solution to make its way to a veterinary specialty hospital near you
Whether or not your dog gets surgery, elbow dysplasia is a lifelong condition. You will need to keep careful control of their body weight and make sure they are not putting on weight that will add extra pressure to the elbow joint. Control the exercise, avoid extreme activities like running, turning at high speeds, chasing a balls, rough and tumble play with other dogs, and jumping and landing on the front legs.
Physical therapy is highly recommenced. Hydrotherapy is great as it works the muscles while the buoyancy from the water keeps weight off of the elbow and can help manage your dogs weight. You can also consider an elbow brace to give extra support and structure to the joint while you take your dog on walks or durning playtime.
Include dietary supplements such as omega-3-fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate into your pets diet. These supplements can help relieve some of the joint discomfort and stiffness. Finally, your vet may give you some prescription anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling.