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Elbow Dysplasia

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Elbow dysplasia is caused by malformation or degeneration of the elbow joint and is very common in larger dog breeds but rarely affects cats or small dogs. Most pets inherit the disease, which is first noticeable when they are younger, between the ages of 4 and 10 months old. However, some pets do not show signs of elbow dysplasia until late adulthood. Dysplasia can be characterized by bony fragments in the joint, elbow incongruity, or severe arthritic changes. All can be managed with proper veterinary care. If you think your pet might be suffering from elbow dysplasia, contact our office to schedule an exam. We can start your pet’s treatment plan right away!

Some of the most susceptible breeds include: 

  • Australian Shepherds 
  • Mastiffs 
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs 
  • Newfoundlands 
  • Chow Chows 
  • Rottweilers 
  • English Setters 
  • Saint Bernards 
  • German Shepherds 
  • Shar-Peis 
  • Golden Retrievers 
  • Shetland Sheepdogs 
  • Labrador Retrievers 
  • Springer Spaniels

What symptoms will my pet exhibit if they have elbow dysplasia? 

  • Flipping of feet when walking or running. 
  • Holding elbows outward from chest. 
  • Inclination to hold painful limb out and away from the body.
  • Noticeable pain when extending or flexing elbow. 
  • Reduced range of motion during walks or play. 
  • Swelling near the elbows. 
  • Weakness that worsens with movement and exercise.

Living with elbow dysplasia

An initial diagnosis is necessary prior to any treatment; X-rays are usually taken to ensure that elbow dysplasia is the cause of the pet’s pain. Managing pain caused by elbow dysplasia is absolutely probable. There are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options available with positive and negative aspects of both options.

Surgery is one treatment option that typically provides a sort of permanent relief for elbow dysplasia sufferers. However, if there are multiple defects in the joint and the defects are severe, the surgery can prove less successful, and a dog can still develop degenerative arthritis.

For dogs who are not good candidates for surgery or whose owners opt against it, traditional therapy involves a combination of weight control, moderate exercise, and anti-inflammatory medications. Additional therapies might be suggested, depending on a dog’s current health status. For severely overweight dogs, hydrotherapy might be recommended to alleviate additional joint stress, and allow for weightless, no-impact fitness until significant weight loss is seen. These traditional therapies are more of an “elbow dysplasia management”, as they will not cure the disease and will have to be incorporated throughout the remainder of the pet’s lifespan.

If you have any questions about elbow dysplasia or the treatment options we offer, please contact our office.