Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is the term for an elbow joint that is malformed on X-rays. The mechanism of the malformation is unclear but it may be due to differences in the growth rates of the three bones that make up the elbow joint, particularly the humerus and ulna. In mildly affected dogs the only consequence may be arthritis. In more severely affected dogs, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), fragmented medial coronoid processes and united anconeal processes can result from the stress in the joint. Some vets think that these problems may not be secondary but may actually be the primary problems and that the bone changes occur as a result of them. It is difficult to be sure but there does appear to be measurable differences in bone growth in dogs that have elbow dysplasia. There are a number of changes visible on X-rays and the OFA does evaluate X-rays for evidence of elbow dysplasia.

Due to the number of possible complications, it is hard to make predictions about how elbow dysplasia will affect a dog. If it can be identified at a young age before changes are severe, surgical correction has a reasonably good success rate. Once severe changes set in, it is much harder to prevent subsequent arthritic changes. Most dogs with this condition eventually become lame and the lameness can be very severe in some dogs, even to the point of disuse of one leg or severe difficult getting up and walking even short distances.

Treatment consists of surgical correction of whatever complications are present, if possible. Medical management using aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications is helpful. Weight control is very important over the long term for success of either surgical or medical management of this condition.