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Elbow dysplasia in dogs

Elbow dysplasia in dogs, canine elbow dysplasia, symptoms, causes and treatment

Canine elbow dysplasia is a condition in which the elbow joint of a dog develops abnormally, leading to a number of problems.

There are many types of elbow dysplasia, and the condition usually involves several different abnormalities in a single joint. Usually, these abnormalities arise from osteochondrosis, a condition that affects the cartilage in the joint. This can cause lesions to develop on the bone, and may also lead to fragmentation.

A dog that has elbow dysplasia will walk with a limp. The dog will avoid putting too much pressure on the affected leg, or may not use that leg at all, holding it off the ground at all times while walking or running. Even if the dog does not limp, it will have an abnormal gait, often with the feet pointing outwards and the elbows tucked in.

Usually, if both the front legs are equally affected, the dog will not limp, but will display an abnormal gait that aims to avoid putting much pressure on either leg. The dog will avoid too much of exercise, and this affinity for sitting and lying down may be misinterpreted as laziness. Of course, many of these symptoms could also be caused by injuries or by other medical conditions, so diagnosis requires medical tests. These are usually x-rays and a test known as arthroscopy, which is a minimally invasive type of endoscopy.

The causes of elbow dysplasia include diet, in which case excessive intake of calcium combined with inadequate intake of vitamin C is usually held responsible. Trauma to the joint also increases the likelihood of it developing dysplasia. However, genetics seem to be an important factor too, which is why breeding of dogs with elbow dysplasia is discouraged. Basically, these and other factors, either individually or in combination, may lead to the joint growing in an incongruous manner, development of bone fragments, and arthritic damage.
In large breed dogs such as German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, elbow dysplasia seems to be quite common, although this may not be entirely genetic. Besides these breeds, relatively smaller breeds such as cocker spaniels and Labrador retrievers also develop elbow dysplasia quite often.

Canine elbow dysplasia treatment depends on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, and if the dog is young, regular exercise combined with pain medication successfully cures the condition. Weight control is also necessary, as obesity further stresses the elbow joints. In more severe cases, surgery is necessary, and the prognosis is usually good, except for the most severe ones.

  Submitted on June 1, 2010  

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