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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Elbow Dysplasia




Condition Overview

Elbow dysplasia is a common cause of front-leg lameness in large-breed dogs.


Signs of elbow dysplasia usually appear in puppies at 4 - 10 months of age, but some dogs may not show signs until adulthood, when degenerative joint disease starts. The signs consist of varying degrees of front leg lameness that worsens with exercise. Characteristically, the elbow is held outward from the chest and may appear swollen.


Dogs with elbow dysplasia have inherited developmental defects.


The diagnosis is made using detailed X-rays of the elbow join, taken in extreme flexion. Radiologists are particularly interested in the appearance of the anoconeal process of the ulna. In a dog with elbow dysplasia, the anoconeal process has a rough, irregular appearance due to arthritic changes.

Another sign of dysplasia is widening of the joint space associated with a loose, unstable joint. X-rays may be difficult to interpret before a pup is 7 months old. A CT scan may be required to demonstrate a fragmented coronoid process.

The OFA evaluates X-rays and maintains registries for dogs with elbow dysplasia. Dogs must be 24 months of age or older to be certified by OFA, although it accepts preliminary X-rays on growing pups for interpretation only.


Medical treatment is similar to that described for Hip Dysplasia. Surgery is the treatment of choice for most dogs. Several factors, including the age of the dog and the number and severity of the defects, govern the choice of surgical procedure. The more defects in the elbow, the greater the likelihood that the dog will develop degenerative arthritis - with or without surgery.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Please contact your veterinarian for more information regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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