Elbow Dysplasia

elbowElbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited disease of the elbow in medium to large breed dogs.  Juvenile, male dogs are most commonly affected.  Four main conditions make up this disease and can occur independently or in conjunction with one another.  These conditions include:


– Fragmented Medial Coronoid Process (FCP)
– Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) of the medial humeral condyle
– Ununited anconeal process (UAP)
– Joint incongruity between the humerus, ulna, and radius


The cause of elbow dysplasia is not completely understood. However, it is believed to be due to a combination of a genetic predisposition and environmental factors (such as activity level, obesity, and high calorie diets). Incongruity, meaning that the joint does not fit well, is likely a contributing factor in all four conditions that make up the disease complex known as elbow dysplasia.


The most common indication that a dog may have elbow dysplasia is a front leg lameness in a young large-breed dog.  However, older dogs may present with a different variety of elbow dysplasia or symptoms secondary due to the arthritis that develops if the condition is left untreated as a puppy.  Some breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Newfoundlands, German Shepherd Dogs and Golden Retrievers are commonly affected.  Exercise typically makes the lameness worse.


Although the disease is almost always present in both elbows, 80% of dogs may only appear lame in one leg.  The lameness may also seem intermittent or shift from one front leg to the other.  When both front legs hurt, dogs do not limp constantly, which may make the problem less obvious.  These dogs are frequently stiff when rising, less willing to play and tire easily.


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