Canine elbow dysplasia is a common inherited orthopaedic problem in dogs where the elbow doesn’t develop properly. It is not a common condition in Clumber Spaniels and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) strongly recommends dogs and bitches used for breeding should have a 0/0 score. The elbows are each scored out of 3 (from 0 = no problems, 1 = mild or early osteoarthritis, 2 and 3 = marked osteoarthritis). A dog will have an XRay once it is over the age of 12 months and this will be sent to the BVA to be scored..
Elbow dysplasia includes a number of specific abnormalities that affect different sites within the joint. These cause problems by affecting the growth of the cartilage which forms the surface of the joint or the structures around it. These conditions include Fragmented Medial Coronoid Process (FCP), Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD), and Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP):
- FCP is a small piece of bone on the inner (medial) side of the joint that has broken off the ulna. This fragment irritates the lining of the joint and grinds off the cartilage.
- OCD is a condition where a piece of cartilage becomes partially or completely detached from the surface of the bone.
- UAP is a condition where a part of the ulna bone, called the anconeal process, fails to fuse with the main ulna bone during the growth phase.
Once the elbow joint is damaged a cycle of inflammation and further cartilage damage begins. Signs of elbow dysplasia in dogs vary between individuals and breeds. Some observable signs include:
- Decreased range of motion
- Exercise intolerance
- Unusual movement after rest or exercise
- Groaning while resting or getting up
- Signs of pain when moving the elbow
There is a link between your dog being overweight and the incidence of Elbow Dysplasia RVC Elbow Study
However, a veterinary surgeon's physical examination will provide a more reliable assessment and radiography is the only means of determining the presence of elbow dysplasia. Most dogs show signs of Elbow Dysplasia at around five to seven months old. Usually diagnosis can be made with a physical examination and by XRay.
Treatment methods vary depending on the nature and severity of the problem. Conservative treatment can involve weight restriction and exercise control. Drugs may be used to relieve pain and inflammation. In some dogs, surgery and/or forms of physiotherapy may be advised where appropriate.