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What is Elbow Dysplasia?

Elbow dysplasia is generally a disease that affects rapidly growing, large breed puppies, however, some dogs do not develop symptoms until after adulthood.  Breeds that have been noted to have higher incidence of occurrence are German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundland Dogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, and the Bernese Mountain Dogs. Typically the disease will be present in both elbows.

Elbow dysplasia is a general term meaning arthritis of the elbow joint. This condition is one of the most common causes of front leg lameness in canines.

Elbow Dysplasia Average Cost

From 571 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

  • Limping after exercise
  • Dog appears stiff when getting up from resting
  • Joints) may appear swollen
  • Pet is reluctant to play or to go on walks
  • Dog’s feet will rotate outward
  • Decreased range of motion of one or both elbows
  • Abnormal gait
  • Lameness
  • Pet shows pain upon manipulation of elbow joints
  • Dog may hold his elbows out or tightly into their bodies

Types

There are four types of abnormal development that may appear in the canine’s elbow:

  • Fragmented coronoid process

    - A small or large fragment of the bone breaks off and moves around inside of the elbow joint

  • Osteochondritis dissecans

    - OCD of the elbow usually occurs in young dogs, who show signs of lameness in one or both limbs

  • Growth rate incongruity

    - The radius bone and ulna bone grow at different rates

  • Ununited anconeal process

    - A bone outgrowth within the elbow becomes detached and causes irritation and degeneration

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Causes of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Elbow dysplasia in canines is considered to be primarily a genetic developmental disease.  Other possible contributing factors may be growth rate, high protein diet, trauma, hormonal imbalances, poor nutrition, rapid weight gain and level of exercise.

A canine’s elbow is made up of three bones, the ulna, the radius and the humerus.  These three bones are meant to fit together to form the elbow joint.  In ED there is an abnormal developmental problem which results in impaired joint formation.

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Diagnosis of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

The veterinarian will take a thorough medical history of your pet.  He will ask you when you first noticed the lameness and how it has progressed since. A physical examination will be performed; palpating each leg, checking for swollen joints.  The veterinarian may ask to see your dog walk so he can see first-hand if there is limping, abduction of the elbows or an abnormal gait. Your veterinarian may want to take blood and a urine sample of your pet to get a baseline assessment of his overall health.

The most common diagnostic test is to take x-rays of the elbows. X-rays will show if any bone fragments are present within the joint and whether or not arthritis has developed. Usually the dog will need to be sedated or anesthetized to obtain good x-rays. Other diagnostic tests your veterinarian may recommend are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the computed tomography (CT) scan and aspirating a sample of fluid from the joint.

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Treatment of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

The treatment will depend on the severity of disease in the elbow joint. In most cases of elbow dysplasia, general veterinary practitioners will refer patients to a veterinary orthopedic specialist to perform corrective surgery. Surgery can be performed to:

  • Remove bone fragments or cartilage that are irritating the joint
  • Help with alignment of bones 
  • Reattachment or removal of a bone within the elbow that is causing irritation and degeneration of the joint.
  • In severely diseased elbow joint replacement may be needed

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to help reduce pain and inflammation of the elbow joint.  Long term use of NSAIDs is not recommended because these drugs have been linked with cartilage damage.

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Recovery of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Your pet’s surgeon will advise you of post-operative aftercare needed for your dog. Activity will be restricted to short walks for bathroom breaks.  It may take 4 to 6 weeks until he can safely bear weight on the leg. Your pet may require physical therapy to help with his recovery.  It will be important to maintain a healthy weight on your pet. Follow up visits will be necessary to check on the incision and to monitor the use of any NSAIDs.

Surgery for elbow dysplasia is usually a success in relieving pain and lameness. However, dogs that have several developmental abnormalities in their elbow joints may continue to have degenerative joint disease including arthritis. Therefore, life-long veterinary care will be needed to help slow the progression of arthritis in your pet’s elbow.

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Elbow Dysplasia Average Cost

From 571 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

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Elbow Dysplasia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Zoey

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Shetland Sheepdog

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My Sheltie, Zoey, has been limping on and off. About 2-3 weeks ago, my mom and I came home. When we wanted Zoey to get off her bed so we could pet her, she stood up and started limping towards us while waging her tail lower than usual. We thought it was her right front arm in pain, so we gently squeezed areas on it to see where she would wince or become startled. We even checked with a flashlight. Nothing. We ignored it afterwards and went to bed. It didn't happen again until about a week passed by. Zoey limped towards me and I called for my mom through the house. My mom was getting a bit suspicious that something was going on. It happened on and off, one day there and another day gone. My mom made an observation that whenever Zoey comes back inside from running around the backyard, she starts limping. She started limping again last night, hardly being able to walk at her moderate pace. Whenever she stands in one place and wags her tail, she slightly bends her wrist and lifts her right front foot off the ground, so we assume it's her right front foot (or leg) that's in pain. She's been limping today, so I think the pain since last night hasn't gone. Zoey also seems to want more attention than usual, deeply staring at me for what seems like wanting compassion. Note that I'm only 13 and I don't have any experience of pets acting this way. Neither of my parents have done anything to help with Zoey's pain, and it feels like I'm the one overly concerned about her, so I'm asking for help. Is it Elbow Dysplasia? Is it not? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, I know it's a bit long, but I'm giving you all I've got. Again, thank you!

Oct. 20, 2017

Zoey's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Intermittent leg pain may be caused by a few different issues, but elbow dysplasia is down the list of possible problems and I couldn’t tell without examining her; a sprain would be the most common cause of limping in a dog, but this type of injury can take a long time to heal and would require lots of rest. In most cases like this, rest is best and it would be best to keep her rested for a week at least even if the limping has disappeared; when she needs to go outside take her on a lead so that she doesn’t run around. If after a period of rest the limping returns then an examination by your Veterinarian would be required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 21, 2017

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Wrigley

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Labrador Retriever

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14 Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

My dog has been limping on his right front leg for 3 months. First vet took X-rays and said it was just inflammation in the humerous bone because of his high activity level and fast growing puppy and it was a self limiting diagnosis. I wanted a second opinion and orthopedic surgeon vet said it was most likely elbow dysphasia and recommended elbow arthroscopy. Do you think surgery is the only option? Or should I start less aggressive and more holistic?

Oct. 17, 2017

Wrigley's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Initial arthroscopy may be used to assist in the diagnosis if the Orthopaedic Surgeon says “it was most likely elbow dysplasia”. Depending on the severity of the condition and the alignment of the bones, surgery or multiple surgeries may be required. Fundamentally, if there is a misalignment of the elbow joint it would require surgical correction if it is causing pain or discomfort; check the link below to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons page on elbow dysplasia which has some nice images and information. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/canine-elbow-dysplasia

Oct. 18, 2017

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Poppy

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English Springer Spaniel

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11 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My 11 month old English Springer Spaniel started limping yesterday after her afternoon walk. We were at out local moor where she can run around. We also took her to the river and threw some sticks for her to catch in the water. After we came home and she had some rest we noticed that she had a slight limp on her left front leg. I checked for swelling and any injuries but could not find anything. This morning when i went out for her morning 10 minute walk she was still limping, but after a short while she was alright and started running on the moor as usual. It seems as if its worse after some rest and getting better with time. She had the limp less than 24 hours. Thank you for your help

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Rosko

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Rottweiler

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6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

My dog has been limping for the past month or so he has good and bad days, some days he can’t even get up. I’ve brought him to the vet they have taken X-ray and ct scans and done blood work three times and urine test, there telling me there’s nothing there they can see. He has a huge lump on his right front leg right on his elbow and it feels like it’s filled with fluid. The first time I brought him to see the vet they took a sample of the fluid and the results came back as he has bacteria, they gave him antibiotics I stared giving him that for two weeks and nothing happened except his health got worst he had no energy he was limping even more he was throwing up and not eating. Brought him back in for a ct scan when they did blood work they mentioned to me that he has early stage kidney disease and maybe a mass growing on his liver which made no sense to me but his liver and kidney values were very high, they had him on IV fluid for two days and send me home with no answers and a list of medication to give him which I did and still his condition hasn’t improved. They have him on Zantonil 400mg tramadol 100mg clavaseptin 500 mg. Iam now 4000.00 dollars in and I still don’t have a clue what’s wrong with my dog. Please help if you know anything.

Elbow Dysplasia Average Cost

From 571 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

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