What is Elbow Luxation?
Congenital luxation (displacement of a bone from a joint) of the elbow in dogs typically occurs in the smaller breeds and may be a complete dislocation or dislocation of the radial head (top of the bone, just above the elbow) with the ulnar joint intact or with the ulna partially dislocated. An intact radial humeral articulation with partial dislocation or dislocation of the ulna (bone of the forepaw) may also be seen with congenital luxation.
It has been stated that congenital luxation of the elbow of a dog is linked to ligaments not developing properly; it is not known for certain whether this condition, when congenital, is inherited or not. If you see that your pet is limping, showing pain upon movement of a limb, or in general appears to be uncomfortable, a visit to the veterinarian is warranted. Depending on the severity of the luxation and the changes to the bones and ligaments, treatment may be successful in stabilizing the elbow.
Congenital luxation of the elbow occurs when the bone is displaced from the joint, in most cases affecting both elbows of your dog.
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Symptoms of Elbow Luxation in Dogs
Dogs with congenital elbow luxation will typically display the condition at around 3-4 months of age. The following may be seen in your dog:
- Mild lameness
- Inability to bear weight on a particular limb or limbs
- A partially flexed elbow
- Pronation of the forelimb
- Deviation of the lower leg
For dogs with chronic cases, osteoarthritis is a common secondary condition.
Congenital elbow luxation is classified three ways:
- Causing significant limb deformity and dysfunction
- Could be partial or full
- This type is mainly seen in Pekinese, Shetland Sheepdog, Dachshund, Yorkshire Terrier, and English Bulldog breeds
- Mainly impacting Dachshunds, the dislocation of the radial head will occur, while the ulna is in a fairly normal position
Humeroradial and humeroulnar
- This condition is secondary to general joint laxity or skeletal abnormalities and in many cases, occurs along with several congenital issues
- In some dogs with this condition, a ligament may be completely missing
- Congenital elbow luxation is typically seen in both of a dog’s elbows but can occur in only one
Causes of Elbow Luxation in Dogs
Congenital elbow luxation is thought to be determined by several different genes of your dog. It is thought that the improper development of elbow ligaments, most notably the medial collateral ligament, in the dog will lead to the luxation. It has been suggested, though not proven, that congenital elbow luxation can be inherited.
The breeds more likely to experience this condition are:
- Afghan Hound
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Boston Terrier
- Miniature Poodle
- Cocker Spaniel
- Bouviers des Flandres
- Jack Russell Terrier
- English Bulldog
Diagnosis of Elbow Luxation in Dogs
Should you notice that something seems wrong with your dog’s elbow or elbows, you will want to visit your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination of your dog, as well as ask you for additional information regarding what symptoms you have noticed and when you began to notice them. During the physical examination, your veterinarian will look for clinical symptoms that can point her in the right direction for diagnosis. These include:
- Partially flexed elbow
- Deformity of lower leg
- Easily palpable radial head on the elbow
Your veterinarian will likely take radiographs of your dog. Cracks and fissures that are poorly defined, bowing of the bones and interrupted growth in the length of the ulna will point toward a diagnosis of congenital elbow luxation.
Treatment of Elbow Luxation in Dogs
Your veterinarian will consider treatment for your dog that keeps his general well-being in mind, as well as how to best maintain function in the impacted limb or limbs. Should your dog be experiencing a mild case of congenital elbow luxation, treatment will be minimal with radiographs taken frequently to evaluate any progression of the condition. Should your dog develop pain, further subluxation of the elbow or bone remodeling, your veterinarian may discuss the possibility of surgery for your dog. Surgery will focus on reduction and stabilization. This will make it possible for radial growth to take place. A transarticular pin will be placed after reduction of the dislocated joint. Ideally, this will restore movement in the elbow of your dog and lead to his limb having normal function.
In severe cases, stronger stabilization may be required, which may include using plates and fixators which will most likely be external, or by screwing the radius and ulna together. Should the condition be severe in your dog, the longer he goes without treatment the more likely it is that he will experience changes due to arthritis.
Recovery of Elbow Luxation in Dogs
Should your dog be experiencing a mild form of the condition, your veterinarian will recommend that he come in for regular radiographs to monitor the disease’s progression. Should your dog require surgery, your veterinarian will provide you with information on how to best aid in his recovery after the surgery is conducted. Your veterinarian will also recommend at what intervals you should bring your dog for follow up appointments.
Elbow Luxation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Our 4 month old staffie pup has been diagnosed with bilateral congenital radial luxation, we have seen a specialist, we have been told this is a very painful operation, in your opinion is it worth putting our pup through the pain and will he have a good quality of life, we are prepared for a “not completely normal puppy”, but would like your thoughts on this?
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My 4 month old French bull dog has luxation on his elbow due to a injury 2 weeks ago..vet will not do anything due to he has a Heart murmur. This is according to him.are there any other treatments that do not involve surgery it does not seem to bother him
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my dog has been diagnosed with elbow luxation type 1. We have been advised of two options only - elbow replacement surgery or fusing/joining the joint and bone together which will not allow any natural movement. The dog is under 12 months of age. Is it possible stem cell injections could help instead of surgery? We are considering chiropractic and acupuncture therapy until he is 12 months. Any suggestions gratefully received.
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