What is Canine Unicompartmental Elbow?

Canine unicompartmental elbow (CUE) in dogs is an effective surgical treatment to treat dogs with medial compartment disease (MCD) when nonsurgical options are no longer successful. 

MCD is a form of elbow dysplasia or an early form of arthritis that causes cartilage to deteriorate and allow bone on bone grinding. CUE is an advanced surgical approach that involves resurfacing the weight-bearing portion of the medial aspect of the elbow by placing an implant where the cartilage is now absent. Canine CUE surgery is a complex surgery that requires specialized surgical tools that not every veterinary clinic has access too. That being said, a CUE canine procedure is performed by a trained veterinary surgeon that offers the surgery as a treatment option. 

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Canine Unicompartmental Elbow Procedure in Dogs

Dogs that undergo a CUE procedure have already been diagnosed with medial compartment disease (MCD) and nonsurgical options have proven unsuccessful. Therefore, routine diagnostic exams will be completed to ensure the dog is healthy enough to undergo surgery. Blood samples are usually collected to evaluate the internal organ functionality. The veterinarian may choose to x-ray the limb or simply refer to the radiographs taken previously throughout the operation. 

  1. The dog will be given a pre-anesthetic before receiving a gas anesthetic and supplementary oxygen delivered via endotracheal tubing.  
  2. The affected limb will be shaved and cleansed with an antiseptic solution before having a surgical drape placed. 
  3. An incision will be made in the medial aspect of the elbow along the cranial border of the triceps and over the epicondyle. 
  4. Exposing the muscles, a U-shaped incision will be made through the joint capsule in order to expose the bone. 
  5. The muscles and tissues of the joint will be retracted to that the CUE instruments can be placed in the perpendicular to the articular surfaces. 
  6. The CUE implant will be placed depending on the area of MCD and set using appropriate tools. 
  7. The surgical site will be sutured shut and the cutaneous layers will be closed. 

Efficacy of Canine Unicompartmental Elbow in Dogs

Canine unicompartmental elbow is a highly effective form of treatment for mature dogs suffering from MCD. The implant provides an artificial cushion between the weight bearing surfaces of bone, relieving pain and providing the dog with a greater range of motion. 

Canine Unicompartmental Elbow Recovery in Dogs

Following a canine CUE procedure, your dog will be sent home with pain-relieving medications and an antibiotic to fight infection. A bandage will be placed on the affected leg, which will need to be kept clean and dry. This bandage will need to be changed weekly until the surgical site has adequately healed. Any sutures that were placed will be removed approximately two weeks after surgery and a follow-up appointment will be scheduled after 8 to 12 weeks. Exercise will be limited until the veterinarian recommends physical therapy to accustom the dog to the limb alteration.

Cost of Canine Unicompartmental Elbow in Dogs

The surgical procedure, canine unicompartmental elbow, can cost a dog owner $1,500 to $4,000 to have performed. Costs include the initial diagnosis, surgery, and aftercare for a canine CUE surgery. 

Dog Canine Unicompartmental Elbow Considerations

CUE is an advanced surgical procedure that is not often offered at local veterinary clinics. Following CUE surgery, your dog will need a great deal of attention will and require several weeks of physical therapy to be able to use the limb once again. If you are considering having this procedure performed in your dog, you must be willing to make time to support your dog in recovery. 

Canine Unicompartmental Elbow Prevention in Dogs

Most dogs affected by elbow dysplasia are born with this condition due to an abnormality within their genetic makeup. Large and giant dog breeds such as the Labrador retriever, German shepherd and Great Dane, are at the top of the most commonly affected breeds. In some cases, a dog can be affected by elbow dysplasia due to malnutrition, injury or lifestyle. Dogs that have daily jobs, such as herding or sporting dogs, can develop this condition due to wear and tear of the joints.