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Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Elbow dysplasia refers to the abnormal development of certain parts of the elbow joint during the growing phase of a dog's life. Some areas of the joint may have a disruption of normal cartilage development or failure to fuse during growth resulting in an uneven joint surface, inflammation, joint swelling, lameness and arthritis.

The exact cause of elbow dysplasia is unknown, but it is probably due to a combination of genetic factors, over-nutrition with rapid growth, trauma and hormonal factors. Affected dogs are usually large breeds, including: Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, Rottweilers, Bernese mountain dogs, Newfoundlands, German shepherds and chow chows. Signs usually begin between 5 to 12 months of age.

Elbow dysplasia results in elbow arthritis which may be associated with joint stiffness (reduced range of motion) and lameness.

What to Watch For

  • A sudden or gradual onset front leg lameness
  • Morning stiffness
  • Stiffness after a period of rest

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