Puppy Elbow Dysplasia

Puppy Elbow Dysplasia (PE) is a congenital disorder of the elbow joint. It affects approximately 1:20,000 dogs worldwide. The condition results from incomplete separation of the bones of the humerus during embryonic development. These bones are not fully fused together until after birth or at least not properly formed; thus, they cannot support normal weight and movement. Dogs affected with PE develop abnormal curvature of the elbows and knees. They may have difficulty standing up straight, turning over, bending forward, and even walking on their toes.

The most common form of canine elbow dysplasia is called “posterior” or “anterior” elbow dysplasia. Posterior means toward the back of the body while anterior refers to toward the front of it. Posterior elbow dysplasia occurs when the bones of the humerus do not separate completely before birth. Instead, they join laterally instead, forming a small pocket between them. Because these pockets are so small, they cannot support normal weight and movement.

As for the other forms of canine elbow dysplasia, there is no single cause or trigger for each one. In fact, the genes responsible for the condition have not been identified. It is assumed that for some dogs elbow dysplasia is inherited and there is likely more than one gene involved. We know that for some dogs elbow dysplasia is not inherited and environmental factors may be at play.

If you think that your dog might be suffering from this condition then you need to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. The sooner they are treated the higher their chances of surviving the condition are. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition and surgery is the only option.

There are two surgical procedures that can be used to repair damage to the humerus. Both of these are helpful in alleviating pain and restoring the ability to move the elbow joint normally. The first procedure involves removing the “pocket” or “cavity” between the bones of the humerus. This is called an osteotomy. The second procedure involves removing an extra flange or rim of bone that sometimes exists on one side of the joint.

This is called a capsulotomy.

Surgery for this condition is very successful for most dogs, but it does come with some risks. The main one is that the abnormal bone growth can continue to push against the nerve within the humerus, resulting in a loss of feeling and movement in the leg. This nerve damage can be permanent.

After surgery, it is important that your dog rest for at least two weeks and be given exercises to improve strength in the legs. Without physical therapy dogs can develop muscle atrophy and even new bone abnormalities in the humerus.

If you have more questions on this disease do consult your veterinarian.

Sources & references used in this article:

Canine elbow dysplasia 1. Aetiopathogenesis and diagnosis by N Burton, M Owen – In practice, 2008 – inpractice.bmj.com

An indication of major genes affecting hip and elbow dysplasia in four Finnish dog populations by K Mäki, LLG Janss, AF Groen, AE Liinamo, M Ojala – Heredity, 2004 – nature.com

Hereditary bone and joint diseases in the dog: osteochondroses, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia by JP Morgan, A Wind, AP Davidson, L Audell – 2000 – books.google.com

Canine hip and elbow dysplasia in UK Labrador retrievers by JA Woolliams, TW Lewis, SC Blott – The Veterinary Journal, 2011 – Elsevier

Heritability of unilateral elbow dysplasia in the dog: A retrospective study of sire and dam influence by G Baers, GG Keller, TR Famula… – Frontiers in Veterinary …, 2019 – frontiersin.org

Effect of a commercially available fish-based dog food enriched with nutraceuticals on hip and elbow dysplasia in growing Labrador retrievers by S Manfredi, F Di Ianni, N Di Girolamo… – Canadian Journal of …, 2018 – ingentaconnect.com

Breeding against hip and elbow dysplasia in dogs by K Mäki – 2004 – helda.helsinki.fi

Estimates of genetic parameters for hip and elbow dysplasia in Finnish Rottweilers by K Mäki, AE Liinamo, M Ojala – Journal of animal science, 2000 – academic.oup.com

Surgical treatment of elbow dysplasia by HAW Hazewinkel, BP Meij, LFH Theyse – Veterinary Quarterly, 1998 – Taylor & Francis