Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia



“Elbow dysplasia” is a catchall term used to describe one or more inherited developmental abnormalities in a dog’s elbow joint.  Generally speaking, elbow dysplasia means the development of arthritis in the elbow joint.

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Symptoms:  Symptoms of elbow dysplasia include lameness, abnormal gait, holding the elbows at odd angles, unwillingness to move around much or play, tiring easily, stiffness upon standing, and a worsening of the condition after exercise.

Treatment Options:  The goal of treatment of elbow dysplasia is to relieve pain and maintain function in the affected limbs, allowing the dog to live an active, normal life. Treatment involves keeping the dog at a healthy weight, getting moderate exercise, rehab therapies (especially in water), natural anti-inflammatory agents, and sometimes, surgery. Surgery is usually recommended to remove a bone or cartilage fragment. If unequal bone growth is the problem, surgery may help to relieve the pressure at the joint. Medical management recommendations include monitoring the diet (to avoid excess weight gain and fast growth), and controlling exercise. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help with pain relief. “Chondroprotective agents” such as glucosamine may also be prescribed.

Known Mode of Inheritance:   This is a polygenic condition (more than one gene is necessary to cause the disease), although it is not currently known how many or which genes are responsible. Environmental factors such as over-feeding, which causes fast weight-gain and growth, can also affect the development of this condition in dogs that are genetically predisposed to it.

 Age of onset:   Lameness usually starts insidiously at 7 to 10 months of age. It is present every day, and may be most obvious when you dog first gets up, or starts to walk or run. The prognosis (the likely outcome) depends on how far the disease has progressed when treatment begins. Good clinical results (ie. your dog will not be painful) are usually seen if treatment starts early, before osteoarthritis (degenerative changes in the joint) has developed. If left untreated, your dog’s pain and lameness will gradually get worse.

Breeds affected: 

  • Cardigan: yes
  • Pembroke: yes
  • Other Breeds: yes, large and giant breeds in particular

 Incidence in Cardigans:  Unknown


  • Cardigans: no
  • Other breeds: yes

Registry:  The Orthopedic Foundation of America maintains an elbow registry screening program, as do European organizations.

The Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals has merged its information with the OFA.

 Tests Available: Imaging


 Published papers and Articles: 



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