What is Elbow Dysplasia?

The term dysplasia means abnormal development. There are several different theories concerning the cause of dysplasia including defects in cartilage growth, trauma, genetics, and even exercise and diet. The exact cause is not known.

Elbow Dysplasia is a catch-all term used that includes several different conditions involving the elbow joint. These conditions include Fragmented Medial Coronoid Process (FCP), Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD), and Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP):

• FCP is a small piece of bone on the inner (medial) side of the joint that has broken off the ulna. This fragment irritates the lining of the joint and grinds off the cartilage.
• OCD is a condition where a piece of cartilage becomes partially or completely detached from the surface of the bone.
• UAP is a condition where a part of the ulna bone, called the anconeal process, fails to fuse with the main ulna bone during the growth phase.

Most often seen in large and giant breeds, Elbow Dysplasia can affect any breed. It is the most common cause of forelimb lameness in large and giant breeds. Different breeds have different predispositions to different forms of the disease. Both forelimbs may be affected. Once the elbow joint is damaged a cycle of inflammation and further cartilage damage begins.

Most dogs show signs of Elbow Dysplasia at about five to seven months old. Usually diagnosis can be made with a physical examination and radiographs. Rarely additional diagnostics such as a CT scan are necessary to make a diagnosis.

Surgical intervention is needed to correct these elbow joint diseases. If the elbow disease has become too advanced—surgery may not be an option. As with hip dysplasia, the earlier the surgical intervention the better the long-term outcome will be. The goal of surgery is to slow the progression of arthritis and prolong the pet’s use of the affected leg.

The sooner any disease process is addressed—the more comfortable your pet can remain into their senior years.

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