There is a disease known as Elbow Dysplasia that can affect certain dogs. This is generally found in the front legs of your dog. Many times it can be caused by osteochondritis dissecans. This is when the maturation of cartilage has an abnormality. Your veterinarian will tell you that this is an inherited disease but it is important to keep in mind that there can be other factors that can cause this disease, such as the food your dog eats or trauma. If you do not get your dog treated for this condition, it can eventually lead to you having a dog that is lame.
Symptoms to watch for
When your dog first starts to show symptoms, they may be subtle and you may not even notice them. You will start to notice that your dog is having trouble getting up first thing in the morning or after resting for awhile. You will also notice that he or she is having trouble when going to run or maybe even walk. You need to watch for an abnormal gait. Your dog may even seem reluctant to do things that he or she normally loves to do such as playing or going for walks. Watch for signs of swelling in the elbow or if the dog is having trouble fully extending the elbow.
Which dogs can get it
This disease is mainly found in the larger breed dogs. Some of the more common breeds would be: St. Bernard, Retrievers, Weimaraner, Irish Wolfhound, Afghan hound, Mastiff and German Shepherds.
How to treat it
If your vet suspects that your dog may be suffering from elbow dysplasia, then he or she will need to run a series of tests that will include a full examination with x-rays and most likely a CT scan. Once the diagnosis has been made, it is important to start treatment as quickly as possible for the best results. The most common treatment is surgery where the vet will remove the bone fragment or cartilage that is causing the problem. If surgery is performed it can also help to bring down swelling which can relieve some of the pressure and pain (if the source of the problem is due to the bone growing unequally). Once the surgery has been performed then your dog will most likely be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications to help with swelling and pain.
Common conditions associated with ED
You may find that elbow dysplasia is the term that is used when talking about other conditions such as Fragmented Coronoid Process, Osteochondrosis Dissecans and Ununited Anconeal Process. You will find these ailments in younger dogs, also of large breeds such as Rottweilers, Retrievers or German Shepherds.
The best dogs for a surgical treatment would be dogs that are under two years of age with minimal osteoarthritis. If the dog is over two years of age, he or she can still be a good candidate for surgery if they have mild to moderate problems. The problem with this is that the recovery may limited. If the dog is not a good candidate for surgery, then they may get some relief with weight control and the use of pain medications. It is common to see arthritis in the elbow no matter what form of treatment is used. The surgical procedure can be done under local anesthesia and there should only be a faint scar that is easily covered when the fur grows back.