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What is Elbow Dysplasia?

Elbow dysplasia (elbow abnormality or disease) is similar to the more common hip dysplasia in that it is a genetic issue common in larger dog breeds. Dogs with elbow dysplasia typically show forelimb lameness and elbow pain, frequently in both forelimbs. While this in an inherited defect, environmental factors such as diet, activity, and trauma also have a role in the development and progression of the disease.

Many large breed and giant breed dogs are affected, including Basset Hounds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bloodhounds, Bouvier des Flandres, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhounds, Labrador Retrievers, Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, St. Bernards, and Weimaraners. Elbow dysplasia is also more common in males than females.

The term elbow dysplasia refers to several conditions that affect the elbow joint, conditions that in many cases are different manifestations of a single disease process, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) . OCD is abnormal maturation of cartilage (the specialized connective tissue from which bone develops). Environmental factors such as over-feeding, which causes fast weight-gain and growth, can dramatically affect the development of elbow dysplasia in dogs that are genetically predisposed to it.

Lameness due to elbow dysplasia typically starts at 7 to 10 months of age. It is present every day, and may be most obvious when your 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 (i.e. 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.

Surgery is usually recommended to remove a bone or cartilage fragment. Medical management recommendations include monitoring the diet (to avoid excessive weight gain and fast growth), and controlling exercise. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help with pain relief, and "Chondroprotective agents" such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may also be prescribed.

Flint River Ranch has developed two glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate-fortified products to assist in the possible prevention and holistic treatment of elbow dysplasia: our Flint River Ranch PLUS premium pet food and our Jubilee Wafer dog biscuit treats.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate are naturally occurring nutritional supplements widely recommended for their potential value in helping animals suffering from or genetically predisposed to suffering from arthritis and joint pain, including hip dysplasia (as well as other forms of dysplasia). These organic supplements work by minimizing cartilage damage and swelling, increasing joint lubrication, helping to rebuild the cartilage that cushions and protects joints, and enhancing new cartilage production.

Seek veterinary treatment if your dog's condition worsens. With extra care and proper nutrition, your dog can live a long, happy and virtually pain-free life with elbow dysplasia.

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Some of the information on elbow dysplasia courtesy of the Canine Inherited Disorders Database.

Related terms: Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), osteochondrosis of humeral condyle, osteoarthritis, osteochondrodysplasia, hip dysplasia (commonly misspelled as displasia or displaysia), fragmented medial coronoid process, ununited anconeal process, incongruent elbow

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