Elbow Dysplasia — Not So Funny Bone

Hey guys! It has been a long week with lots of new friends, lots of old friends and work, work, work. I started to blog about elbows last week and just could not work up the enthusiasm but then I saw quite a few pets with terrible elbow arthritis. Karma seems to be telling me it’s time to talk about the Not So Funny Bone.

This picture is from vetsurgerycentral.com -- it helps explain perfectly where all the elbow problems are seen.

This picture is from vetsurgerycentral.com — it helps explain perfectly where all the elbow problems are seen.

Elbow Dysplasia is the term used for arthritis in the elbow joint.  The arthritis is usually due to an abnormal development of the joint so genetics play a large part but it can also be due to trauma.

It tends to be a problem in young, large breed dogs and can be found in both elbows.  It is the most common problem of front limb lameness.

The elbow joint consists of an intersection of three bones namely the radius, ulna, and humerus.  The three bones come together and must fit precisely in order for the joint to work otherwise we end up with dysplasia.

There are 4 main types of elbow dysplasia but they all have loose pieces in the joint which can be very painful.  This pain is compared to having a rock in your shoe.

The different types are:  1) Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP), 2) Fragmented Medial Coronoid Process (FMCP), 3) Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD), and 4) Joint Incongruity. 

UAP is where the bone on the side of the joint does not unite with the ulna during growth.  This union usually occurs by 20 weeks of age.

FMCP is a small piece of bone off of the inner aspect of the ulna.

OCD is when a piece of cartilage becomes loose and forms a joint mouse which is very painful.

Joint Incongruity is where the joint does not fit together properly.

Symptoms are usually a mild to moderate lameness seen at 4-10 months of age.  Diagnosis of elbow dysplasia is by physical exam in which your veterinarian may find pain, heat, and swelling or decreased range of motion.  Radiographs can be difficult to diagnose either OCD or FMCP and you may need to get a CT scan for your pet.  Surgical exploration of the joint is also a viable option for diagnosis and it is usually done with an arthroscope.

Arthroscopic surgery is a good option for OCD and FMCP but UAP usually has a small incision on the lateral aspect of the joint.  Recommendations for your pet include surgery, nsaids, glucosamines, and omega-3 fatty acids.  Elbow replacement is a new treatment that is on the rise.

Recovery after surgery depends on the type of surgery.  Arthroscopic surgery means that most pets will use their leg on the first day of surgery.  You can expect mild lameness at 2 weeks post-surgery and usually the pets are using the leg well by 2-3 months post-surgery. 

Rehabilitation of elbow dysplasia includes cryotherapy, therapeutic laser, and passive range of motion exercises, leash walks, underwater treadmill exercise and other types of balance exercises.  Exercises are added slowly throughout the recovery period with no jumping or running for at least 8-10 weeks.

If you should have any problems with lameness in the front please consult your veterinarian and we are here for your rehab needs. Have a good week and talk to you soon —-

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