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Symptoms and Signs of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015
Elbow Dysplasia

Effects of Elbow Dysplasia – From the Dog’s Point of View

Most dogs with elbow dysplasia eventually become uncomfortable and develop varying degrees of pain, which causes them to limp on or favor one or both of their front legs. Lameness frequently becomes worse after exercise. Affected dogs may be reluctant to play actively or to take long walks, because their elbows hurt. They often are stiff when getting up in the morning and after taking a nap. However, dogs can be quite stoic and some of them will show no noticeable signs of discomfort, especially in the very early stages of the disease.

Symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs – What the Owner Sees

The signs of elbow dysplasia most commonly show up in puppies between 4 and 12 months of age. In some cases, especially when degenerative joint disease is involved, the symptoms don’t show up until later in adulthood. Owners of dogs with elbow dysplasia may notice one or more of the following clinical signs:

  • Lameness or limping on one or both front legs; may be intermittent (come and go) or persistent; may be slow (chronic) or swift (acute) in onset
  • Front limb lameness that worsens with activity or exercise
  • Stiffness when rising from rest
  • Reluctance to play
  • Reluctance to go on walks
  • Elbow(s) held out away from the chest (abduction)
  • Swelling around the elbow(s) (elbow joint effusion)
  • Decreased range of motion of one or both elbow joints
  • Pain upon manipulation of the elbow joints, especially when they are fully flexed or fully extended

Dogs at Increased Risk

Elbow dysplasia is mainly a disease of young, rapidly growing large and giant breed dogs. Breeds at increased risk of developing elbow dysplasia include the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Rottweiler, Chow Chow, Bernese Mountain Dog, Basset Hound, Bearded Collie, English Setter, English Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd Dog, Newfoundland, Mastiff, Australian Shepherd, Chinese Shar-Pei and Saint Bernard. Rapid weight gain and accelerated growth caused by a high calorie or high protein diet predispose young dogs to developing this disease. Smaller breeds are increasingly being diagnosed with elbow dysplasia, as well.

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