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Elbow Dysplasia in dogs… What causes it, and what can I do to help my pup?

No one wants to see their furry friend go through discomfort and pain, which is why elbow dysplasia is a complex medical condition.  That and the fact that in addition to being quite painful, this nasty little condition can also be quite confusing to deal with because it can lead to the development of a wide variety of other medical conditions, further complicating matters!

But don’t worry…

We decided to write this article because we know that the first step in relieving your dog’s pain comes when the owner becomes better informed about what they are dealing with.  So, without further ado, let’s dive right into what it’s like to have a dog with elbow dysplasia and discuss some of the things you can do to make their life easier.

Elbow Dysplasia, what is it?

Elbow Dysplasia is probably most well-known as a significant cause of lameness in dogs (AKA causing limping in your dog’s legs).  Now, elbow Dysplasia happens when the elbow joint doesn’t quite connect as it should.  You see, there are three bones, the radius, ulna, and humerus, which all need to fit together just right, or you’ll run into all sorts of issues.  In other words, if there is any messiness in how the joints grow together, you’ll end up with some form of Elbow Dysplasia.

Now, if you want to…

Get a bit “technical,” you could say that the problem usually arises when the coronoid process (the joint cartilage helping connect the elbow joint on the ulna) gets fragmented or fractured during the phase where the bones grow.  This results in a fragmented coronoid process, which is, to say the least, not good.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only way that elbow dysplasia can form.  The truth is, there are lots of different ways elbow dysplasia can develop.  For example, you could also see:

  • Elbow incongruity,
  • Fragmented medial coronoid process (FMCP),
  • Osteochondritis desiccant of the medial humeral condyle (OCD),
  • Ununited medial epicondyle (UME),
  • Ununited anconeal process (UAP).

And while…

We would love to go into ridiculous detail about each of these conditions, but the truth is, for the average pet owner, “why” their dog has developed elbow dysplasia isn’t all that important.  What is important is “how” they can treat it and “how” they can minimize their dog’s discomfort.  But to do this, you’ll first need to know what to look for, which can be tricky, particularly if you’re looking to diagnose your pup early.  So, let’s now turn our discussion to what clinical signs one should look for.

Clinical Signs of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

The most significant clinical sign to watch out for is lameness.

  • Does your dog seem like it’s limping a lot?
  • Is there any indication of inflammation in your dog’s joints?
  • And, of course, does your dog seem in pain when he makes movements?

These may signal that you should bring your dog to a veterinarian.  Now, it’s important to note how arthritis (osteoarthritis) plays a part here.  We all know arthritis is quite an impactful and painful disease; however, in elbow joints, it’s more than often just a symptom of elbow dysplasia; instead, it’s the main problem.  You want to watch out for when elbow dysplasia begins to present itself in younger dogs.  This is because this is much more likely caused by some other misalignment of the joint rather than just age-onset arthritis.

Commonly Affected Breeds

Treatment options

Treatment for Elbow Dysplasia depends on how badly the joint has been messed up.  Suppose the disease is still in the early stages. In that case, your veterinarian may recommend surgery, which isn’t as bad as it sounds, simply because the correct procedure typically isn’t all that difficult (which is easy for us to say since we’re not veterinarians or surgeons!)

That said, however… 

If arthritis has already kicked in, the “simple surgery option” may be ineffective.  In more severe cases, a surgery called arthroscopy is generally recommended.  Unfortunately, arthroscopic surgery can be a hassle because it requires more “specialized” care, which almost always means expensive.

It’s important to remember that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who are highly passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.  For this reason, if you feel your dog may be suffering from early-onset elbow dysplasia, have them checked out immediately.


An early diagnosis could save your pup from having to suffer needlessly, as well as keep your wallet a ton of money as well!  Because once you factor a surgeon into the care program of your pet, you can bet that your vet bill will be rather pricey.  This is also why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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