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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 have to go through discomfort and pain, which is why elbow dysplasia is such a difficult medical condition to deal with.

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 turn lead to the development of a wide variety of other medical conditions further complicating matters!

But don’t worry…

This is why we decided to write this article because we know that the first step in reliving your dog’s pain comes when you the owner begin to become better informed about what he or she is dealing with.


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 that you can do to make his or her life easier.

Elbow Dysplasia, what is it?

Elbow Dysplasia is probably most well known as a major 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 and ulna, and the humerus, which all need to fit together just right or you’re going to run into all sorts of issues.  Or in other words, if there is any kind of messiness in how the joints grows 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) ends up getting fragmented or fractured during the phase where the bones grow in.  This results in a fragmented coronoid process which is, to say the least, not good.


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

  • Elbow incongruity,
  • Fragmented medial coronoid process (FMCP),
  • Osteochondritis dessicans 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, 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” the can minimize their dogs discomfort.

But to do this…

You’re first going to need to know what to look for which can be a bit tricky particularly if you’re looking to diagnosis 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 biggest clinical signs 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 to be in pain when he makes movements?

All of these may be signals 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 has quite an impactful and painful disease, however in elbow joints it’s more than often just a symptom of elbow dysplasia rather it’s often the main problem.

You want to watch out for…

Is 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.

Dog Breeds affected commonly affect by elbow dysplasia will often include:

Treatment options for elbow dysplasia in dogs

Treatment for Elbow Dysplasia really just depends on how badly the joint has been messed up.  If the disease is still in the early stage of the disease, 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 not be so effective.  In more severe cases a surgery called arthroscopy is generally recommended.  Unfortunately, arthroscopic surgery itself can be a bit more of a hassle, because it requires more “specialized” care which of course almost always means expensive.

Which remind us…

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 just happen to be extremely passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.  For this reason, if you feel as though your dog may be suffering from early onset elbow dysplasia, have him or her checked out right away.


An early diagnosis could save you pup from having to suffer needlessly as well as save 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 is going to 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 right 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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