What Is Canine Elbow Dysplasia and How Do You Treat It?

canine elbow dysplasia
canine elbow dysplasia

Have you noticed a decrease in mobility in your dog? Perhaps he or she is not as sprightly as of late? Or maybe you’ve noticed obvious signs of pain?

While there could be a number of reasons for decreased mobility, elbow dysplasia could be one of them; especially if he or she is older in age.

What Is Elbow Dysplasia?

Canine elbow dysplasia is a hereditary disease wherein a dog’s bones develop abnormally in its elbows. This can cause misalignment of the joint, damage to the cartilage, and even chipping of the bones. 

To clarify a bit more, there are four main situations associated with elbow dysplasia.

With an ununited anconeal process, a part of the elbow called the growth plate doesn’t close properly. This leads to a detached piece of bone that can cause irritation and degeneration of the joint. 

In the case of a fragmented coronoid process, a piece of bone actually breaks off inside the elbow joint – causing irritation to the lining of the joint and breaking down of cartilage.

When cartilage loosens from the surface of the joint, it’s referred to as osteochondrosis dissecans. This causes pain and inflammation.

And finally, when the structure of the joint itself is imperfect and causes the cartilage to wear away more quickly, this is known as elbow incongruency

One or more of these can be present at the same time when a dog experiences elbow dysplasia.

Signs of Canine Elbow Dysplasia

The main thing you’ll see in a dog suffering from elbow dysplasia is a noticeable decrease in his or her range of motion in the elbow joint. Your dog may even wince in pain or discomfort when flexing or extending the joint. 

Your dog may also have intermittent or persistent lameness that is made worse by exercise. And you’ll likely notice a marked stiffness upon getting up from resting.

Because movement becomes increasingly painful, your dog may be reluctant to go out for a walk or to play. And you may notice him or her holding their elbows either out from or tightly into the body. 

When it gets severe, the joints will be visually swollen and there may even be fluid buildup in the joint. 

The Presence of Arthritis

The bottom line is any condition that causes elbow dysplasia is typically the result of genetic factors that lead to a less than optimal configuration of the joints. And no matter the cause, it’s going to result in arthritis (painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints).

If you suspect elbow dysplasia in your dog, definitely have your veterinarian check it out.

Breeds Most Affected by Canine Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is most commonly seen in large breed dogs, such as Chow Chows, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, Bearded Collie, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. 

But they’re also common in Shar-peis, Black Russian Terriers, Mastiffs, Bloodhounds, English Setters, and American Pit Bull Terriers. 

Even if your dog doesn’t make the list, it doesn’t mean that he or she is immune from this condition.

Diagnosing Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Your vet will perform a physical examination — palpating each leg to check for swollen joints. He or she will likely want to see your dog walk and may need to take blood and urine samples to get a baseline assessment of your canine’s overall health.

After that, the most common diagnostic test is to take x-rays of the elbows. That way, your vet can see if any bone fragments are present and determine whether arthritis has yet developed.

In some cases, your vet may require an MRI or a CT scan to ensure complete accuracy. 


In some cases, elbow dysplasia is treated with surgery and pharmaceuticals drugs. But before taking that expensive plunge, your vet may want to see if your dog finds any success with natural supplements.

If your vet recommends this route, you want to ensure you’re getting the most comprehensive formulation for your dog’s optimal joint health. Look out for these powerful proven joint care ingredients.

1. Glucosamine HCI

Glucosamine HCI helps lubricate, protect, and prevent joint degeneration while helping reduce pain and stiffness.

2. MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

MSM is an anti-inflammatory that’s often used by humans to relieve arthritis. It supports mobility and flexibility for more freedom of movement. It also helps to strengthen and protect the joints.

3. Chondroitin

Chondroitin helps combat the breakdown of collagen in the joints. In doing so, it reduces stiffness, pain, and poor mobility.

4. Vitamin C

Vitamin C assists in the synthesis of collagen. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and improves the function of the immune system.

5. Manganese 

Essential for bone development, health, and maintenance, manganese also helps to reduce inflammation and promotes wound healing.

6. Grape Seed Extract

Grape seed extract helps to improve blood flow, collagen levels, and bone strength. Furthermore, it aids in suppressing bone destruction and reduces joint pain. 

7. L-Glutathione

L-glutathione supports the immune system in fighting off free-radical damage, helping to offset the physical effects and problems that come with aging.

8. Vitamin E

Vitamin E works to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation of the joints while relieving joint pain and discomfort.

Next Steps

While a joint support supplement can certainly help manage your dog’s pain and boost mobility, in some severe cases, surgery and pharmaceutical drugs may be required no matter what. Be sure to seek out your veterinarian’s professional opinion if your dog’s lack of mobility is very severe.

For most cases, however, simply consider starting your dog on a proper joint care supplement as soon as possible. Just one simple chew-able can make a world of difference.

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