Elbow Dysplasia

What is Elbow Dysplasia?

As with hip dysplasia there is “abnormal development” this time within the elbow joint however that is where the similarity ends as there are several different disease processes that are collectively termed ‘elbow dysplasia’. The elbow is a complex joint because it involves the articulation of three bones – the humerus, ulna and radius and specific abnormalities affect different sites in the joint. According to the Canine Massage Therapy Centre there are 4 developmental causes of elbow dysplasia in dogs namely:

  1. Osteochondrosis Dessicans (OCD)
  2. United Anconeal Process
  3. Fragmented Coronoid Process
  4. Elbow incongruency.

Basically what this means is if these bones do not fit together absolutely perfectly the consequence is abnormal concentration of forces on a specific region of the elbow joint.

It is thought that environmental factors such as obesity during puppyhood may influence whether an animal with the genes coding for elbow dysplasia will develop a clinical problem. In addition to this, over exercising including climbing up and down stairs excessively, whilst the dog is still young can contribute to this condition. Diet and nutrition can also play a part as can trauma or injury to the joint.

Elbow dysplasia mostly affects large and giant breed dogs but this condition cannot be ruled out being found in other breeds.

What are the symptoms of elbow dysplasia?

The symptoms of elbow dysplasia include:

  • Fore limb lameness or limping on one or both front legs that can be worse after exercise
  • Pain
  • Abnormal gait in that dogs can paddle or flip their front feet as they walk, feet may be rotated outwards and they may hold their elbows out or tightly into their bodies
  • Stiffness when trying to stand and the dog may prefer to stay sitting or lying down

How can Clinical canine massage help with elbow dysplasia?

  • Whilst surgical intervention tends to be the treatment of choice massage can certainly help both pre and post surgery.
  • Pre surgery massage helps the surrounding muscles be as healthy and supportive as possible, as well as helping to reduce compensating muscle tension and soothe areas of pain.
  • Post surgery massage helps with rehabilitation by soothing, strengthening and encouraging mobilisation.  It can also help reduce spasm and trigger points in the lower neck and posterior shoulder that can be associated with elbow dysplasia.