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Elbow Dysplasia

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Elbow dysplasia is a condition involving multiple developmental abnormalities of the elbow-joint. It is a common condition of certain breeds of dogs. Most developmental elbow abnormalities are related to osteochondrosis (OCD), which is a disease of the joint cartilage. Osteochondrosis (or osteochondritis) dissecans refers to separation of a flap of cartilage on the joint surface.

Causes

In OCD, the normal change of cartilage to bone in the development of the joint fails or is delayed. The cartilage continues to grow and may split or become necrotic. The cause is uncertain, but possibly includes genetics, trauma, and nutrition (including excessive calcium and decreased Vitamin C intake).

The disease

OCD lesions are found in the elbow at the medial epicondyle of the humerus. Specific conditions related to OCD include fragmentation of the medial coronoid process of the ulna (FMCP) and an ununited anconeal process of the ulna (UAP). All types of OCD of the elbow are most typically found in large breed dogs, with symptoms starting between the ages of 4 to 8 months. Males are affected twice as often as females. The disease often affects both elbows, and symptoms include intermittent lameness. Osteoarthritis will develop later in most cases.

Diagnosis is through x-rays. In cases with significant lameness, surgery is the best option, especially with UAP. However, conservative treatment is often enough for cases of FMCP and OCD of the medial humeral epicondyle. The dogs are exercised regularly and given pain medication, and between the ages of 12 to 18 months the lameness will often improve or disappear. Control of body weight is important in all cases of elbow dysplasia, and prevention of quick growth spurts in puppies may help to prevent the disease.

Commonly affected breeds

For UAP:

For OCD of the medial humeral epicondyle:

A combination of FMCP, UAP, and OCD of the medial humeral epicondyle is seen in the Bernese Mountain Dog. This is known as elbow incongruity, and it may be caused by abnormal development of the trochlear notch of the ulna.

References

  • Ettinger, Stephen J.;Feldman, Edward C.(1995).Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine(4th ed.). W.B. Saunders Company. ISBN 0-7216-6795-3

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