Elbow Dysplasia

Description and cause

Elbow dysplasia is the general term given to cover several conditions affecting medium to large breed dogs. These include

  • Osteochondritis dissecans OCD
  • Fragmented medial coronoid process FCP
  • Ununited anconeal process UAP
  • Ununited medial humeral epicondyle UME

These conditions all produce chronic lameness in young growing dogs; although the symptoms are similar, each condition affects different breeds.

  • OCD Labradors
  • FCP Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Rotweillers, Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • UAP German Shepherds, Irish Wolf Hound, Basset
  • UME Labradors most frequently, represents maybe only 3% of elbow dysplasia cases seen

Symptoms and diagnosis

All these conditions cause gradual lameness between 4-7 months of age or in older dogs. Lameness can be intermittent and is usually worse after exercise with stiffness on rising after rest. There is often swelling present. These conditions cause secondary osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease (DJD) with crepitus (crackling sensation) and a decreased range of motion as the osteoarthritis progresses.

Diagnosis is by x-ray alone or with the use of a contrast medium or CT scan.


Each condition can be managed by both conservative and surgical means. Conservative management includes restricted exercise, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and pain management/acupuncture. McTimoney manipulative treatment can help the developing dog with its musculo-skeletal balance.

Surgical intervention can have a guarded prognosis for some of these cases but must not be discarded without first seeking expert advice from a specialist in this field.

OCD and FCP have a high degree of being hereditary. In 1998 an elbow screening scheme was introduced by the British Veterinary Association (BVA). It is used to screen breeding animals for elbow dysplasia who are not showing clinical signs. Before buying a puppy from a susceptible breed, check both parents are elbow scored and have low and acceptable scores. For further information, visit the BVA's website here .

Meadow Farm 2008

Meadow Farm 2008

Copyright © 2008 Meadow Farm