What is elbow dysplasia in dogs?

Elbow dysplasia in dogs is an abnormal development of the elbow joint. The elbow joint consist of 3 bones – the humerus, the radius and the ulna. These three bones have to fit perfectly together for the elbow joint to function normally. If there are growth abnormalities present and these three bones do not fit together snugly, weight bearing on the joint can cause pain and lameness, and there is evidence that the condition will worsen in age and lead to the development of arthritis. 

It is unclear what causes elbow dysplasia and there is no clear consensus among scholars to this date. Theories include genetics, disease of the joint cartilage, trauma, obesity and diet and it is most likely a multifactorial disease. Elbow dysplasia can occur in most dogs but is most commonly seen in large to giant breeds.

How we can help manage the condition?

At Paws4Paws we take a multimodal approach to your dog’s elbow dysplasia. This means we make use of a variety of modalities such as remedial massage techniques, myofascial pain release, acupressure, passive range of motion exercises as well as rehabilitative strengthening exercises to manage your dog’s elbow dysplasia and ultimately improve your dog’s mobility and decrease pain. This is done by strengthening the muscles around the elbow joint to reduce joint laxity as well as releasing tension in areas where your dog has been compensating with for their aching elbow joint. Prolonged overload of other body parts due to an achy elbow joint leads to painful muscles stiffness, and stiff and tight muscles are prone to injury (i.e. muscle strain). It is thus crucial to also attend to those body parts that have been working much harder than they are meant to.

We also assess your home environment and, if necessary, give suggestions on how you can modify and adapt your home to decrease your dog’s discomfort, mitigate flare-ups and slow the progression of the degeneration of the joint (see also arthritis therapy). Similarly, we discuss your dog’s exercise regime to see whether modifications are required.

At Paws4Paws we also refer to other specialists such as hydrotherapists and acupuncturists if we feel your dog would benefit from these modalities. Further, we might refer you back to your vet for a reassessment of your dog’s pain management should we suspect your dog might be in pain that cannot be controlled and addressed with natural remedies, supplements and physical therapy alone.