A frequent cause of limb lameness in the front limbs is elbow dysplasia, and it typically occurs in young, large breeds. The definition of dysplasia is basically abnormal growth or development, and while this condition can happen via injury, we will mostly be touching on the heritable condition.
The elbow is rather like a hinge joint in function, and it is located at the merging of three bones: the humerus in the upper forelimb, the ulna, and the radius, both of which run parallel through the lower forelimb.
The elbow was created in a way that allows for extension, flexion, and rotation of the limb. When young dogs begin to grow, the ulna and radius need to develop at comparable rates, so as to form the joint correctly and proved a full range of motion. Malformations of the joints can be caused by unequal bone growth derived from genetic abnormalities frequently seen in larger breeds of dog. Particles of loose bone may also occur due to the abnormalities of growth, which lead to inflammation, then to chronic arthritis.
The majority of young dogs which elbow dysplasia begins to affect will start to show symptoms of an abnormal gait, pain, and lameness in one or even both front legs between four to six months of age. When standing, dogs might change weight from the hurt limb, keeping it tenderly clear of the center of the body, facing the foot outward. When walking, he might be hesitant to flex his limbs while in forward motion, which might appear similar to “paddling”, or swaying his protracted, painful leg out and forward.
In the event that both of his elbows become dysplastic, his symptoms might switch from side to side. In the most extreme bilateral cases, the dog might transfer his body weight to the rear in a hunched position with both front legs facing outward and forward. The elbows may be swollen, and when the joints are flexed manually, some scraping might be detected. Generally, exercise causes the symptoms to become more conspicuous, and he might be rigid and reluctant to make an ascent from a resting position.
As he grows older and the disease advances, the joints will develop secondary arthritis (inflammatory reactions). Avoiding exercise completely can cause the muscles to atrophy. Elbow dysplasia can come to be quite debilitating if gone untreated. Your veterinarian may note your dog’s symptoms, his changes in gait, and after a thorough physical examination, presume elbow dysplasia is the cause. This can be verified after an x-ray of the joints of the front legs is performed.
There are three objectives when treating elbow dysplasia: alleviate pain, rebuild joint function (as much as can be done), and delay degenerative alteration. This will most likely demand surgical rectification, and management of the disease through medication, weight control, nutraceutical joint supplements, and physical therapy.
Sadly, elbow dysplasia is a disease that grows. It may not be feasible to completely cure it, and any improvement through treatments might be intermittent and limited. In order to give your dog the most hope for the long-term is to catch this disease as early as possible.