Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia in dogs have been prevalent medical problems for more than a half century.
The hips and elbows are some of the joints found in the body. Figure 1 below shows the location of these joints in a dog.
Figure 1: Location of joints in a dog.
An elbow joint consists of parts of the ulna bone, the radius bone and the humerus bone and cartilage in between.
Figure 2 and Figure 3 below show a healthy and normal elbow joint in a dog.
Figure 2: Healthy elbow joint of a dog showing the ulna, radius and humerus.
Figure 3: CT scan of a healthy elbow joint in a dog.
In a healthy canine elbow joint the ulna and radius forms a flat surface for articulation with the humerus and there are no fragments.
Elbow dysplasia is an encompassing term that describes inherited or environmental developmental abnormalities in a dog’s elbow joint.
The four types of elbow dysplasia include:
>Un-united anconeal process (UAP). It is a condition in which the bony protuberance within the elbow becomes detached from the ulna and causes joint irritation and degeneration.
>Fragmented coronoid process (FCP) is a condition in which a small piece of the ulna bone breaks off inside the elbow joint, this little piece irritates the lining of the joint and wears away the cartilage of the humerus.
>Osteochrondrosis dissecans (OCD). It is a condition in which a piece of the cartilage comes loose or pulls away completely from the surface of the joint, resulting in inflammation and pain.
>Elbow incongruency. It is a term to describe the imperfect conformation of the joint, which causes the cartilage to wear down quickly.
Figures 4(a) and (b) below show various forms of elbow dysplasia in the elbow joint of a dog.
Symptoms of elbow dysplasia in puppies include:
>Limping in forelegs, whether intermittent or often. That is when one elbow hurts more than the other, you’ll notice an obvious limp.
>When both elbows hurt equally, these dogs do not limp, they alter the way they stand and walk in order to shift their weight back and forth. This results in an abnormal gait (they “paddle” or “flip” their front feet when they walk).
>Sometimes dogs hold their elbows out or tightly into their bodies and often the dog’s feet rotate outwards.
>These dogs tire easily.
>Dog is stiff when attempts to stand and exercise makes the situation worse not better.
>Pain when extending or flexing the elbow.
More responsible breeding, breeding only with individuals that do not carry this allele, have reduced the incidence of elbow dysplasia in some breeds, but did not succeed up to date in eliminating it. 10 Part of this problem is that exploring causes experimentally is labour intensive and costly therefore only a handful of controlled studies have been done.
GDA has shown significant improvement in their breeding and statistics is showing a decrease in the occurrence of elbow and hip dysplasia. However, it is highly unlikely that a simple genetic solution will be found any time soon or at all. Selective breeding should therefore continue but as much as possible should be done as well in minimising environmental factors that can be a helping hand pushing a genetic predisposed individual over the edge.
The following discusses the environmental factors we should manage with our puppies to minimise the risk of elbow dysplasia. These management measures will also minimise the risk of hip dysplasia:
>Weight management. Figure 5 below indicates an easy to follow guideline. Your Puppy Raising Supervisor will also constantly assess your pup’s condition. Do not hesitate to discuss concerns with your Puppy Raising Supervisor.
Figure 5: Body condition chart for dogs.
Puppies don’t need long walks and vigorous exercise. But what is long and what is vigorous? Rules of thumb to follow are:
a) Firstly if you take puppy out on a leash to WALK continuously without stopping and resting, no more than five minutes walking per day, for each month of his age. For a one month old puppy, it means only five minutes of walking, for a two month old puppy it means ten minutes of walking, for a three month old puppy it means fifteen minutes of walking etc.
b) Puppies must NOT jog and sprint with you on leash as a form of exercise. They should NOT race and sprint off leash excessively. Sporadic running as part of normal play is fine.
c) Puppies under three months old should not use stairs, carry your puppy up and down stairs. Let puppy conquer two or three stairs at the most at a time to get used to stairs.
d) Above three months of age, build up usage of stairs gradually, where puppy walks up more and more stairs with time in a controlled manner where you supervise. Do not allow running up and down stairs. If you can’t supervise, prevent puppy access to stairs.
e) Don’t let puppies in the first year of their lives, slip and slide on slippery surfaces. Cover slippery surfaces with rubber matting or carpets.
f) Do not encourage jumping of any kind. With regard to jumping in and out a car, under 20 weeks of age, puppy must always be picked up into the car to prevent impact on hindquarters when ascending and carried down from the car to prevent impact on the elbows when descending.
g) Secure the food bowl of puppy so that it does not slide away from puppy.
We are doing everything within our capabilities to breed healthy dogs with good temperaments. Please assist us in this process by reducing the risk factors that pups are prone to while they are growing.
Thank you once again for loving our special pups and giving them the socialisation needed to produce working dogs.
Any questions, concerns or suggestions please contact us.
The Puppy Raising Team