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Dog on vet table with bandaged elbow

Elbow dysplasia occurs in young dogs

Q: Schatzie, my 8-month-old dachshund, was limping on her front leg, so I took her to the veterinarian, who diagnosed elbow dysplasia. The vet prescribed glucosamine-chondroitin and an anti-inflammatory medicine that seem to be helping, but he warned that Schatzie may need surgery.

What exactly is canine elbow dysplasia?

A: Some consider the elbow the most complicated joint in the front leg, as it consists of three bones that must fit together perfectly: an upper bone, called the humerus, and two lower bones, called the radius and ulna.

These bones can become misaligned or develop other problems as they grow, producing elbow dysplasia. “Dys-” is Greek for abnormal, and “-plasia” refers to form. Thus, elbow dysplasia is abnormal formation of the elbow.

Most dogs with this problem experience pain and lameness in one or both front legs before one year of age. Other clinical signs include elbow swelling, creaking and decreased range of motion.

Elbow dysplasia, the most common cause of front-leg lameness in young dogs, is inherited in large and giant breeds—and dachshunds. The problem genes have not yet been identified, so diagnosis is based on x-ray or CT scan results. You should let Schatzie’s breeder know, so the sire and dam are not bred again.

Treatments include: weight management, the medications Schatzie is taking and other pain medicine, and surgery. It’s also important that Schatzie not jump off furniture or engage in high-impact exercise.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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