Elbow Dysplasia in Rottweilers

There are four conditions which usually predispose Elbow Dysplasia — ununited anconeal process, fragmented coronoid process, osteochondritis dessicans, and elbow incongruency. These conditions usually take place during the course of growth and development of dogs.

 

A dog’s elbow joint is made up of three bones — radius, ulna, and humerus. Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a condition characterized by the partial or full detachment of a cartilage from the surface of the elbow joint resulting in the painful inflammation of the joint lining.

Fragmented medial coronoid process happens when a small piece of bone from the inner side of the elbow joint has broken off the ulna resulting in the irritation of the joint lining. The broken piece of bone will also grind off the cartilage of the humerus.

An ununited anconeal process occurs when a fragment of bone on the back portion of the elbow joint fails to unite with the ulna during bone growth and development. The fusion of the bony process with the ulna is a normal phenomenon that takes place when the puppy is about 20 weeks of age.Elbow incongruency is characterized by the imperfect conformation of the elbow joint resulting in the rapid wear and tear of the joint cartilage and progressive arthritis.

Whatever may be the predisposing condition, diagnosis of Elbow Dysplasia is made based on radiographic tests (x-ray) of the elbow joint. Other useful diagnostic tools include a CT scan, a procedure which is more reliable compared to x-rays, and diagnostic arthroscopy.

The treatment regimen involves arthroscopic surgery particularly when the predisposing condition is the fragmented coronoid processes. This is the treatment of choice because it allows the thorough examination of the elbow joint. It is also a minimal invasive approach which ensures that the patients have quicker recovery periods and suffer less pain.

 

Surgery can also be made by making a small incision on the inner part of the elbow to remove an ununited anconeal process.

Dogs which have undergone arthroscopic surgery have been observed to be using the limb on the day of surgery however there can still be mild discomfort and pain. Lameness may still be present two weeks after surgery. The dog should have regained full use of the limb 2-3 months after arthroscopic surgery.

Recovery can be variable from one dog to another because of certain factors that might influence the dog’s convalescence.

Rottweilers with Elbow Dysplasia due to an ununited anconeal process can be helped with surgery with about 60% having retained the full function of the affected elbow. Approximately 75% of dogs with Elbow Dysplasia due to a fragmented coronoid process (OCD) can be helped with surgery. However, arthritis will still be present in the affected joint thus even with surgery, a dog may still experience some limb stiffness or lameness after heavy exercise or during cool damp weather. It has also been observed that dogs with very swollen elbows tend to have lower success rates after surgery.