top of page

Helping your dog with
Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia (ED) is an umbrella term to describe several joint diseases of the elbow, such as abnormal joint, osteoarthritis, joint fractures and other pathologies. The elbow is a complex joint involving the articulation of 3 bones (not the typical two such as the hip joint)and can develop issues in 1 or combination of all 3. It is the most common forelimb lameness in dogs and any dog can get it.

Elbow Dysplasia Overview

Signs of ED

ED is a painful condition causing swelling and secondary osteoarthritis. Signs of ED can arise before the dog is 1.5 years old but often show later. These signs include (but not limited to);

  • Lameness on affected limb

  • 'Paddling' gait, flicking their wrists under to reduce elbow movement

  • Worsens after exercise or prolonged rest

  • Often licking their elbow joint

Causes of ED

Any dog can develop elbow dysplasia, but certain breeds are prone to it due to genetic factors. It is most commonly seen in medium to large breed dogs such as Labradors and St Bernards. Once diagnosed, there are several risk factors to be aware of which can aggravate the condition. These include;

  • Diet

  • Exercise (type, intensity, duration)

  • Obesity

Treatment of ED

In the large proportion of dogs with ED, their condition can be effectively managed conservatively which includes pain relief, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, exercise modification and supplements. For some dogs, however, surgery is recommended to ensure quality of life. 

ED needs lifelong management and is degenerative. The earlier it is appropriately managed the better the outlook for your dog's later years. 

What can we do about it?

Plenty! We have numerous modalities in clinic that we have at our finger tips to help your dog. These include massage, soft tissue mobilisation, stretching, joint mobilisations, targeted exercises, laser therapy, hydrotherapy... shall we continue? These have all been shown to reduce pain, restore muscle function and strength, and improve your dog's quality of life. With each session they undergo constant review of their clinical signs and progression in order to gain maximum recovery at a pace that's comfortable for them.


For Post - Operative Patients, we have a comprehensive programme tailored for your dog's specific needs, depending on the type of surgery, how successful the surgery was and their recovery so far. For Conservative Management Patients, we will always assess their pain levels, degree of mobility, muscle strength, amongst more, to enable us to create the most successful treatment plan for them.


Alongside what we do with your beloved pooch, there are a number of things outside of the clinic that can help them manage their condition or rehabilitation. Please find information in the sections below!  

Home Modifications


Wooden floors and stairs are a big slip hazard for your dog. Try using non-slip mats along the main routes of your house. Alternatively, some dogs may benefit from paw pads (please speak to us before trying this option in case of contraindication).

Feeding Stations

Raising their water and food bowls may seem like a insignificant change to us, but it can really help your dog to be in a more neutral position.

Access to Furniture

Jumping up and down from heights if often a cause of additional pain for your dog. If they enjoy a cuddle on the sofa or the bed, make it easier for them with dog-friendly steps or ramps onto furniture. This also applies to getting in / out of cars! You may also find a sling to be useful.

Keeping Warm

Especially important in the colder months, your dog will benefit from staying warmer. Keep them in a jumper and walk them out with coats. Stay dry too!

Sleeping / Resting Areas

Great quality sleep is essential. Ensure their sleeping area is free from any drafts and in a warm spot. Their bedding should be supportive and not restrictive. Memory foam mattresses without rigid or tall sides are best. Make sure your dog can access the bed and can change position / stretch out easily.

Be Wary of Terrain

Different types of terrain in the garden and on walks can be hazardous, such as steep slopes, loose or uneven surfaces. Be mindful to where they are going.

bottom of page