Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs: What You Need to Know

August 3, 2023

Dogs age and get injuries, just as humans do. Dogs moving at a slower pace may be early signs of arthritis in dogs. But dogs barely moving because they are in so much pain, is a bigger problem. A visit to the veterinarian is required to determine if your dog has this skeletal disease. What is elbow dysplasia in dogs? Read on to find out.

Some good news: you and your dog are not alone with this diagnosis. Unfortunately, elbow dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs. Here is what you need to know about elbow dysplasia in dogs.

What is elbow dysplasia in Dogs?

Elbow dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs. When it happens, the ball and socket of the elbow joints have abnormal growth with insufficient coverage, which in turn makes the joints become loose and unstable. Long-term joint issues cause scar tissue around the joints. Bone spurs can develop, and the pain associated with them increases with time. Ultimately, this causes arthritis in the elbow joint which can lead to pain and loss of function and mobility. 

Here is an illustration of the area this disease takes place: 


Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs


What is the cause of elbow dysplasia?

Unfortunately, some dogs will have canine elbow dysplasia as an inherited skeletal disease. Elbow dysplasia occur when the dog’s joints are not developed quite right. The biggest factor is genetics. The elbow joint is surprisingly complicated. It is made up of 3 bones: the radius, ulna and humerus. If there is any abnormality in the growth of one of these bones to where it fits perfectly, there will be problems. However, rapid weight gain and obesity can force the issue to the point the joints are giving out. Elbow dysplasia is typically in both elbows and is rarely found in one or the other elbow. 

What are the Signs of elbow dysplasia in Dogs?

The symptoms of elbow dysplasia vary. What is surprising is some see clear signs of elbow dysplasia in their dogs, and some see no clear signs. Dogs who have clear problems can develop as early as 5 months old. But for other dogs, it may be at 4 to 6 years old when they notice clear signs. Some clear-cut signs of the problem include:

  • Stiffness, especially in the back legs
  • Abnormal movements when walking or running, or the gait seems off
  • Rotation of the elbows, more inward than outward
  • Slowing down when they had not been slow before
  • Reluctance in being active such as climbing stairs or jumping up

Is there a way to prevent elbow dysplasia?

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent elbow dysplasia from happening. It is an inherited joint disease and it can impact a dog as young as age 1. Larger dogs are most susceptible due to their size. If a dog already has the skeletal disease, you may not know until they age and the symptoms become more prevalent. Weight gain and age can make mobility more painful and will grow into a concern requiring a veterinary office visit.

Which dog breeds are more prone to elbow dysplasia?

Every dog is different. However, some breeds are more susceptible to this illness. Elbow Dysplasia is more commonly found in large to giant breed dogs. The top breeds that commonly get diagnosed with elbow dysplasia include:

  1. Bernese Mountain Dogs
  2. German Shepherds
  3. Golden Retrievers
  4. Labrador Retrievers


According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), they have tracked and ranked dogs most likely affected by elbow dysplasia. This group came up with their list of the top dog breeds affected. The results may surprise you. While these problems rank highest in large and giant breed dogs, there are other smaller dogs who might get it too. Here are the top 5 dog breeds for elbow dysplasia:

  1. Chow Chow
  2. American Bully
  3. Rottweiler
  4. Bulldog
  5. Pug

Check out the full list here. You can also click on your favorite breed and learn the statistical data they have for all OFA disease database entries.

How do you treat Elbow dysplasia in dogs?

Your veterinarian will offer the treatment plan for elbow dysplasia that is best for your dog. The treatment depends on the severity of the disease. In some cases, surgery will be recommended. Here are some treatment options:

  • Surgical options include removing loose cartilage and bone fragments.
  • Surgically correcting or replacing the joint.

Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Continue exercise in a limited sense, as it is very important to keep your dog moving.
  • Pain relief through an anti-inflammatory.
  • Rest, especially after exercise.
  • Adding a joint mobility supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin.

Unfortunately, there is also no way to reverse the effects of elbow dysplasia. A plan of treatment is required. While you may consider prescribed medication, remember just as in humans, pain medication may not be a good long-term solution. Consider using all-natural supplements, such as Glyde™ Mobility Chews Hip & Joint Supplement for Dogs.

Can diet or exercise help my dog with elbow dysplasia?

Your veterinarian may recommend your dog lose weight as a first effort to alleviate painful symptoms. This will not cure the issue, but it may make it so your dog can move easier. It is always important to have your dog on a healthy diet, especially if it is a large breed dog. 

What sort of joint supplement would you recommend?

Parnell Living Science is the maker of Glyde™ Mobility Chews, an all-natural joint supplement with strong scientific backing to combat joint pain. The ingredients contain a unique combination of green-lipped mussel, glucosamine, and chondroitin to promote healthy joints. Green-lipped mussel (GLM) contains beneficial nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, glycosaminoglycans, and antioxidants. Combined with glucosamine and chondroitin, GLM (one of the best sources of omega-3) can help decrease pain and preserve joint function. Glyde Mobility Chews is the only joint supplement with proven levels of these key ingredients to help maintain youthful mobility throughout your dog’s life. 

Of course, there are many other joint supplements on the market. Be sure you know what to look for in a joint supplement. 

What else can I do to ease my dog’s pain?

Simply think of what might help you if you had joint pain, and the tips are about the same for your dog. Here are a few ideas:

  • Massage your dog’s joints and muscles
  • Add a joint supplement to help with swelling
  • Provide a firm, orthopedic bed for your dog
  • Add rugs and/or carpet areas for your dog to walk and lay on. This will prevent your dog from slipping on floors.


While it is hard to detect what might be the mobility issues you are seeing in your dog, it is always good to visit your veterinarian with any concerns. Arthritis in dogs is also a joint disease that can start with elbow dysplasia. Find out and take the arthritis quiz by clicking on the link below!

Is it Arthritis? Take the Quiz Now.

Of course, we love our fur-babies and want nothing but the best for them. As with anything, if you see obvious behavior changes, call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment.


New call-to-action



"What is Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs?" by PetPlace.com

"Canine Elbow Dysplasia" by American College of Veterinary Science (ACVS)

wikiHow Pets, “Deal with Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs”