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British Veterinary Association (BVA) ELBOW TEST

Canine elbow dysplasia is a common inherited orthopaedic problem in dogs where the elbow doesn’t develop properly.

Elbow dysplasia includes a number of specific abnormalities that affect different sites within the joint. These cause problems by affecting the growth of the cartilage which forms the surface of the joint or the structures around it. Even a small change in the shape of one part of the joint can have major consequences for the joint function, leading to lameness, pain and serious effects on the health, behaviour and welfare of the dog.

Signs of canine elbow dysplasia

Signs of elbow dysplasia in dogs vary between individuals and breeds. Some observable signs include:

  • Decreased range of motion

  • Limping

  • Exercise intolerance 

  • Unusual movement after rest or exercise

  • Groaning while resting or getting up

  • Signs of pain when moving the elbow 

However, a veterinary surgeon's physical examination will provide a more reliable assessment and radiography is the only means of determining the presence of elbow dysplasia.


Treatment methods vary depending on the nature and severity of the problem. Conservative treatment can involve weight restriction and exercise control. Drugs may be used to relieve pain and inflammation. In some dogs, surgery and/or forms of physiotherapy may be advised where appropriate.

Common breeds at risk of Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a common condition in many dogs and can affect a range of breeds including crossbreeds. 

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