Osteochondritis of the Elbow (Elbow Dysplasia – ED) is not an easy condition to understand or to explain. It is seen in three main ways:
FCP (fragmented or ununited coronoid process), OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans),
UAP (Ununited anconeal process). Studies show that although environmental factors can influence the severity of the disease it has a high hereditability rate confirming that a high proportion of the cause is genetic. If we breed only from Leonbergers with minimal ED (The KC and the Club recommend scores of O or 1 only) this will help minimise those dogs that will suffer from this in the future. So what do all these terms mean and how do they affect a dog?
1) FCP : Fragmentation of the coronoid process can happen as early as 6 months of age if not before. It is the degeneration of the Ulna bone, which breaks up to expose the underlying tissue of the bone. It is seen mostly in the larger breeds of dog and is thought to have a strong genetic transmission rate.
2) UAP: Ununited anconeal process is when the hook part of bone never attaches correctly to the rest of the Ulna as the puppy is developing and floats loose. This leads to joint instability and stops the ulna and humerus interacting properly. It can lead to bruising and irritation of the bones.
3) OCD: Osteochondritis dissecans is the third part of the disorders that make up elbow Dysplasia. It is also a common problem of the shoulder in young rapidly growing larger breeds. With OCD a portion of the cartilage loosens from the underlying bone. It may break loose and float free or remain partially attached like a flap. In either case it is extremely painful as the lower bony layers are exposed to trauma and joint fluid. Dogs with elbow dysplasia will usually limp, may hold the leg away from the body and may try not to place any weight on the affected limb at all. Early signs may be seen from 4 months of age, 6 – 12 months of age show the worst of the symptoms, and with age permanent arthritic changes will occur in the joint. Treatment can be by operating on the affected joint or by the use of medication to make the animal more comfortable.
X-raying of the elbows will tell if the condition is present. When done after 12 months of age this x-ray can then be sent to the BVA for scoring to see if elbow dysplasia is present. The KC, BVA and LCGB state that only dogs with a score of 0 or 1 should be bred with, as this will help reduce and eliminate the occurrence of this disease which can only be in the best interest of Leonbergers.