Does Your Older German Shepherd Have Lameness in His Front Leg? It Could Be Elbow Dysplasia

Updated: Apr 10


Canine elbow dysplasia (CED) is a developmental orthopedic disease that affects the bones and joints in a dog's elbow. It is thought to be caused by abnormal growth or development of the bones and joint cartilage in the elbow, which can lead to pain, stiffness, and lameness. While CED can occur in any dog breed, it is prevalent in larger breeds like German Shepherds. It is the most common cause of front leg lameness in larger breeds. And although there is no cure for CED, there are a number of treatment options available that can help reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life for fur friends affected by the condition.



In this blog post, we'll break down Canine Elbow Dysplasia (CED) and give you some tips on keeping your senior German Shepherd with CED as comfortable as possible.

(Our Miss Brandi was diagnosed with Elbow Dysplasia in 2018)



What Causes Elbow Dysplasia In Senior German Shepherds?


According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), CED is a multi-factorial disease involving multiple developmental abnormalities of the elbow joint. Additionally, it is also believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors can contribute to CED, leading to arthritis and other joint problems.




What Are The Signs Of CED In Senior German Shepherds?

  • Pain

  • Stiffness

  • Lameness

  • Trouble using the elbow(s)

  • Unnatural gait

  • Unwillingness or inability to exercise or walk

  • Plopping down to lay

  • Trouble shifting position

  • Whining and or panting

  • Elbows pointing in toward the body as opposed to pointing straight back


How Is CED Diagnosed?


Your trusted veterinarian will do a physical examination on your fur friend, which may include watching your fur friend walk, manipulating the elbow, blood work (to rule out anything else), and taking X-Rays. You may also be referred to an orthopedic veterinarian for further testing.


Treatment For CED:


Treatment for elbow dysplasia depends on the severity. Typically, mild cases may include pain management such as an NSAD or cortisone and therapy such as hydrotherapy, while more severe cases may call for surgery and rehabilitation. Early diagnosis is essential for the best possible outcome.


Prognosis For Senior German Shepherds With CED:


There is no cure for CED, so the goal of treatment is to slow the progression of the disease to keep your fur friend as comfortable for as long as possible, which is a realistic goal if caught and treated early.


The signs of canine elbow dysplasia can be evident in older German Shepherds. Still, we should also be mindful that some of our fur friends put on a "good front" even when in pain, so it is essential to pay attention and keep our fur friends comfortable as they age.


I will leave you with some tools that we employ for our senior German Shepherds with CED.

  • Keep them at an ideal weight

  • Short frequent walks, doing only what they can do

  • Hydrotherapy and massage

  • Dr. HempDog Hemp oil

  • High-quality orthopedic dog beds such as Big Barker Dog beds

  • Heated dog mats that go on top of the beds

  • NO STAIRS (or very few)

  • No jumping, especially in and out of vehicles

  • Area rugs to avoid slippage and impact of walking

  • Veterinarian approved pain management

  • Supplements such as Omega 3s, Glucosamine Chondroitin, and collagen

  • Turmeric


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