AKC Gazette
AKC Gazette

Newly elected President of OFA and LRC, Inc. Director, Francis O. Smith, DVM, is our guest columnist for this issue.

Elbow Dysplasia
by Francis O. Smith, DVM

Elbow dysplasia is a condition of emerging concern in the Labrador Retriever. Elbow dysplasia is a disorder of the elbow joint resulting in degenerative joint disease (arthritis) and pain. The canine carries 60% of his body weight on his front assembly, so abnormalities of a forelimb joint can result in significant discomfort. Many dogs with elbow dysplasia are lame and have restricted forelimb stride. Some dogs toe out and bring their elbows inward in an attempt to relieve the discomfort caused by the medial arthritis. Many dogs are lame from about 7 - 12 months of age with the lameness improving temporarily in young adulthood. There are dogs with radiographic evidence of elbow dysplasia that are not lame.

There are three distinct conditions which result in the degenerative joint disease seen in elbow dysplasia. These conditions are: ununited anconeal process; fragmented medial coronoid process (FMCP), which is seen in many breeds and is common in the Labrador Retriever; and osteochondrosis, which occurs in many breeds and can occur in multiple joints. The three conditions may appear singly or in combination and can be inherited separately.

The diagnosis of elbow dysplasia requires a radiograph in an extreme flexed medial to lateral view of the elbow (inside to outside). This view allows good assessment of any degenerative joint disease, but does not allow for definitive diagnosis of FMCP. A definitive diagnosis of FMCP requires additional radiographic views, CAT scan, MRI or linear tomography. It should be noted that in 1998 a group known as the International Elbow Working Group (IEWG) defined the grading scheme for elbow dysplasia. They had previously determined the radiographic view needed for diagnosis. The grading scheme goes from 0, a normal joint, to 3 which involves severe arthritis with a large bone spur.

The OFA elbow database was established in 1990 and averages 1400 evaluations annually. This database provides a standard evaluation of the radiographs based on scientific knowledge and identifies phenotypically normal animals. The OFA maintains this database and disseminates information regarding elbow dysplasia. Use of the OFA web site at http://www.offa.org allows fanciers to obtain information on the elbow status of individual animals who have received elbow certification. Animals whose elbows are not normal are not listed unless their owners have given written permission to list them in the OPEN data base.

All of the OFA databases contain a bias towards normal due to prescreening at the time the radiograph is taken. Despite this selection process, 12.6% of the 16,831 Labrador Radiographs submitted for certification were evaluated as dysplastic. Breeding practices which pair normal elbows to normal elbows can greatly decrease the incidence of elbow dysplasia. Using elbow scores on more than 13,000 progeny from sires and dams with known elbow scores the following conclusions can be reached: breeding normal elbows to normal elbows results in 12.2% dysplastic offspring. Breeding a dysplastic sire to a normal dam resulted in 31.3% dysplastic offspring. Breeding a normal sire to a dysplastic dam resulted in 26.1% dysplastic offspring. A dysplastic sire to a dysplastic dam resulted in 41.5% dysplastic.

Let's use our resources to control this disease in the Labrador Retriever.

Thanks, Fran

(Labrador Retriever Breed Column for AKC Gazette October 2003 Vol 120, No 10, pp 55)

The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., is the single organization officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as the national parent club of the Labrador Retriever. The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., was incorporated in October 1931, in the state of New York, and is not affiliated with any other association titled or claiming to be the National Labrador Retriever Club.