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Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

Antebrachial Growth Deformities in Dogs

Occasionally, dogs may experience antebrachial growth deformities, wherein one front leg continues to grow while the other has ceased growth, resulting in a discrepancy in leg size. This condition often leads to one leg being of normal size while the other becomes irregularly sized. In such cases, the shorter leg’s bone may twist, bow, or overgrow at the elbow, causing misalignment of the bones. The tendency for a joint to halt its growth appears to be a recessive trait among Skye Terriers. Additionally, basset hounds and Lhasa Apsos may also experience misalignment of the elbow joint.

Another common front leg deformity is known as elbow dysplasia, which occurs when the elbow point and muscular structure fail to develop normally. This condition is predominantly observed in large and giant-breed dogs, with breeds such as Bernese Mountain Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers being particularly susceptible. Males are at a higher risk of developing this deformity. Elbow dysplasia typically manifests between the fifth and eighth months of age and often affects both elbows.

Dogs with longer limbs are more prone to deformities of the longer bones, while those with shorter limbs are more likely to develop joint problems. Additionally, the age of the dog when the deformity occurs can impact the severity of the condition.

Symptoms and Types

  • Front leg appears bowed and twisted
  • One leg exhibits greater length than the other
  • Lameness, particularly noticeable after physical activity

Causes

  • Trauma: This is the most common cause, which can disrupt new cartilage production and halt bone elongation.
  • Osteochondrosis: This condition involves a disturbance in the transformation of cartilage to bone. While its exact cause is not fully understood, it is believed to involve genetic, nutritional, and traumatic factors.
  • Elbow malalignment syndrome: Typically seen in chondrodysplastic breeds such as Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Corgis.
  • Nutritional deficiency: While becoming less common due to improved nutritional standards, it can still contribute to front leg deformities in dogs.
  • Congenital: Rare in dogs, this form of deformity presents with severely bowed front legs and potential ankle dislocation.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will request X-rays of the entire limb, including the elbow, to assess bone lengths and muscle attachment in the elbow. Additionally, the veterinarian will examine X-rays for indications such as bone enlargement, inflammation of the bone structure, and spasms in flexor muscles, all of which confirm antebrachial growth deformities.

Treatment

If the veterinarian identifies the deformity as stemming from a genetic predisposition, they will advise against breeding the dog. However, if the deformity is a result of an injury, surgery may be recommended by your veterinarian to address the damage. This surgical procedure involves removing any abnormal cartilage or bone and restoring the joint to its normal function. Arthroscopic removal may offer benefits compared to surgical incision into the joint (arthrotomy), especially concerning the removal of fragmented coronoid process (FCP).

Living and Management

If surgery is necessary, your dog will require special care for several weeks following its return home. This includes managing its body weight, monitoring pain levels, and administering prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. It may be advisable to confine your pet in a cage to prevent strenuous activity during this period.

In cases where surgery is not required, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations regarding diet supplements, especially for larger dogs, and maintain the animal at its recommended weight. Furthermore, since joint misalignment can lead to arthritic pain, consult your veterinarian for advice on alleviating your dog’s discomfort.

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