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Also known as Antebrachial Growth Deformities in Dogs

Occasionally a dog will develop a condition in which a front leg will continue to grow well after the other leg has stopped growing. This will result in one leg that is normal-sized while the other is irregularly-sized. A condition that is referred to as antebrachial growth deformity. Often, the shorter leg's bones will become twisted or bowed. Sometimes it even overgrows at the elbow. This condition can often be seen in Skye Terriers. Elbow joint deformity, or misalignment, can occur in basset hounds and Lhasa Apsos.

This should not be confused with another front leg deformity known as elbow dysplasia. This condition occurs when the point, or head, of the elbow and the muscle structure of the elbow, do not develop normally. This condition is most often seen in large and giant dog breeds such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, and Rottweiler. This is a condition that is usually noticed when the dog is between five to eight months of age and usually affects both elbows at the same time.

Dogs with longer limbs tend to develop deformities of the longer bones while dogs with short limbs usually develop joint problems. The animal's age can affect how severe the deformity will become.

Symptoms of Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

There are several symptoms of this disease. The three most common are:

  • Bowing and twisting of the affected front leg
  • A noticeable difference between the lengths of the front legs
  • Lameness of the animal (especially after exercising)

Causes of Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

Front leg deformity in dogs has many potential causes. The most common of which are:

  • Congenital: This cause is rare in dogs but often causes severely bowed front legs. There may also be an ankle dislocation as a result.
  • Elbow malalignment syndrome: This occurs most frequently in breeds that are classed as chondrodysplastic. For example, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Corgis.
  • Nutritional deficiency: As nutritional standards improve, this particular cause of deformity is becoming less prevalent.
  • Osteochondrosis: This occurs when there is a disturbance in the change of cartilage to bone. This is not really understood as of yet and it is believed that there may be a genetic, traumatic, or nutritional component to this condition.
  • Trauma: Often the most common cause of front leg deformity in dogs. Such traumas may interfere with new cartilage production ultimately resulting in bone elongation stoppage.

Diagnosing the Condition

To diagnose front leg deformity in dogs it is necessary that an X-ray be taken of the front legs. The complete leg will be X-rayed. Both the normal leg and the deformed leg has to be examined to compare the lengths of the bones. The muscles of the elbows will also be examined to determine whether they've become detached or not. The X-rays will also tell the veterinarian whether the deformities are bone enlargements, whether there is an inflammation of the complete bone structure, and whether there are flexor muscle spasms involved.

Treating Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

If the condition is determined to be due to a genetic predisposition you will be encouraged to have the dog fixed (spayed or neutered). If an injury is a cause surgery is usually recommended to repair the damage. This may involve removing any cartilage or bone that is abnormal to return it to normal function.

Living With and Managing the Condition

If the animal has to undergo surgery, special care will be required for three to five weeks after the surgery. The animal's body weight will have to be controlled with a strict diet. You will also have to monitor its pain level which may require medication. And, most importantly, the dog will be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Confining the pet to a crate is a definite asset in speeding up the recovery process.

If the condition can be treated without surgery you may be prescribed diet supplements and given a special diet to maintain the proper weight of the dog.

Also, any misalignment of the joint can lead to arthritic pain. Consult with your veterinarian to alleviate the dog's pain.

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