Elbow dysplasia is most often seen in large to giant breed dogs, particularly Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers, but can occur in most breeds of dog. Different breeds have predispositions to different forms of the disease, so that ununited anconeal process (UAP) is largely a problem of German Shepherds, medial compartment disease (medial coronoid injury) is seen in many other breeds and sight hounds are free of the disease.
Unfortunately once the elbow joint has been damaged through either cartilage loss, the presence of medial coronoid fragments or an ununited anconeal process, a vicious circle of inflammation and further cartilage damage begins. Ultimately this causes progressive arthritis of the elbow joint leading to pain and loss of function.
Dogs affected by elbow dysplasia often show signs from an early age, typically from 5 months on, but some may first be diagnosed after 4–6 years. Affected dogs develop a front limb lameness that typically worsens over a period of weeks to months. Lameness is usually worse after exercise and typically never completely resolves with rest. Often both fore legs are affected, which can make detection of lameness difficult, as the gait is not asymmetric. When both elbows are involved the dog usually becomes unwilling to exercise for long periods or may even refuse to complete a walk.