Elbow Dysplasia (Also Fragmented Coronoid Process, Ununited Anconeal Process, Osteochondritis Dessicans, Joint Incongruity)

Elbow dysplasia is considered the leading cause of canine forelimb lameness. Elbow dysplasia is a general term meaning arthritis of the elbow and encompasses several elbow joint conditions, including fragmented coronoid process (FCP), ununited anconeal process (UAP), osteochondritis dessicans and joint incongruity. Each of the conditions cause elbow dysplasia but are different conditions with their own distinct pathophysiologies.

Fragmented coronoid process has a small piece of bone off the inner side of the joint breaks off the ulna. This fragment irritates the joint and wears away the cartilage of the humerus. Ununited anconeal process has a fragment break off on the back side of the joint that failed to unite with the ulna during the dog’s growth. Osteochondritis dessicans has a piece of cartilage that fully or partially detaches from the surface of the elbow joint. This causes inflammation in the lining of the joint and causes pain. Joint incongruity is when the joint doesn’t have the correct conformation and the joint cartilage wears out rapidly. This causes progressive arthritis.

Elbow dysplasia usually affects medium and large-size breeds and the disease first manifests in puppies, between 5 to 8 months of age. Dogs of any age can suffer the secondary condition of osteoarthritis from elbow dysplasia. High incidences of elbow dysplasia occur in Bernese Mountain Dogs, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers. The condition occurs less in Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, Springer Spaniels, Australian Shepherds, Chow Chows, Shar-Peis, Shetland Sheepdogs, and some terrier breeds. Typically both elbows are affected, but it can occur in only one elbow (unilateral).

All dogs affected by elbow dysplasia will experience forelimb lameness, though the degree of the lameness will vary. It usually gets worse after exercise. Your dog may seem stiff after he gets up from resting and he may tire easily. He will typically stand with both his elbows close to his body with his paws rotated outward. The elbow joint may appear thickened or swollen and he will probably resist having you touch or manipulate his elbow. He will have a decreased range of motion and arthritis will usually develop in the abnormal elbow joint over time.

Your veterinarian will diagnose your dog based on his history, clinical signs and after a complete physical exam, as well as using radiographs of the elbow(s). A CT scan and/or arthroscopy could be performed as they are more accurate than a traditional x-ray.

All forms of elbow dysplasia are genetically inherited and are not caused by an injury or trauma. There is some evidence that nutrition can play a role in the development of elbow dysplasia. Diets that promote rapid growth can lead to osteochondritis dessicans (OCD) which can then cause elbow dysplasia.

Elbow dysplasia is a progressive condition, meaning it will get worse over time. Surgery is the best option for affected dogs in addition to medical management. Your dog will benefit from physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. When the dysplasia is due to ununited anconeal process or fragmented coronoid process, surgery is performed to remove the damaging bone fragments. OCD and FCP can be treated with arthroscopic surgery. In joint incongruity cases, surgery will alter the length or curvature of the radius and ulna.

Since elbow dysplasia is an inherited disorder, if you’re going for a purebred, research your breeder carefully. If your breed is prone to elbow dysplasia, feed them a diet that promotes slow and steady growth. Make sure your dog falls within a healthy weight range as this will help decrease the stress on his joints and slow the development of arthritis. If the worst happens and your dog develops elbow dysplasia, regular veterinary exams are essential to monitor the progression of the disease.

If your dog is able to undergo surgery, treatment will be most successful when treated early. Many dogs that develop elbow dysplasia still make great pets, but will not be able to work or participate in agility programs. After arthroscopic surgery, most dogs are using the limb the same day of the surgery and has lameness significantly reduced. Recovery varies between whether arthritis is present. 60% of dogs with ununited anconeal process return to normal function after surgery with only 10% not improving at all. 75% of dogs with a fragmented coronoid process benefit from surgery. Surgery cannot improve arthritis, so your dog will continue to suffer stiffness or lameness after exercise or during cool, damp weather. Unfortunately, if your dog is experiencing very swollen elbows prior to surgery, these surgeries have a low rate of success.

Cirneco Dell’Etna

AKC Group: Hound

The Cirneco is a small, primitive dog used in Sicily to hunt rabbits near Mount Etna. The Cirneco has recovered nicely from near extinction and is very common throughout Italy. The Cirneco is believed to have been around for 2500 years.

Size: 15 to 20 inches tall; 15 to 25 pounds.

Color: Tan or chestnut

Health problems: Due to survival from natural selection, the Cirneco breed is virtually free of major ailments.

The Cirneco looks like the Pharaoh Hound. A natural hunter by sight, sound and scent, Cirnecos are extremely rare and difficult to obtain — unless you live in Italy.

A Cirneco is a strong-willed, independent dog with a lovely loyal and affectionate personality. They do well with children and other companion animals they’ve been raised with. In unfamiliar settings or around people (or animals), they are aloof and reserved. They are ever alert and watchful (see the above photo), but aren’t naturally aggressive.

Bathing should be done as a last resort. Otherwise, brush occasionally with a firm bristle brush. It will probably be easiest to train your Cirneco with food. (It helps them learn quicker; or at least they think so.) Otherwise, be firm, fair, patient and consistent. The Cirneco is an intelligent dog. Socialization can help overcome their natural shyness and timidity. As a natural hunter, it’s best to keep them on a leash. When training is going well, your Cirneco will become responsive. A Cirneco does very well in obedience and agility programs.

Chow Chow

AKC Group: Non-sporting

The Chow originated from the frigid northern steppes of Mongolia, Siberia and China and is regarded as one of the oldest breeds of dog. Used for pulling sleds, hunting and guarding temples, when resources were scarce, they have also been used as meat and stripped of fur. Their name began as Songshi Quan, which translated to “puffy lion dog.” Their DNA indicates they were one of the first breeds to be domesticated from wild wolves. Their modern canine relatives are Spitz, Akita and Shar Pei breeds.

Size: 17 to 20 inches tall; 45 to 70 pounds

Color: Red (above), cinnamon, cream, black or blue.

Life span: 12 to 15 years

Health problems: Allergies, skin conditions, sensitivity to chemicals or medications, glaucoma, entropion, thyroid problems, renal cortical hypoplasia.

A member of the Spitz family, Chows are a sturdy breed. Their coat is dense, coarse and rough. The Chow sports a neck ruff. (There is a smooth-coated Chow that has a dense outer coat over a soft undercoat that doesn’t have a ruff or feathering.) The Chow is a dignified, faithful dog. He may also develop an attitude, a fiercely independent streak and a protective demeanor. He’s very intelligent, but that’s not always a good thing. Without proper socialization, a Chow can become territorial.

Chows do well with kids they’ve been raised with and older, considerate children. With other dogs or cats, they may always be aggressive. With strangers, he’ll be reserved and wary. A Chow tends to keep to himself. When provoked, he may always revert to aggression. Early socialization can help him keep him temperament even and stable, but he may never be able to overcome those natural instincts.

The rough-coated Chow needs to be brushed twice weekly and more often during seasonal shedding. The smooth-coated can be brushed weekly. Occasionally (no matter the coat variety) have your Chow professionally groomed and dry shampoo when necessary. Training should start very early with you as Top Dog. Consistency is the name of the game. The Chow, as loyal to their family as they naturally are, does not seek validation outside themselves, meaning pleasing you for the sake of pleasing you is not a mission of theirs. They won’t respond to your begging, pleading or bribes. They don’t respond to harsh, punitive or inhumane tactics. To get cooperation, they need to know why they should perform the task. They aren’t a breed that readily performs tricks. These dogs have too strong a sense of self. (Maybe it’s because they look like a regal lion.) Socialization will help them realize aggression isn’t the answer to everything. Chows (underneath it all — and all that hair) are a very loving breed.


AKC Group: Working

This Northern breed can be traced back to author/explorer Arthur Walden’s New Hampshire farm in 1917. Chinook was one of three puppies born to a “Northern Husky” female. His father was a large, mixed breed. Chinook did not resemble either parent. An outstanding sled dog, Chinook accompanied an Admiral Byrd’s expedition of the South Pole in 1927.¬†Chinook’s offspring inherited his coloring, size and characteristics. They were bred to combine the strength of a large dog with the speed of smaller racing dogs. In 1966, the Chinook was listed as the world’s rarest dog (Guinness World Book), with only 125 in existence. By the 1980s, only 12 dogs were able to used for breeding in the world. All major kennel clubs are working to preserve the breed.

Size: 20 to 30 inches. 55 to 70 pounds

Color: Tawny (light honey to reddish gold). The ears and muzzle are dark tawny or black.

Life span: 10 to 15 years

Health problems: Eye abnormalities, hip dysplasia, hormonal skin issues, mono or bilateral cryptorchidism, seizures, spondylosis. These problems occur in a very small percentage of dogs (breeders work hard to screen out dogs with any condition listed).

These muscular dogs have a powerful muzzle with teeth that meet in a scissor bite. Their black noses have large, wide nostrils. The oval feet have webbed toes and tough, cushioned pads. The tail is thick, tapers to the end and hangs down when the Chinook is at ease or stands up when he’s excited. The Chinook has a double coat: a soft, thick undercoat lays underneath the coarse, medium-length hair of the outer coat. The Chinook sports a ruff around the neck.

Bred for sledding and carting, the Chinook is a dedicated, hard-working dog. Performing their task is their only concern in life. (This is a dog that lives to work.) The Chinook is a calm, willing, friendly, non-aggressive dog bred to work in teams. Bred to work, a Chinook makes an excellent companion. They do well around children even if they’ve never encountered one before. Socialization will help keep them calm around strangers or in unfamiliar situations.

A Chinook is incredibly loyal; they are extremely reliable off leash. Your daily walk will be the perfect circumstance to train them to heel (to walk beside you, not in front). A Chinook will do best when he knows he’s part of the family; they don’t do well if they have to live outside. They do well with other companion animals and will adore any other canine companion.

For effective training, you should be firm and confident, but never harsh. You are the Top Dog (as exhibited by teaching him to heel; yes, that’s all it takes). If he thinks he is the Top Dog, he will develop a strong-willed stubborn mentality. Positive reinforcement alone can train a Chinook. He will not respond to heavy-handed treatment. A Chinook is a smart dog, tell him what he needs to do or what you expect from him and he’ll do it. Despite his double coat, grooming requires little to no effort. Shedding is hit and miss: Some owners report little shedding while others report constant. As a dog with a double coat, Chinooks tend to shed heavily once or twice a year for a week.

Integrative Medical Therapies

Veterinary medicine had come a long way and keeps seeing major medical advances all the time. However, medicine alone cannot do it all. Integrative medical therapy does have its own place. How do you know which treatment is best? Let this guide help you in figuring out the best approach so when the time comes, you and your vet can make the decision together. You can always try an integrative approach out for a trial period and if it doesn’t work, than go back for a medicinal intervention. Do not allow a holistic practitioner to convince you to continue with an approach if it’s not working. These methods are supposed to reduce stress, discomfort and to improve the quality of life. Don’t administer any products, including herbs, supplements or homeopathic remedies without your vet’s approval. Try to find an integrative practitioner that is also a vet or who is closely supervised by a vet.


Acupuncture involves inserting thin, sterile needles into certain sites on the body known as acupuncture points. These points when examined anatomically fall along nerve pathways.

Acupuncture stimulates nerve fibers near acupuncture points. Acupuncture activate reflexes within the nervous system to reduce pain, relax muscles and help to restore a state of homeostasis.

Benefits: Pain reduction, muscle relaxation, stress abatement, improved immune function, neurologic recovery.

Risks: Infection at needle site, puncture of major vessels or organs. (Acupuncture has a strong safety record when performed by practitioners with solid medical backgrounds. Do your homework when choosing an acupuncturist.)

Efficacy: Acupuncture has a well-researched foundation and scientific basis. Acupuncture is one of the most credible modalities among veterinarians. More vets all the time offer acupuncture as an alternative treatment.


Chiropractic adjustors increase joint range of motion to alleviate pain.

Benefits: Unclear. There is little to no evidence of chiropractic benefit for the feline veterinary population.

Risks: Forceful adjustments on cats’ smaller structure and delicate joints could cause paralysis or further injuries of joints.

Efficacy: Unclear. Evidence of chiropractic benefits is inconsistent in humans, for whom the treatment has the longest track record.


“Nutraceutical” refers to food products packaged like a pharmaceutical. They are designed to enhance health or supplementation of food (as in a special diet formulated for your pet’s needs).

Nutraceuticals supplement the diet with nutrients derived from food. They contain greater amounts of certain components found beneficial for certain organs or tissues. They may given to restore health or prevent disease.

Benefits: If your pet is suffering from arthritis, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin or cetyl myristoleate (CMO) have been proven to help. Diarrhea sufferers or pets needing immune support can benefit from probiotics. The antioxidant s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is often recommended for liver disease sufferers.

Risks: Avoid products that contain garlic for cats as it can damage feline red blood cells, causing anemia. Steer clear of products containing “glandulars” or “whole tissue supplementation.” These contain animal glands or organs from supposed-healthy animals (usually coming from cows, sheep or pigs). Glandular therapy says that a pet’s injured gland or organ should benefit from eating a healthy gland or organ from another animal. Who’s to say that the slaughtered animal was truly healthy and free from disease. Studies have not proven conclusive evidence that glandular therapy works. They have suggested a potential to actually worsen a pet’s condition.

Efficacy: Most research on nutraceuticals have focused on osteoarthritis which has huge benefits, including improved mobility. Probiotics have been shown to benefit the digestive tract and immune system.


Botanical medicines are products that are derived from plants that are thought to or proven by research to benefit health and/or treat disease.

Herbs, like drugs, work biochemically. But the amount of active ingredients differ from medications. There may be a gamut of herbs needed to replicate the desired effect that a single agent in a drug can produce. An example of a botanical medicine in nature would be catnip, valerian root or lavender.

Benefits: The value of herbs have not been widely studied. Anecdotal evidence suggests that catnip, valerian root and lavender all provide relaxing benefits for cats.

Risks: Differences between human, dog and cat metabolisms for herbs mean products designed for humans or that are found safe for humans may induce unpredictable or potentially serious side effects and/or interactions for pets. In fact, cat livers lack the ability to detoxify plant-based substances, leaving cats at a greater risk of toxicity which can lead to serious illness or even death. Herbs can interact with certain medications and cause over or under-dosing. The industry is unregulated and has been plagued by safety issues.

Efficacy: Unknown. Proceed with caution if you undertake any herbal supplement.


Homeopathic philosophy claim that “like treats like:” that minute dilutions of substances, given in larger amounts, could cause the symptoms of a certain disease, therefore you can then turn around and treat the disease.

Benefits: Human studies have found that the benefits of homeopathy are indistinguishable from placebos. Therefore, perceived effects are likely due to the belief that the treatment is working.

Risks: Waiting for a homeopathic treatment to work can cause disease progression, so much sometimes that the disease can become untreatable through medication or other integrative therapies.

Efficacy: Research on homeopathy has failed to show any reproducible benefits to patients.


Flower essences resemble homeopathy in that they constitute dilute mixtures of soaked plants that are preserved in alcohol. These plants are supposed to evoke changes in emotions.

Benefits: As with homeopathy, the benefits of flower essences match the same level of benefits from placebos.

Risks: The biggest risk of relying on flower essences for feline emotional or behavioral problems is that you’re neglecting a physical or household reason for the issue. Most flowers essences benefits are unproven and can delay proper diagnosis and/or effective treatment. Cats are also very sensitive to alcohol, so avoid using essences directly into their mouths; only apply topically. Flower essences are often confused with essential oils. Essential oils are concentrated plant compounds that can be toxic or lethal to cats.

Efficacy: Research suggests that flower essences work by “placebo effect.” You hope they’re working so you see benefits, but they aren’t really there.


Massage uses techniques performed by the hands on the soft tissues of the body and promotes relaxation, pain reduction and improves function. Tension is reduced by relaxing muscles to benefit circulation, digestion and immune system by stimulating the nervous system network.

Benefits: Massage has proven to improve mobility, reduce pain and provide psychological comfort. You can also learn techniques that you can use yourself at home.

Risks: Aggressive massage can lead to injury. If your pet is not enjoying it or shows discomfort, stop immediately.

Efficacy: There is yet to be published research showing efficacy, but clinically we see the benefits in human research. Your vet may also suggest some simple movements to help your pet experience relief from muscle or joint issues. Don’t be afraid that the research hasn’t caught up to this treatment yet.

Chinese Shar Pei


AKC Group: Non-sporting

Their history can be traced back to the southern provinces of China known as the Kwung Tung. They were the dogs of peasants, helping to herd cattle, guarding the family or homestead and hunting wild pigs. Shar Pei translates to “sand skin” or “shark skin.” They were used in China as dog fighters because their rough, prickly coat allowed them to escape an opponent’s grip. The first Shar Pei may have been a mutation of the Chow Chow, Great Pyreness or Tibetan Mastiff.

Size: 8 to 20 inches tall; 45 to 60 pounds

Color: Solid red, cream, fawn or black.

Life span: 7 to 12 years

Health problems: Entropion, hip dysplasia, thyroid problems, bloat, autoimmune disorders, allergies, skin conditions, sensitivity to chemicals or medications and malabsorption.

The Shar Pei is distinguishable for the wrinkly skin on his face and body. His coat is short, straight and sits close to the skin. When socialized properly, the Shar Pei is a friendly dog — overcoming his natural independence and aloofness. A serious and confident breed, Shar Peis tend to keep to themselves. A Shar Pei demands respect but can give it out (if properly trained). If used as a fighting dog, it will be hard to get rid of those instincts and will never be a great pet. If he wasn’t mistreated, ensure he’s properly socialized with children and other pets.

Life with a Shar Pei can be difficult. They can be stubborn, in fact almost obstinate when the mood strikes them. (It’s best not to start with a Shar Pei if you’ve never shared your life with a dog.) Determined by nature and¬†bred as a hunter, don’t let your Shar Pei off-leash in public. The local cats and wildlife will be forever grateful.

Grooming needs are low: brush him when he needs it. You’ll spend more time inspecting his skin folds and ears (which require constant attention) than you will brushing him. Proper socialization is your number one priority with a Shar Pei. Without it, they can be aggressive, standoffish or shy and develop a bond with only one person. A happier, more adjusted Shar Pei will bond to the whole family. In other training matters, you’ll need to be strong, direct and consistent. You’re the Top Dog and if you waver or are inconsistent, your Shar Pei will feel he’s the Alpha instead. This does need to be established by being harsh or heavy-handed with him. It’s also important for all family members to be involved in training, otherwise he may only listen to one member. The easiest part of his training will be housebreaking; he’ll figure it all out for himself.