Hardrada Rottweiler's infomation on elbow dysplasia,including results from USA,UK,Australia,Canada etc


(See offical scores in PDF articles at bottom of this page)

The inclusion of elbow x-rays in a Rottweilers pre-breeding programme is becoming more commonplace. It order to help keep our active, hard working breed sound, it is important that we guard against structural problems whenever possible.

Why is the elbow an important joint?

The dog carries about 65% of his weight on his front end. Not only do the front legs bear most of the concussion when a jumping dog lands, they also provide a good deal of the propulsion necessary to launch him into the air. The shoulder and elbow joints absorb most of the impact during movement, and can really put some stress on the joints of the forelimb!

What is elbow dysplasia?

This term is used to describe several developmental abnormalities of the elbow joint, including fragmented coronoid process of the ulna, OCD of the humeral condyle, un-united anconeal process, and joint incongruity (the bones don’t fit together properly).

Is elbow dysplasia inherited?

Elbow dysplasia, like hip dysplasia, is a multifactorial disease. Both genetics and environment may contribute to the development of the disease. Several studies have shown elbow dysplasia to be highly heritable. Elbow dysplasia is considered to be more highly heritable than hip dysplasia.

How can I tell if my dog has elbow dysplasia?

Cases may become apparent during puppyhood, often around 4 or 5 months of age. Affected dogs may be lame all the time, or the lameness may come and go. The dog may be stiff for the first few minutes after rising. Both legs may be affected making it hard to tell the dog is lame. He may stand with his elbows close to his chest and be painful when the elbow is extended. At 5 months, x-rays will show if the anconeal process is not united. If the problem is one of the other components of elbow dysplasia, it may not show up on an x-ray until the dog is over a year old.

Dogs that show lameness will likely develop degenerative joint disease over time. For every lame dog, there are many more with subclinical disease. These dogs may become lame at a later time, or if bred, their offspring will have a higher incidence of elbow dysplasia than the offspring of dogs with normal elbows.

The official OFA Orthopeadic Foundation has of Feb 2007 scored 10148 rottweilers

Nil Arthrosis (Grade 0)

Minimal Arthosis (Grade 1) = one or more of the following findings:

  • (a) less than 2 mm high osteophyte formation seen on the dorsal edge of the anconeal process
  • (b) minimal osteophyte formation (less than 2 mm in any direction) on the dorsal proximal edge of the radius
  • (c) or the dorsal edge of the coronoid process,
  • (d) or the leteral palmar part of the humeral trochiea;
  • (e) sclerosis in the area caudal to the distal end of the ulnar trochlear notch and to the proximal

    Moderate Arthosis (Grade 2) = one or more of the following findings:

  • (a) osteophytes 2 - 5 mm high on the anconeal process
  • (b) moderate osteophyte formation (2 - 5 mm in any direction) on locations b, c, d.

    Severe Arthosis (Grade 3) = one or more of the following findings:

  • (a) more than 5 mm high osteophyte formation on the anconeal process
  • (b) severe osteophyte formation (more than 5 mm in any direction) on lcations b, c, d.

    Additionally - in cranio-caudal radiographs osteophytes are most easily seen on the distal, medial part of the humeral condyle (f) and the medial part of the coronoid process (g).

    The latest available figures from OFA (Feb 2007) put the incidence some form of elbow dysplasia at 40.9 percent of a total of a total of 10148 examinations. These figures are quite high, but if you consider the front end development of our rotties its not surprising. 

    The incidence of elbow dysplasia appears to be fairly high in Rottweilers at this time. With a concerted effort this can be improved but nobody ever tells you what is a good or bad score, ideally breeding with a score of less then 2 would be a good start, unfortunately I see a lot of top quality dogs with hip scores of 0-0 but elbow scores of 2-2, I think more discussion is required by the canine world as to what is our ideal target is for breeding! 

  • Rottweilers have the second highest elbow scores of any breed, but the same dog using the same x-rays can have higher and lower scores, basically the scores given are only as good as the people that grade them. In 2011 we had a dog score 1a 1b in New Zealand , we then sent the same xrays overseas the scaore came back 0:1 results.

  • (a's and b's are only given in NZ, this certainly causes a lot of confusion)

    It is all very well to monitor the elbow disease but unless some constraints are put on breeding, then there will be a lot of x-rays taken but no improvement in the prevention of lameness in the breeds affected. The research from the continents of Europe, Britain, Australia, and USA has shown that elbow disease is inherited . There is also information to show that those dogs with the more severe lesions are most likely to produce puppies with serious elbow disease. Consequently grade 3 elbow disease dogs should not be used for breeding and the grade 2 cases should be considered  at risk.

    The suggested age for x-ray examination is 12 months when the hip x-rays are taken. It is likely that the severity of the osteoarthritis will increase with age and consequently for the monitoring programmes at present, dogs should be examined when young. It may be that later the age for screening will be raised, but this will mean an alteration to the current breeding programmes. Owners and breeders need to be aware that not all breeds behave in the same way in regard to elbow disease. for example, most published reports suggest that surgery in Rottweilers has little benefit compared to medical therapy, whereas results in the Labrador Retriever have been rewarding. Certainly elbow disease is not as straightforward a problem to handle as OCD of the shoulder and in some cases, the severity of the chronic elbow disease may lead to dogs being destroyed.

    Responsible owners and breeders of dogs of the breeds where elbow disease is a recognised problem should consider monitoring the elbows in the same way as they monitor hip displaysia and eye disease.   

    I had a call off a rotty owner upset because her vet had said that she should not breed off her dog because it did not have an accredited elbow score..So here are the stats off  the NZVA website November 2008, based upon these results at least one vet thinks that only 18 rotts under the NZVA elbow scoring system should be bred from a total of 326! I asked a few vets in December 2016 the score range for elbow dysplasia, none could tell me what a good or bad score was!

    Yes rotts have the second highest elbow score of any breed,but in over 30 years i have never had a dog who needed elbow surgery, and only one needing treatments (injections) for his elbow dysplasia!



    Elbow dysplasia scores New Zealand : All results upto November 2008
    Total Rottweilers scored 326   Accredited 18  Grade 1 150  Grade 2 134  Grade 3 24
    PDF articles below give rottweilers hip and elbow scores for UK, Poland,Germany,USA, NZ, with interesting results. 

    Information extracted from various sources by Hardrada Rottweilers

    For help or advice about any health issues, contact Ian or Sue, we will help if we can, no sales required!   


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