Elbow Dysplasia Scheme for dogs

The Elbow Dysplasia Scheme was established by BVA and the Kennel Club in 1998. Elbow dysplasia is a significant problem in many breeds worldwide, and, although it begins in puppyhood, it can continue to affect the dog for the rest of its life.

The Scheme uses radiology to screen for abnormalities in the elbow joints. The radiographs are graded by BVA appointed Scrutineers. The grades can then be used by breeders to make informed decisions in regard to their breeding programme. This grade can also be used as a health check by owners and their veterinary surgeons.

The Scheme is open to all dogs and breeds including crossbreeds and non-Kennel Club registered dogs.

What is canine elbow dysplasia?

Canine elbow dysplasia is a common inherited orthopaedic problem in dogs where the elbow doesn’t develop properly.

Elbow dysplasia includes a number of specific abnormalities that affect different sites within the joint. These cause problems by affecting the growth of the cartilage which forms the surface of the joint or the structures around it. Even a small change in the shape of one part of the joint can have major consequences for the joint function, leading to lameness, pain and serious effects on the health, behaviour and welfare of the dog.

extended elbow joint normal elbow dysplasia arthritis

flexed elbow joint normal flexed elbow dysplasia arthritis

Signs of canine elbow dysplasia

Signs of elbow dysplasia in dogs vary between individuals and breeds. Some observable signs include:

  • Decreased range of motion
  • Limping
  • Exercise intolerance 
  • Unusual movement after rest or exercise
  • Groaning while resting or getting up
  • Signs of pain when moving the elbow

However, a veterinary surgeon's physical examination will provide a more reliable assessment and radiography is the only means of determining the presence of elbow dysplasia.

Treatment

Treatment methods vary depending on the nature and severity of the problem. Conservative treatment can involve weight restriction and exercise control. Drugs may be used to relieve pain and inflammation. In some dogs, surgery and/or forms of physiotherapy may be advised where appropriate.

Common breeds at risk of Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a common condition in many dogs and can affect a range of breeds including crossbreeds.
Common breeds at risk of elbow dysplasia are:

Many other breeds suffer from elbow dysplasia, visit the Kennel Club Breed Information Centre for further information.

    • For vets
    • For dog breeders
    • For dog owners

    For vets

    The Elbow Dysplasia Scheme

    The Elbow Dysplasia Scheme was established by BVA and the Kennel Club in 1998. Elbow dysplasia is a significant problem in many breeds worldwide, and, although it begins in puppyhood, it can continue to affect the dog for the rest of its life.

    The Scheme uses radiology to screen for abnormalities in the elbow joints. The radiographs are graded by BVA appointed Scrutineers. The grades can then be used by breeders to make informed decisions in regard to their breeding programme.

    The Scheme can also be used to inform owners about the status of their dogs so that future management can be optimised e.g. with respect to diet/weight and exercise and to flag the potential for degenerative problems in later life.

    The Scheme is open to all dogs and breeds including crossbreeds and non-Kennel Club registered dogs.

    Download our leaflet on elbow dysplasia (410 KB PDF) in dogs for more information on the condition and the scheme.

    Procedure and submission information

    You can now make submissions to the Elbow Dysplasia Scheme online. Find out about the benefits of online submissions from our Chief Scrutineer Dr Jerry Davies, in his recent blog post; Paper not required – submit online to our Canine Health Schemes.

    For those making online submissions to the Elbow Dysplasia Scheme, please follow our procedure notes (180 KD PDF).

    For further information on the online portal please watch our "How to make an online submission to the BVA Canine Health Schemes" video.

    For those making submissions on paper, please read the Elbow Dysplasia Scheme paper procedure notes (177 KB PDF).

    The average turnaround time for elbow dysplasia submissions is 2 weeks.

    Positioning

    To ensure correct positioning, please watch our comprehensive how-to guide for positioning for the Elbow Dysplasia Scheme.

    Cost of submission

    See cost of submissions and offers for a full breakdown including a reduced fee when submitting to both the hip and elbow dysplasia schemes. Kennel Club Assured Breeders receive a 15% discount when their submissions are made online.

    Results

    Results of grading will be automatically sent to the submitting vet in the form of a completed certificate. For online submissions, these can be found under the "My Certificates" tab in the online portal. For further guidance, please refer to the "how-to" video on the BVA YouTube channel. For paper submissions, the certificates will be returned in the post.

    The names of Kennel Club registered dogs graded under the scheme, together with the results of the elbow dysplasia grading, will be sent to the Kennel Club for publication and inclusion on the relevant documents.

    Understanding the results

    Responsible breeders should select their breeding stock (both dogs and bitches) only from animals with elbow grades of 0.

    Breed specific statistics

    The breed specific statistics for the Elbow Dysplasia Scheme (75 KB PDF) show the results for all Kennel Club registered pedigree breeds that have been screened since 1999 broken down by breed and grade. We recommend that only dogs with an elbow grade of 0 are used for breeding.

    Estimated Breeding Values

    The Kennel Club has developed Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs), a resource that allows breeders to estimate a dog’s genetic risk of developing either hip or elbow dysplasia.

    Further information

    For dog breeders

    The Elbow Dysplasia Scheme

    The Scheme uses radiology to screen for abnormalities in the elbow joints. The radiographs are graded by an expert panel of veterinary surgeons otherwise known as Scrutineers. The grades can then be used to make informed decisions in regard to breeding programmes.

    Download our leaflet on elbow dysplasia (410 KB PDF) in dogs for more information on the condition and the Scheme.

    How to make a submission

    1. Contact your veterinary surgeon and arrange an appointment for your dog to be radiographed (x-rayed).
    2. The radiographs must be taken under anaesthesia or heavy sedation which means that the dog may have to be left for a short time at the veterinary practice. (Elbow radiographs can be taken at the same time as those for the Hip Dysplasia Scheme.)
    3. Once the radiographs have been taken, your veterinary surgeon will submit the details, radiographs and fee to BVA.
    4. The radiographs will be graded by our expert panel of Scrutineers.
    5. The results certificate will be returned to your veterinary surgeon and passed on to yourself.
    6. If your dog is registered with the Kennel Club, the results will also be published on the Kennel Club website.

    The average turnaround time for an elbow dysplasia submission is 2 weeks.

    Requirements

    • The dog must be at least 1 year old, but there is no upper age limit.
    • The dog must be permanently and uniquely identified by way of a microchip.
    • If applicable, the dog’s Kennel Club registration certificate and any related transfer certificates must be available so that the appropriate details can be printed on the radiographs.

    Cost of submission

    See cost of submissions and offers for a full breakdown including a reduced fee when submitting to both the Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes. Kennel Club Assured Breeders receive a 15% discount when their submissions are made online.

    The results

    Once your dog has been graded, a completed certificate (88 KB PDF) detailing the elbow grades will be sent back to your veterinary surgeon.

    Elbow grades should be considered along with other criteria as part of a responsible breeding programme. We recommend only breeding from dogs with an elbow grade of 0. 

    Interpreting and using the results

    A grade is given for each elbow and the overall elbow grade (the grade highlighted in this certificate) is determined by the higher of the two individual grades. The grades are:

    0 = Radiographically normal

    1 = Mild osteoarthritis

    2 = Moderate or a primary lesion with no osteoarthritis

    3 = Severe osteoarthritis or primary lesion with osteoarthritis

    Breed specific statistics

    The breed specific statistics (76 KB PDF) for the Elbow Dysplasia Scheme show the results for all Kennel Club registered pedigree breeds that have been screened since 1999 broken down by breed and grade. 

    Estimated Breeding Values

    The Kennel Club has developed Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs), a resource that allows breeders to estimate a dog’s genetic risk of developing either hip or elbow dysplasia.

    Publication of results

    The results of Kennel Club registered dogs graded under the scheme will be sent to the Kennel Club for publication and inclusion on the Mate Select website. Results can be found by entering the registration name or number.

    Appeals

    Once a score has been given for a dog, the radiograph cannot be resubmitted; however, owners have the right to appeal which takes the form of a re-appraisal of the original radiograph.

    Further information

    For dog owners

    The Elbow Dysplasia Scheme

    The Elbow Dysplasia Scheme uses radiology to identify abnormal growth in the elbow joint. The x-rays are then reviewed and graded by our expert veterinary panel. We recommend that only dogs with a grade 0 are used for breeding. 

    Owners can also make submissions to the scheme in order to check the health status of their dogs so that future management can be optimised e.g. with respect to diet/weight and exercise and to flag the potential for degenerative problems in later life.

    What does the elbow grade mean?

    If you are going to purchase a puppy that could be at risk of elbow dysplasia, it is very important that you see the parents’ results for elbow dysplasia screening before you commit to buying the puppy. You can use The Puppy Contract to help you ask all the right questions.

    The certificate will show a grade for each elbow, the overall grade is determined by the higher grade. A dog will be given a grade between 0 and 3, we recommended that breeders only breed from dogs with an overall grade of 0.

    How to screen my dog for elbow dysplasia

    For information on how to get your dog screened for elbow dysplasia via the Canine Health Schemes, please see the process below.

    1. Contact your veterinary surgeon and arrange for your dog to be x-rayed as part of the CHS Elbow Dysplasia Scheme.
    2. Your veterinary surgeon will then submit the x-rays and relevant information to BVA.
    3. Expert veterinary surgeons appointed by BVA will score the x-rays.
    4. The results will be returned to your veterinary surgeon and passed on to yourself.
    5. If your dog is registered with the Kennel Club, the results will also be published on the Kennel Club website.

    See cost of submissions and offers for a full breakdown including a reduced fee when submitting to both the Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes and a reduced rate for Kennel Club Assured Breeders.

    Further information