Sheepadoodle Elbow Dysplasia Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Sheepadoodle laying in grass

A Sheepadoodle is a mixed-breed dog with a hypoallergenic coat. They are bred for their intelligence and temperament and are usually obedient, friendly, and loving. Their appearance will make you fall in love with them immediately. Unfortunately, most owners are unaware that their Sheepadoodle has elbow dysplasia until they show associated pain signs.

While elbow dysplasia is often associated with larger breeds of dogs, it can occur in any breed, and some dogs will show symptoms at an earlier age than others.

So, what exactly is elbow dysplasia? Do dogs even have elbows? Yes, they do! But they aren’t quite the same as human elbows.

Elbow dysplasia is a developmental problem of the elbow joints that can develop in all breeds of dogs. It’s second only to hip dysplasia as a cause of mobility problems in dogs, which can cause pain and stiffness. In addition, elbow dysplasia is one of the most common causes of front leg lameness in dogs.

So, how do you know if your Sheepadoodle has elbow dysplasia? And, what can you do to support your Sheepadoodle if elbow dysplasia is in its life?

As pet owners, we want to do everything to care for our dogs’ health. If you’re concerned that your Sheepadoodle has elbow dysplasia, you’ll want to read this article. The signs of elbow dysplasia in dogs can vary, so you must understand what to look out for and how to treat it. Keep reading to learn more!

Sheepadoodle Elbow Dysplasia Explained

For a Sheepadoodle, elbow dysplasia is a painful condition where the elbow joint is malformed. This means that the two bones in the forearm, known as the radius and ulna, are improperly aligned.

In most dogs, the radius and ulna are aligned parallel, with one bone directly above the other. In Sheepadoodles with elbow dysplasia, however, there is some misalignment.

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, “canine elbow dysplasia (ED) is defined as a condition involving multiple developmental abnormalities of the elbow joint.”

Most dogs with elbow dysplasia are born with the condition. The earliest symptoms are usually seen in puppies around four to six months in age, although it can take up to two years for the disease to become fully apparent.

Sometimes this misalignment is so slight that it’s not particularly noticeable to the casual observer. But other times, there can be a significant overlap between the two bones in your pet. As the dog’s guardian, it’s essential that you learn their behaviors so it becomes easier to recognize if something changes in their gait.

As a puppy grows, the bones grow and develop with cartilage at their ends. Unfortunately, this cartilage fails to develop in some dogs, meaning that instead of nice smooth ball-and-socket joints, your Sheepadoodle’s bones begin rubbing against each other. The problem is that this malformation causes inflammation and pain in the area of overlap (where the joints have no cartilage).

This inflammation can lead to lameness and difficulty walking as your Sheepadoodle moves. The problem can occur in either or both of the elbows, and depending on the degree of the disease, there are three levels: grade I (mild), II (moderate), and III (severe).

Sheepadoodle elbow dysplasia can occur at any age and often concurrently with hip dysplasia.

Within the category of elbow dysplasia, four different types of abnormalities can occur in the elbow, no matter the dog breed. The four types of abnormalities that may arise are fragmented coronoid process(es), osteochondritis dissecans, growth rate incongruity, and ununited anconeal process(es). Each of these deformities affects the quality of life for your Sheepadoodle.

Here is a quick overview of each of the four abnormalities. The fragmented coronoid process means that a piece (small or large) of the bone breaks off and begins to move around the elbow joint, causing pain and discomfort. Osteochondritis dissecans or OCD usually occurs in young dogs and results in signs of lameness on either one or both legs (this is one of the more common abnormalities). When the radius and ulna bones grow at different rates, it can cause elbow dysplasia, specifically called growth rate incongruity. The final abnormality is an ununited anconeal process. The ununited anconeal process is when a bone outgrowth in your Sheepadoodle’s elbow detaches, which causes irritation and general degeneration.

With elbow dysplasia, a congruity between the front and back part of the stifle doesn’t exist, causing abnormal walking or running for your Sheepadoodle. If one side is affected, it’s referred to as unilateral elbow dysplasia; with bilateral elbow dysplasia, both elbows are affected.

It’s essential to note that an adult dog doesn’t develop elbow dysplasia unless it’s already developed arthritis in its elbows due to normal wear and tear over the years.

Elbow dysplasia is one of the most common orthopedic conditions in dogs. Why? Because it’s challenging to protect your dog’s elbows from excessive wear and tear during the dog’s active life. Therefore, as your Sheepadoodle gets older and more arthritis develops in the joint, it becomes progressively painful. As a result, the elbow won’t be able to compensate for pressure exerted on it by running or jumping, and eventually, the dog will be unable to use its leg normally.

close up of sheepadoodle in front of white background

Causes of Sheepadoodle Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a hereditary problem that causes lameness.

Because the elbow is a complex joint that moves, it requires proper ligament support to prevent over-extension of the joint. The ligaments hold the bones together in their sockets, forming a solid supportive framework for the joint.

Elbow dysplasia is believed to be caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Genetics plays a part because the disease tends to run in families. Environmental factors include over-use of the joint, rough play as a puppy, and obesity. Other factors that may contribute to elbow dysplasia include diet, exercise, trauma, hormonal imbalances, etc. In addition, this disease is progressive, meaning that the problem gets worse over time.

Elbow Dysplasia occurs when the muscles surrounding the joint are weak or stiff due to an incorrect growth rate or an injury. These conditions can cause stress and damage to the cartilage in the elbow joint.

How Elbow Dysplasia Can Affect Your Sheepadoodle

As your Sheepadoodle ages and more damage is done to the cartilage and surrounding ligaments, changes occur in the way the joint functions. As a result, the joint becomes less stable and more prone to dislocation.

A poodle mix with dysplasia often shows pain or discomfort when the elbow is flexed or extended because of inflammation in the joint capsule and surrounding tissues. Sheepadoodles with this condition also tend to have problems with their front legs, including overgrowth of claws, footpads, corns, or calluses on their paws, and lameness affecting one or both front legs. These problems are related to the abnormal conformation of the front legs that results from how the elbow joints are used in the movement.

Degeneration often begins as early as six months to a year after birth. However, many dogs show no signs until two or three years old. The onset may be rapid or slow depending on the severity of the disease; most dogs go from an average to a severe effect in just days or weeks. Over time, elbow arthritis can result in pain on extension or flexing of the joints, swelling, and lameness.

Life Expectancy of a Sheepadoodle With Elbow Dysplasia

Sheepadoodles are known for their sweet, loving, and intelligent personalities. They’re also highly adaptable, friendly to everyone, and make excellent family pets. So it’s no surprise that they were named one of the top 10 most popular dog breeds in America by the American Kennel Club. However, despite all these traits that make them a wonderful family pet, Sheepadoodles aren’t immune from health conditions like elbow dysplasia.

While elbow dysplasia can be very uncomfortable for your Sheepadoodle, it shouldn’t shorten their life expectancy (especially if you monitor them and provide support when showing signs of elbow dysplasia).

When you break it down, your Sheepadoodle is a mix of a Standard Poodle and an Old English Sheepdog. Each parent breed has unique personalities and a long life expectancy.

Old English Sheepdogs live an average of 10 to 12 years, while the Standard Poodle has an average lifespan of 12-15 years. Because of this, it’s easy to understand why their mixed breed has a similar lifespan.

Sheepadoodles live, on average, 12 to 15 years, the higher end of both parent breeds.

Interestingly enough, the most significant factor in understanding your Sheepadoodle breed’s life expectancy is its size. The larger the Sheepadoodle, the more likely it is to live a shorter life. If you have a smaller sized Sheepadoodle, it’s expected to live closer to the 15-year average.

sheepadoodle sitting in grass

Signs That Your Sheepadoodle Might Have Elbow Dysplasia

If you know what to look for and your Sheepadoodle puppy has elbow dysplasia, you can take steps to minimize the effects of this painful condition. In addition, understanding the signs will give you a leg up on providing a comfortable life for your Sheepadoodle. Finally, as any dog owner knows, there’s nothing more rewarding than giving back to the animals who dedicate their lives to loving us!

The first symptoms of elbow dysplasia usually appear before your large dogs are one year old. For example, your Sheepadoodle puppy may be reluctant to climb stairs or jump up on furniture and may not want to play with toys or other puppies. In addition, your Sheepadoodle puppy may limp when running or walking and favor his back legs. Another common early symptom is when your Sheepadoodle shows signs of pain whenever they extend or flex their legs.

Does your Sheepadoodle have trouble holding its dog food bowl in its front paws, or maybe it even spills its food when eating? This behavior could be due to elbow dysplasia. Also, if your Sheepadoodle shows signs of lameness after exercise or difficulty jumping onto the couch, this could be a sign of elbow dysplasia.

Another sign that your Sheepadoodle has elbow dysplasia is if their joints are swollen, or they become highly reluctant to go outside, play, or go on a walk. If the condition worsens, it will develop arthritis and begin to show pain when you touch it.

Your large dogs may also have an odd gait, an awkward way of walking. As it gets older, the pain may worsen and be noticeable, even at rest.

Some of the most common symptoms include general difficulty standing, stiffness after laying down, and pain going up and downstairs. If you see any of these signs in your Sheepadoodle (especially in its first year of life), your dog may have elbow dysplasia.

There are a few things that you can do to better understand whether your dog has elbow dysplasia. One option is to get a complete elbow joint examination, including one or all of the following options:

First, there are X-Rays. Radiographs of the elbow joint help determine the morphology of your pet’s elbow joint. You may also take an x-ray of the entire limb to determine if any other joints or bones are contributing to lameness. Understanding whether your Sheepadoodle (or mini Sheepadoodle) has elbow dysplasia or canine hip dysplasia is essential.

Next is an ultrasound of the elbow joint. An ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure that can provide valuable information about soft tissues such as nerves, tendons, and muscles. The procedure can be performed to evaluate for underlying bone disease, soft tissue disease, or injury. In addition, ultrasound is a handy diagnostic tool for arthritic conditions because it allows you to evaluate articular cartilage integrity and thickness.

Finally, there is an arthroscopy of the elbow joint. An arthroscopy is performed if you think there’s a tear in one or more ligaments surrounding your pet’s elbow joint. Arthroscopy involves placing an endoscope into your pet’s skin and the damaged area of the elbow joint, allowing your veterinarian to view this area and potentially repair any torn ligaments found there. Arthroscopic surgery of this type can be performed outpatient under general anesthesia, with your pet returning home later that day.

How To Care for and Treat Your Sheepadoodle for Elbow Dysplasia

Treatment options for elbow dysplasia depend on the severity of the disease and the age and activity level of the dog. Some of the common signs in Sheepadoodles are pain and instability.

Minor cases may require rest from strenuous exercise and anti-inflammatory medication. As with humans, these anti-inflammatories can help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with the condition without causing any harmful side effects.

It’s important to remember that different dogs respond differently. Sheepadoodle temperament varies, so if your dog doesn’t react well to one thing, it might not be worth continuing with it. Other measures may be necessary, like more potent anti-inflammatories or physical therapy.

You can try to check your Sheepadoodle’s elbows by flexing them and rotating them to make sure the joint is in good shape. Sometimes, you can gently manipulate the joints to see how loose or stiff they are and check how well the dog moves around afterward.

The most severe treatment option for this condition is surgery. Surgery can be successful. Still, it’s an invasive procedure with many potential side effects and complications, some of which can be worse than the original problems. Therefore, surgery is something you want to avoid if at all possible.

sheepadoodle standing in snow

How To Help Your Sheepadoodle Live a Fulfilling Life With Elbow Dysplasia

Your Sheepadoodle is exceptional, and if it’s living with discomfort, you must provide support to live a good life. The good news is that elbow dysplasia is not a death sentence for your pet. It can enjoy an entirely happy life as long as it gets the proper care and attention. The bad news is that there are no quick fixes, just sound strategies.

For best results, follow all the recommendations in the guide. You must make sure your Sheepadoodle maintains a healthy weight by feeding a high-quality diet, avoiding treats, and monitoring treats if necessary. A healthy weight will lessen the strain on the elbows and help the joints stay lubricated. Hydrotherapy can also help maintain muscle tone and keep weight down. Make sure your dog drinks plenty of water to keep joints lubricated and for overall health. Exercise safely! This means no sudden stops or turns, no jumping down from high places, no rough play, and no chasing balls or other dogs for games. You should only let your Sheepadoodle rough house with others if you’re sure your Sheepadoodle can handle it without overexerting or injuring itself further.

Elbow dysplasia can also be accompanied by hip and knee problems, so you may need to examine your dog for these other joint problems. In addition, suppose your Sheepadoodle suffers from separation anxiety (maybe it was inherited or is a trauma response). In that case, you should make sure your pup can’t over-extend its elbows and hurt itself when you leave home.

Whether you have a mixed breed or a purebred dog, understanding signs of elbow dysplasia are essential to providing the best care you can as their owner. In addition, early awareness can bring support and relief for your Sheepadoodle!

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