BERNESE HEALTH - ELBOW DYSPLASIA (ED)
THE INFORMATION REPRODUCED IN THESE 'HEALTH' PAGES SHOULD ONLY BE REGARDED AS A SIMPLIFIED GUIDE.
ANY OWNER CONCERNED ABOUT
THE HEALTH OR POTENTIAL HEALTH STATUS
OF THEIR DOG SHOULD CONSULT A VETERINARY SURGEON
Front leg lameness in large breeds, including Bernese Mountain Dogs, is probably one of the most common health problems to cause concern amongst owners of immature Bernese with symptoms usually appearing in pups aged between four and eight months old.
Elbow Dysplasia (ED) or Osteochondritis Dissicans (OCD) are common diseases which can be responsible for foreleg lameness which may be noted in one or both front legs.
At the onset of lameness, Bernese owners seeking veterinary advice are often advised, initially, to rest the puppy in conjunction with the administration of a short course of painkilling or anti-inflammatory drugs and a general review of general management and feeding practises
If the symptoms continue, further investigation, usually by x-ray, may reveal the cause and extent of the problem.
Not all front leg lameness is caused by these conditions and many heavy, large breed puppies go
through an awkward growth stage when occasional bouts of lameness may accompany rapid growth spurts. Experienced breeders usually refer to this as “puppy limp” and the condition may present symptoms for a week or two and then often disappears as suddenly as it appeared.
Severely affected dogs can be helped surgically and often return to complete soundness although arthritis may affect the joint later in life. OCD and ED are thought to have a genetic component with other factors influencing the severity or absence of symptoms.
Breeders can arrange for their vet to x-ray the elbows of breeding stock to determine whether ED is present and the radiographs can be Graded.
The official pdf document explaining Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs can be viewed here;
Dogs must be a minimum of one year old at time of x-ray for the resulting radiographs to be given an official score. The dog will be taken to the vet where the dog where a general anaesthetic or a sedative will be administered and x-rays will be taken of each elbow. The official Kennel Club Registration Certificate of that dog will also need to be presented to the vet plus proof of the dog’s identity (microchip or tattoo identification for dogs is mandatory for the Canine Health Schemes commencing 1st January 2010) and the radiograph will then be despatched to the British Veterinary Association whereby the BVA/KC Elbow Scheme scrutineers will evaluate the radiograph and award a score.
Each elbow is then graded from 0 – 3.
The score reflects the level of normality and deformity of the elbow joint(s).
A grade of 0 would be attributed to ‘perfect’ or near-perfect elbow formation with no or little sign
A grade of 3 (the maximum/worst possible grade for each elbow) would reflect the maximum level of
Only the highest grade awarded (right or left elbow) is used as the overall grade – i.e. a dog with one elbow graded 2 and the other graded 3 will be recorded as having an overall Elbow Grade of 3.
Bernese which have suffered from OCD or ED diagnosed lameness, even those who have undergone successful, remedial surgery, should not be bred from.
The official pdf document explaining the BVA/KC Elbow Dysplasia Scheme procedure can be viewed here;
PLEASE NOTE; There is NO consistent, visible correlation between elbow score and actual physical soundness – some dogs with low (“good”) scores may be lame or move awkwardly whilst some with high (“poor”) scores may not have shown any symptoms of lameness and always appeared to be very sound.
An overview of the UK BVA/KC Canine Health Schemes can be viewed here;
More information about ED and OCD can be found
on the Bernese Mountain Dog Health Links page at