Osteoarthritis from coronoid disease and other forms of elbow dysplasia may result in complete loss of cartilage on the weight-bearing surfaces of the medial joint structures resulting in what veterinarians call Medial Compartment Disease (MCD). This is the “end stage” form of elbow dysplasia where the inside part of the joint collapses with eventual grinding of bone on bone. Interestingly and importantly, the larger lateral (outside) part of the elbow joint appears normal in the vast majority of patients. Medial compartment disease can be diagnosed in dogs as young as 6 months of age or may become apparent in any age after that.
Severe elbow arthritis. The pink area is exposed bone where the cartilage has been worn away
How can medial compartment disease be treated?
Options such as oral medications, joint injections, and physical therapy may be beneficial in some cases for at least a period of time and should be discussed with your veterinarian. When surgical treatment is deemed necessary, as is often the case, the Canine Unicompartmental Elbow (CUE) is a safe and effective option to consider. The CUE was developed by Dr. Schulz (Peak) and Dr. Cook (University of Missouri) with the Arthrex corporation. It was developed as a treatment for MCD for dogs in which arthroscopic treatment and the nonsurgical options are no longer successful. By focusing on the specific area of disease (the medial compartment), the CUE implant provides a less invasive, bone-sparing option for resurfacing the bone-on-bone medial compartment while preserving the dog’s own “good” cartilage in the lateral compartment. This medial resurfacing procedure reduces or eliminates the pain and lameness that was caused by the bone-on-bone grinding.
This implant is made of cobalt chrome and titanium and is inserted in the upper bone (humerus) of the joint to restore the gliding surface
this implant is made of polyethylene and titanium and is placed in the lower bone (ulna) of the elbow joint. It articulates with the other implant resulting in a low friction pain free articulation for the elbow.
Is the CUE a major surgery?
The CUE procedure is an open surgery but only takes about one hour to perform. Unlike total elbow replacements it does not require major bone cutting and a large surgical approach. The recovery from CUE is much faster than from total elbow replacements and the outcome appears to be much better.
What can I expect after CUE surgery?
You will be sent home with antibiotics and pain-relieving medications for your dog. A bandage will be placed on the limb, which you will need to keep clean and dry. The bandage will be changed after one week and maintained for at least two weeks after surgery. Sutures will be removed approximately two weeks after the procedure. Your dog must be restricted to rest in a kennel or crate, with controlled leash walking only, for eight weeks after surgery. Follow-up examination and assessment of healing will be performed 8-10 weeks after the procedure, at which time rehabilitation exercises will be initiated to allow a progressive return to full activity levels by six months after surgery. Full athletic function is not expected until three to six months after surgery, at which time a final assessment will be performed.
Our client information sheet on the CUE can be downloaded here:
Laryngeal paralysis is a common upper respiratory disease of dogs. It most often affects
large breed dogs such as Labrador retrievers and Golden retrievers but it can affect any dog of any breed or size. Normally when a dog inhales the larynx (voice box) opens to allow air into the trachea and lungs. The larynx closes between breaths to prevent food and water from going into the trachea and lungs. In laryngeal paralysis the muscle that opens the larynx stops functioning. This results in a very narrow passageway to get air into the lungs instead of the normal wide-open larynx. Dogs with laryngeal paralysis have difficulty inhaling and the harder they try the more difficult it becomes to inhale adequate air.
What are the signs of laryngeal paralysis?
Several signs may suggest that a dog has laryngeal paralysis:
Harsh breathing – laryngeal paralysis usually leads to a characteristic harsh breathing sound
that gets louder with exercise. This noise is caused by air passing through the narrow
space in the larynx
Voice change – laryngeal paralysis will often cause a change in a dogs bark, making it sound
Coughing – Some dogs may have a cough with laryngeal paralysis that sounds like it comes
from the throat.
Gagging – Many dogs with laryngeal paralysis may gag when they eat or drink.
How is laryngeal paralysis treated?
Laryngeal paralysis is best treated by surgery. There are several surgical options although one
procedure, the “tie-back” is the most accepted and most commonly performed by Board Certified
In the tie back procedure the larynx is approached through the side of the neck. The failed muscle is then identified and replaced with a suture to permanently open the larynx on one side. This procedure produces the best airway with the least complications of any of the available surgeries.
In this procedure the portions of the larynx that obstruct the airway (the arytenoids) are removed
by scissor or laser through the mouth. This procedure is not recommended because
of the high risk of scar formation that can severely obstruct the airway.
This procedure enlarges the airway through a complicated series of incisions and reconstructions
from the underside of the neck. There have been no definitive advantages shown with this procedure and it is rarely performed.
A permanent tracheostomy should only be performed when a tie back procedure will not
correct the airway obstruction. Dogs with permanent tracheostomies cannot swim and may
have other chronic airway complications.
Cranial cruciate ligament rupture (CCLR) is the most common orthopedic injury in dogs. In people, the same ligament is called the anterior cruciate ligament. In both species the ligament may stretch or tear, leading to pain and osteoarthritis. CCLR can make the menisci vulnerable to tearing, which is quite painful. The menisci are two small cushions of fibrocartilage that sit between the bones of the knee.
The signs of CCLR vary, but they include an acute onset of lameness followed by mild improvement but continued lameness. Other dogs experience a moderately progressive lameness particularly associated with exercise or lameness when the dog gets up after resting.
CCLR is first diagnosed by palpation (examination and manipulation by hand). X-rays are routinely taken in dogs with CCLR, but this disease cannot be diagnosed on x-rays because the ligament does not appear on radiographs.
Surgery is recommended for most dogs with CCLR. In very small dogs it is possible for the knee to improve in stability without surgery as the body lays down scar tissue, but in most dogs adequate stabilization of the knee will usually not be achieved, and the pain and lameness will continue.
More traditional surgical treatments of CCLR involve replacing of the ligament with either a natural or synthetic material. In these procedures, natural fibrous tissue, nylon suture, or wire is used to stabilize the knee. These procedures have been used for more than half a century, and the results are good in many cases. The main concern with these procedures is that the stabilizing material can stretch or break, after which the knee is stabilized by scar tissue. This may lead to a decrease in the range of motion of the joint. We recommend extracapsular suture surgery for smaller dogs (less than 35 pounds) or when medical or financial limitations prohibit performance of a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO).
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
The most widely used technique in treatment of CCLR by board certified surgeons is the TPLO. In this technique, the lower bone of the joint (tibia) is cut and rotated to eliminate the abnormal motion of the knee during normal activity. The advantage of this procedure is that it does not rely on materials that can stretch or break to stabilize the knee. We recommend TPLO in most of our medium and large patients and particularly in more active dogs.
How the TPLO Works
Studied have demonstrated that if the lower bone of the knee (the tibia) is steeply sloped at the level of the joint, the upper bone of the knee (the femur) is always sliding down the tibia. This constant sliding places strain on the cruciate ligament, possibly causing it to fail. The TPLO procedure corrects the tibial plateau angle to eliminate the sliding and the instability of the knee and the accompanying pain and slowing the progression of osteoarthritis.
Cruciate Surgery at Peak
Cruciate surgery at Peak Veterinary Referral Center is performed by a highly experienced and caring team who prioritize your pet’s welfare. Dr Schulz has been performing cruciate surgery including TPLO for over 15 years. He served as chief of surgery at the University of California and has published over 60 manuscripts in canine orthopedics. He is an author of several books including Small Animal Surgery, Small Animal Arthroscopy, and the Pet Lovers Guide to Joint Problems and Osteoarthritis.
At Peak we feel it is important to educate owners and help them make the best decision for their pet and their family. In many cases surgery may be performed the same day as your initial appointment.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common diseases of dogs, affecting up to 25% of all dogs during their lifetime. The hip and knee are the most common locations but have dramatically different causes and treatments.
The majority of osteoarthritis of the hip is due to hip dysplasia. This disease is a result of genetics which leads to poor hip conformation and laxity and subluxation (loose joints) while the dog is young. As the dog ages the joints actually tighten up but the resulting poor fit of the joint (incongruence) leads to grinding of cartilage and inflammation of the joint. Many adult dogs with severe hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis have no normal cartilage remaining in their hip joint.
The common signs of osteoarthritis of the hips in dogs are limping and exercise intolerance. Exercise intolerance is actually the most common while fewer dogs actually limp with hip dysplasia.
There are two broad categories of management of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis in dogs. They are medical and surgical. It is important to remember that even when surgical management is elected, medical management may be necessary still. This is particularly true when one hip receives surgical therapy but the opposite side remains diseased.
Medical management of hip dysplasia includes 5 treatment principles:
management of body weight
moderation of exercise
Surgery for hip dysplasia is indicated when medical management no longer maintains quality of life and function. It may also be indicated when medical management causes complications. The decision to pursue surgical treatment should be made by the owner in consultation with the veterinarian but the owner must decide on quality of life.
There are two surgical options for the mature dog with hip osteoarthritis. They are femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHO) and total hip replacement (THR).
FHO is an excellent option in small dogs (and cats). In this surgery the ball of the ball and socket joint is removed. The hip then works by having the leg supported by the gluteal muscles. (This procedure was developed for treatment of hip infection in people.) Because of their small body weight small dogs and cats tolerate this procedure very well. In larger dogs the outcome is not always as good but it may be necessary for financial or medical (infection) reasons. Ultimately the outcome of this procedure is unpredictable but is probably improved by combining the procedure with professional physical therapy.
Total hip replacement has been performed in thousands of dogs in the US and the world. The outcome is generally excellent in 85% to 90% of dogs; however when complications occur they can be frustrating and expensive. Traditionally THR was always performed as late in life as possible because of concern for the implants wearing out. The development of cementless implants (left) allows THR in patients as young as 8 months of age.
For additional information about Total Hip Replacement download PDF
The Tightrope technique is an excellent alternative to the TPLO for treatment of cruciate ligament rupture in dogs of any size. This technique works similar to older suture techniques but is significantly stronger and simpler. The tightrope technique is stronger because it relies on small bone tunnels and stainless steel surgical “buttons” to secure the suture. This is much stronger than traditional methods of securing the suture. In addition, the suture is human orthopedic surgical grade material which is far superior to traditional materials used to stabilize the knee of dogs.
The Tightrope technique is an alternative for clients who are concerned with the bone cutting required in the TPLO. The Tightrope can be performed with arthroscopic assistance so only a few small incisions are required.
Studies to date suggest that the Tightrope has excellent results similar to those of the TPLO.
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For additional information about Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture download PDF
Elbow dysplasia and the secondary arthritis are the most common causes of foreleg lameness in dogs. Fragmented coronoid process (FCP) is the most common form of elbow dysplasia in dogs. In this disease, a fragment of bone and cartilage of one of the bones of the elbow joint (ulna) is broken off. More important, the rest of the joint may be normal or there may be additional cartilage damage, including severe full-thickness cartilage loss. Damage to the cartilage in dogs with elbow dysplasia is called Medial Compartment Disease because it commonly results in severe erosion of the cartilage of the medial aspect of the joint.
For additional information about Sliding Humeral Osteotomy download PDF
Diagnosis of FCP and Medial Compartment disease (MCD)
Diagnosis of FCP and MCP can be challenging. The diagnosis is initially based on a careful orthopedic examination. X-rays (radiology) are of limited use in the diagnosis of FCP. The FCP fragment and damage to the cartilage cannot be seen on x-rays. We recommend arthroscopy for the diagnosis of FCP and MCD because it allows early and accurate diagnosis and treatment
Dogs with Medial Compartment Disease usually require more continuous medical treatment of osteoarthritis and owners should consider additional surgical treatment options.
Advanced surgical treatments of Medial Compartment Disease include Sliding Humeral Osteotomy (SHO) and total elbow replacement.
Total elbow replacement may be indicated when the cartilage is severely damaged throughout the elbow joint. Numerous total elbow replacements have been designed over that last 15 years and to date none has been proven to be safe and effective enough for routine use.
Sliding Humeral Osteotomy
Sliding Humeral Osteotomy (SHO) was developed in the Orthopedic Research Laboratory of the University of Californita by Dr Schulz. This procedure is based on similar procedures that are performed on people for arthritis of the knee. The procedure realigns the limb to shift the forces off of the area of cartilage damage and back on to healthy cartilage. This relieves the pain of grinding of bone on bone and gives the damaged joint an opportunity to heal.
The sliding humeral osteotomy procedure is the result of almost 10 years of laboratory research. These studies have demonstrated that the sliding humeral osteotomy significantly decreases joint pressure in the medial side of the elbow joint.
Over the last 3 years the SHO procedure has been performed in over 70 dogs. Careful clinical studies have been performed to evaluate the efficacy of this procedure. The majority of dogs undergoing SHO have decreased lameness by 12 weeks postoperatively with many dogs having no visible lameness at a 26 week evaluation. The owner satisfaction rate following SHO has been nearly unanimous.
Surgeons performing the SHO procedure are all highly experienced orthopedic veterinary surgeons. They have completed a course covering the theory, indications, and application of the SHO technique.
If you are interested in the SHO procedure or to locate a surgeon in your area contact:
Osteochondrosis of the shoulder joint is a common cause of lameness in dogs. Fortunately the outcome with surgical treatment is generally excellent when arthroscopy is performed early in life.
What is OCD of the shoulder?
OCD (osteochondrosis dessicans) is probably the leading cause of osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint. Shoulder OCD occurs when a piece of cartilage separates from the underlying bone. Pain is due to inflammation of the joint and exposure of nerves in the bone under the cartilage flap.
Shoulder OCD in dogs has been demonstrated to be a genetic disease and cannot be caused by diet or exercise although excessive exercise in a dog with untreated shoulder OCD may make the lameness more severe.
OCD of the shoulder is usually found in young dogs ranging from 6 months to 2 years of age.
The clinical sign of shoulder OCD is lameness of one or both forelegs. Dogs with shoulder OCD may have trouble getting up and often have some muscle loss and pain when the joint is moved.
How is Shoulder OCD Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of shoulder OCD is usually straightforward because most lesions are easy to see on radiographs (x-rays) of the shoulder joint. The normal curve of the joint surface is interrupted by a flat area representing the abnormal cartilage.
How is Shoulder OCD Treated?
Treatment of shoulder OCD should be strongly considered by dog owners because surgical removal of the flap almost always results in elimination of the lameness whereas nonsurgical management often results in continued limping and may result in severe osteoarthritis later in life.
Removing the cartilage flap lets the underlying bone heal, stops the irritation of the joint, and keeps the flap from moving into another part of the joint where it might cause other problems. We strongly recommend using arthroscopy to remove the flap to avoid large incisions and for a faster recovery.
Are there complications?
Complications with arthroscopic treatment for shoulder OCD are very rare (less than 2 percent). The most common complication is swelling of the shoulder that resolves in several days. Anesthetic complications, infection, or nerve damage are very uncommon.
What is the outcome of treatment?
The outcome with arthroscopic treatment of shoulder OCD is generally excellent with complete resolution of lameness over several months following surgery. Physical therapy can accelerate the recovery. In most cases there is little residual arthritis which may be apparent after very heavy exercise or as the dog becomes much older.
Arthroscopic Surgery at Peak
Arthroscopy at Peak Veterinary Referral Center is performed by a highly experienced and caring team who prioritize your pets welfare. Dr Schulz has been performing arthroscopy for over 15 years and is an author of the only textbook on small animal arthroscopy. In many cases surgery may be performed the same day as your initial appointment and because arthroscopy is minimally invasive, many patients may go home the same day.
Dr Schulz served as chief of surgery at the University of California and has published over 60 manuscripts in canine orthopedics. He is an author of several books including Small Animal Surgery, Small Animal Arthroscopy, and the Pet Lovers Guide to Joint Problems and Osteoarthritis.
At Peak we understand the importance of your pet to your lives. Our philosophy is to educate owners and help them make the best decisions for their pet and their family.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common diseases of dogs, affecting up to 25% of all dogs during their lifetime. Osteoarthritis of the hip and knee are the most common locations but have dramatically different causes and treatments.
The majority of osteoarthritis of the hip is due to hip dysplasia. This disease is a result of genetics which lead to poor hip conformation and laxity and subluxation (loose joints) while the dog is young. As the dog ages the joints actually tighten up but the resulting poor fit of the joint (incongruence) leads to grinding of cartilage and inflammation of the joint. Many adult dogs with severe hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis have no normal cartilage remaining in their hip joint.
Exercise intolerance is actually the most common while fewer dogs actually limp with hip dysplasia.
In young dogs one of the most common signs of hip dysplasia is “bunny hopping” where the dog uses both hind limbs simultaneously.
Medical management of hip dysplasia include 5 treatment principles.
Management of body weight
Moderation of exercise
THERE ARE SEVERAL SURGICAL OPTIONS FOR THE YOUNGER DOG WITH HIP DYSPLASIA. THEY ARE-
x-ray of arthritic hips from hip dysplasia
juvenile pubic symphodesis (JPS)
triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO)
femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHO)
total hip replacement (THR)
JPS is a technique of correcting the anatomy of the pelvis in a dog that is still growing. This relatively simple technique changes the anatomy of the pelvis by changing the rate of growth at one of the growth centers. This procedure is only effective in puppies under 20 weeks of age.
In JPS an electroscalpel is used to slow the growth of the pelvis at the pubic symphysis.
Triple Pelvic Osteotomy
Triple pelvic osteotomy has the same effect as JPS in increasing the coverage of the socket of the pelvis over the ball of the femur. In this procedure the pelvis is cut and rotated because the skeleton is or is nearly completely grown. Triple pelvic osteotomy is a common and safe procedure that is usually very well tolerated by dogs. In most cases they are walking on the operated leg immediately after surgery.
FHO is an excellent option in small dogs (and cats). In this surgery the ball of the ball and socket joint is removed. The hip then works by having the leg supported by the gluteal muscles. Because of their small body weight small dogs and cats tolerate this procedure very well. In larger dogs the outcome is not always as good . Ultimately the outcome of this procedure is unpredictable but is probably improved by combining the procedure with professional physical therapy.
Cementless (left) and cemented (right) total hip replacements
Total hip replacement has been performed in thousands of dogs in the US and the world. The outcome is generally excellent in 85% to 90% of dogs; however when complications occur they can be frustrating and expensive. Traditionally THR was always performed as late in life as possible because of concern for the implants wearing out. If you are considering total hip replacement in your dog please see our handout on total hip replacement in the dog.
Osteoarthritis of the elbow joint is the most common cause of foreleg lameness in dogs. Most of the arthritic diseases of the elbow are considered forms of developmental elbow malformation (dysplasia).
Elbow dysplasia refers to a group of congenital diseases of the elbows of dogs, which include:
Fragmented coronoid process (FCP)
Medial compartment disease (MCD)
Osteochondrosis dessicans (OCD)
Ununited anconeal process (UAP)
Incomplete ossification of the humeral condyle
FCP and Medial Compartment Disease
Fragmented coronoid process (FCP) is the most common form of elbow dysplasia in dogs. In this disease, a fragment of bone and cartilage of one of the bones of the elbow joint (ulna) is broken off. The rest of the joint may be normal or there may be additional cartilage damage, including OCD or severe full-thickness cartilage loss. This is termed Medial Compartment Disease and unfortunately can occur in dogs as young as 1 year of age.
FCP and medial compartment disease are best diagnosed and initially treated with arthroscopy. Arthroscopy is the fastest, most effective, and least invasive method for fragment removal. Advanced medical options for treatment of Medial Compartment Disease include joint injections with Hyaluronan or autogenous Stem Cells (link to stem cell page).
Advanced surgical treatments of Medial Compartment Disease include Sliding Humeral Osteotomy (SHO) and total elbow replacement. Sliding Humeral Osteotomy was developed in the Orthopedic Research Laboratory of the University of Californita by Dr Schulz and is currently in clinical trials with very positive results. For more information on this procedure please see our handout on Sliding Humeral Osteotomy
For additional information about Elbow Dysplasia download PDF
Osteochondrosis dessicans (OCD) is an abnormality in the development of cartilage that leads to a cartilage flap. In the elbow this occurs on the humerus and can usually be detected on radiographs.
Treatment of elbow OCD involves removing the loose cartilage flap by arthroscopy. Removal of the cartilage flap may enable the underlying bone to heal with fibrous cartilage tissue, stopping the irritation of the opposing cartilage surface. OCD is best treated by elbow arthroscopy.
Ununited Anconeal Process
The anconeal process is the top part of one of the bones of the elbow called the ulna. In some dog breeds, especially German shepherds, this fragment of bone may fail to unite with the rest of the ulna during a puppy’s growth in the first year of life. When this occurs, the loose fragment contributes to joint instability and inflammation.
Diagnosis of ununited anconeal process is easily made with x-rays in dogs older than 6 months. Treatment involves surgical techniques to either remove or stabilize the bone fragment. The key to successful surgery of ununited anconeal process is early diagnosis when the osteoarthritis is not yet severe and the body is still able to heal the fragment to the remainder of the bone.
Incomplete Ossification of the Humeral Condyle
Incomplete Ossification of the Humeral Condyle (IOHC) is an uncommon disease of the elbow joint seen most often in Spaniel breeds. In this disease two of the parts of the humeral bone fail to unite. The end result is a permanent crack in the upper bone of the elbow joint. IOHC is very difficult to diagnose on x-rays because the crack in the bone is very narrow. The crack is however easily seen by arthroscopy. Treatment of IOHC is to place a screw across the bottom of the humerus (humeral condyle) and the bone crack to stabilize the bone and prevent future fracture.
Arthroscopic Surgery at Peak Veterinary Referral Center
Arthroscopy at Peak is performed by a highly experienced and caring team who prioritize your pets welfare. Dr Schulz has been performing arthroscopy for over 15 years and is an author of the only textbook on small animal arthroscopy. In many cases surgery may be performed the same day as your initial appointment and because arthroscopy is minimally invasive, many patients may go home the same day.
Dr Schulz served as chief of surgery at the University of California and has published over 60 manuscripts in canine orthopedics. He is the author of several books including Small Animal Surgery, Small Animal Arthroscopy, and the Pet Lovers Guide to Joint Problems and Osteoarthritis.
At Peak we understand the importance of your pet to your lives. Our philosophy is to educate owners and help them make the best decisions for their pet and their family.
Arthroscopy is the most advanced surgical technique for examination and treatment of joint diseases. In arthroscopy the surgeon makes a small incision and inserts a pen sized instrument (arthroscope) to work inside the joint. Arthroscopy provides better visualization and greater opportunities for treatment of joint disease while being much less invasive than traditional surgery. Many arthroscopy patients can be treated on an out-patient bases.
Dr. Kurt Schulz is a internationally recognized leader in the field of veterinary arthroscopy. He is an author of the only textbook available on small animal arthroscopy. (link to Amazon page?) and lectures and instructs arthroscopy courses nationally and internationally. He developed arthroscopy techniques and instrumentation during his 10 years as a faculty at the University of California Davis performing an average of 5 to 10 cases a week.
Diseases of dogs commonly treated with arthroscopy include:
Arthroscopic view of a normal (top) and ruptured cranial cruciate ligament.