Front Leg Deformities in Dogs: What You Need to Know

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Dog with leg deformity

As pet parents, we all want our furry friends to be healthy and happy. But sometimes, dogs can develop front leg deformities that require special attention. In this article, we’ll explore common types of front leg deformities in dogs, their causes, and available treatment options.

Antebrachial Growth Deformities in Dogs

In some cases, a dog’s front leg may continue to grow while the other leg has already stopped, resulting in an irregularly-sized limb. This condition, known as antebrachial growth deformity, can cause the shorter leg’s bone to twist, bow, or overgrow at the elbow, leading to misalignment of the bones. Skye Terriers, basset hounds, and Lhasa Apsos are among the breeds that may be prone to this recessive trait.

Another front leg deformity that commonly occurs is known as elbow dysplasia, which affects the development of the point of the elbow and the surrounding muscles. This condition is more frequently seen in large and giant-breed dogs such as Bernese Mountain Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers, with males being more susceptible. Elbow dysplasia usually becomes apparent between the fifth and eighth month of a dog’s life and often affects both elbows.

Symptoms and Types

  • Bowed and twisted front leg
  • One leg longer than the other
  • Lameness, especially after exercise


Front leg deformities in dogs can have various causes, including:

  • Trauma: The most common cause, trauma can interfere with cartilage production, resulting in a halt in bone elongation.
  • Osteochondrosis: This disease disrupts the change of cartilage to bone and is believed to have genetic, nutritional, and traumatic components.
  • Elbow malalignment syndrome: Common in chondrodysplastic breeds like Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Corgis.
  • Nutritional deficiency: Less prevalent now due to improved nutritional standards.
  • Congenital: Rarely seen in dogs, this form of deformity presents with severely bowed front legs and possible ankle dislocation.
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To diagnose front leg deformities, your veterinarian will likely order X-rays of the entire limb, including the elbow. These X-rays help compare the lengths of the bones and determine if the muscles in the elbow are properly attached. Additionally, bone enlargement, inflammation of the bone structure, and flexor muscle spasms may indicate antebrachial growth deformities.

Treatment Options

The appropriate treatment for front leg deformities depends on the underlying cause. If the deformity is due to a genetic predisposition, your veterinarian will discourage breeding the dog. In cases of injury-induced deformities, surgery may be recommended to repair the damage. This surgical intervention involves removing any abnormal cartilage or bone and restoring the joint’s normal function. Arthroscopic removal might be preferred over a surgical incision, especially for fragmented coronoid process (FCP).

Living and Management

If surgery is necessary, your dog will require special care for several weeks after returning home. This includes maintaining a healthy body weight, managing pain, and administering non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications as prescribed. Consequently, it may be beneficial to confine your pet in a cage to limit strenuous activity during the recovery period.

Apart from that, follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding diet supplements and weight management, particularly in larger dogs. Joint misalignment can lead to arthritic pain, so consult your veterinarian for guidance on relieving your dog’s discomfort.

To learn more about front leg deformities and how to care for your furry companion, visit Katten TrimSalon. Our dedicated team is here to provide expert advice and support for your pet’s well-being.

Remember, a little extra care and attention can go a long way in ensuring that your four-legged friend lives a happy and healthy life.

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