Elbow Dysplasia In German Shepherds (Complete Guide)

German shepherds are such fantastic dogs and it’s a shame that they are prone to suffer from ailments. And unfortunately, elbow dysplasia in germans shepherds is a fairly common problem. In this article, you’re going to find out what you can do to treat elbow dysplasia, as well as more useful information!

So keep reading to find out more.

What Is Elbow Dysplasia?

Elbow dysplasia is when your german shepherd’s elbow joint develops in an abnormal way. It’s a genetic condition that can be passed down by the parents of your pup.

Normally it occurs when the elbow joint tries to overcompensate for some discrepancy or incongruency which results in increased pressure in the joints. This increased pressure damages the cartilage inside the joints and that’s how elbow dysplasia develops.

What Are The Signs Of Elbow Dysplasia In German Shepherds?

Some of the signs of elbow dysplasia in german shepherds are fairly easy to spot. However, some can be a little bit harder. Here are some of the main signs of elbow dysplasia!

Nodding Their Head When Walking

One of the most common signs of elbow dysplasia is your german shepherds head bobbing up and down when they’re walking. When they walk, their head will bob down when their good leg steps forward, and then bounces back up when they’re bad leg moves forward.


You may also notice that your german shepherd limps when they put pressure on one or both of their legs. This may be because the joint feels stiff or lame, but could also be because they’re in pain.

Remember as well, if your German shepherd is constantly limping, it could be a sign of injury or arthritis as well.

Lameness After Long Periods Of Rest Or Mobility

You may also notice that your german shepherd’s stance and movements are a lot more uncomfortable after long periods of rest or mobility (such as when they’ve been sleeping or for a run). This is because the joints haven’t been used in a while so they’ve become stiffer, or they’ve been overworked.

The Joints Seem Stiff And Painful

You may also notice that your german shepherds joints seem stiff and painful when they’re suffering from elbow dysplasia. If you try to move their elbows, your pup may resist, and if they don’t resist you may notice they’re not flexible at all.

They May Not Want To Go For A Walk Or Play

You may notice that your german shepherd also seems hesitant to go for a walk, play, or run. This is probably because their elbows are feeling stiff, and they might also be causing them pain as well.

Their Elbows And Paws May Be At Wierd Angles

Lastly, your german shepherd’s paws and elbows maybe at weird angles. This is because they’re trying to find the angle that’s going to give them the least amount of discomfort. If you do notice that they’re at weird angles, then it’s a pretty good sign that they’re suffering from elbow dysplasia.

When Do The Symptoms Of Elbow Dysplasia Start Showing In German Shepherds?

If your german shepherd is suffering from elbow dysplasia then the symptoms will normally show between 5-18 months. However, if they’re mild you may not notice them until your pup is a lot older.

(Are you curious about when your german shepherd will stop growing)

How Is Elbow Dysplasia In German Shepherds Diagnosed?

If you suspect that your german shepherd has elbow dysplasia then you’ll need to take them to the vets. Once there, the vet will x-ray them and find our whether they’re suffering from elbow dysplasia, something else or nothing at all.

What Causes Elbow Dysplasia In German Shepherds?

Unfortunately, the biggest cause of elbow dysplasia in german shepherds is genetics. If the mother and father were prone to it, then the chances are that your pup will be prone to it as well.

However, there are some other factors that many people think can cause elbow dysplasia. Here are some of the other common factors.

Being Overweight As A Puppy

When your puppy is overweight they’re going to be putting extra strain on their joints. While it’s not known 100% whether this increases the chances of elbow dysplasia, the chances are it’s not going to help.

And besides, there’s a whole host of reasons you don’t want an overweight german shepherd puppy!

(Find out what to do with an overweight german shepherd.)

They’re Getting Too Much Exercise

When your german shepherd is still growing you need to make sure that they’re not doing too much exercise, or overstraining themselves. Remember, their bones and muscles need extra time to recover.

If they are getting too much exercise then they could suffer from microfractures in their bones or chipped cartilage.

(Find out how much exercise a german shepherd and german shepherd puppy should get.)

They’ve Grown Too Quickly

Another possible factor that can increase the chance of elbow dysplasia is if your german shepherd grows too quickly as they get older. This often occurs if you feed your pup a diet that is too high in nutrients.

(Find out how much you feed you should feed a german shepherd puppy.)

Is Elbow Dysplasia Painful?

Unfortunately, elbow dysplasia is often painful for german shepherds. Once their limbs go stiff or swell, it’s a sign of inflammation in the joints and pain. Fortunately, though there are ways to help alleviate the pain and treat elbow dysplasia.

(Have you ever wondered if german shepherds can swim?)

How To Treat Elbow Dysplasia In German Shepherds

Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to manage the symptoms of elbow dysplasia and make life easier for your pup. However, before anything, you should take them to see a vet. A vet will be able to suggest whether you can treat them at home, or if they need surgery.

With that being said here are some of the main ways you can help alleviate the symptoms of elbow dysplasia.

Make Sure Your German Shepherd Is A Healthy Weight

One of the first things you should do is make sure that your german shepherd is a healthy weight. If your german shepherd is overweight then it’s going to put unneeded pressure on their elbow joints, which in turn will worsen the pain your german shepherd is feeling.

So make sure you’re giving your german shepherd a high-quality dog food, that doesn’t contain too many calories or additives!

(Check out the best dog food for german shepherds puppies.)

Keep Them Active

Another thing you’ll need to make sure of is that you’re keeping your german shepherd active. However, you do need to be careful about the kind of exercise that they’re getting. Anything too strenuous could become painful for them, but if you don’t give them enough exercise then their joints are likely to become stiff.

Short walks on the lead are normally a great balance between the two. If you’re not sure how long you should walk them for just pay attention to how your pup is acting. When they’re slowing down or stopping, it’s time to end the walk.

Pain Killers Or Pain Relief

Another effective method for soothing your german shepherd’s elbow is adequate painkillers and pain relief. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are normally a great way to keep your German shepherd happy and relatively pain-free.


In some cases, physiotherapy can be used effectively to treat your german shepherd and ease their pain. As well as physiotherapy, massage therapy and hydrotherapy are all effective ways of dealing with joint pain and elbow dysplasia.

Try Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate your german shepherds joint by keeping the joints as healthy as they can be. This, in turn, can reduce some of the effects of elbow dysplasia and ease their pain.

On top of Omega-3 fatty acids, you can also try glucosamine or supplements that are injected into the affected area. However, if you’re going to use these supplements then they’ll need to be administered by a vet.


Sometimes the only suitable solution is surgery. When your german shepherd’s elbow dysplasia is too much for them the vet will tell you the next steps. There are a few common surgeries your pup is likely to have.

One common surgery involves removing the parts of the bone that are causing pain and aggravation to your german shepherd. Another surgery aims to realign the bones so that they’re back in the right place. And lastly, there’s also a surgery that attaches the bones together.

Your vet will likely refer you to a specialist who will advise you on the next steps!

Can You Prevent Elbow Dysplasia

Unfortunately, there’s no real way that you can prevent elbow dysplasia in your german shepherd. In most cases, it’s just down to genes. However, you can choose to buy your pup from a reputable breeder. Doing this often gives you the healthiest german shepherd possible and they’ll be less likely to suffer from elbow dysplasia.

Interested In Training Your German Shepherd The Right Way?

If you haven’t trained your German Shepherd properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether it’s barking at night or other bad behaviors, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally be able to trust your German Shepherd completely and never worry whether they’ll be naughty or not. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them, will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT. 

And the best part is it also has a 60-day money-back guarantee! So there’s no reason not to give Brain Training For Dogs a try!

So if you’re tired of your dog’s bad behavior, or how they react around other people and pooches, then give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

(You can also check out a full review here, to learn exactly what the course has to offer!)


Now you can see that elbow dysplasia is a common ailment in german shepherds. And while it’s a condition that will likely be with them in some form for the rest of their lives there are somethings you can do to help treat it.

If you liked this article make sure you check out the rest of the website, otherwise have a great day!