Ununited anconeal process is a form of elbow dysplasia that is inherited. This condition is present at birth and can range in severity from mild and relatively unnoticeable to a severe impairment in the dog's ability to move. In some cases ununited anconeal process is very painful on an ongoing basis for the puppy or dog, while in others the pain seems minimal and may only flare up if the dog is exercised more than usually or has been relaxed for a long period of time and then suddenly gets up to move.
Ununited anconeal process is inherited by a polygenetic factor, which means that more than one gene combination causes the condition. This complicates the ability to simply breed out the condition within a line or breed since there are many different genes that could be involved. Ununited anconeal process is most commonly found in larger, heavy breeds such as the German Shepherd, Basset Hound and Saint Bernard although it can occur in any larger breed of dog. The anconeal process is a small, bony protrusion that is loose when the puppy is born, then, as the puppy ages, fuses with the ulna to form the support for the elbow. In some dogs with the inherited genetic condition the anconeal process does not fuse with the ulna, leaving an undeveloped area of the elbow that causes pain in movement. In normal dogs this fusion of the anconeal process and the ulna occurs before the puppy is six months old, however in affected dogs it will never fuse.
Owners will first notice signs of pain and lameness in the elbow after the puppies have played or exercised or when they are just starting to move about after resting. The pain may be in one or both legs and may come and go but will typically be worse after exercise. Often the elbow is swollen and hot to the touch and the dog will wince or pull away in pain if the area is touched or manipulated.
If left untreated the condition will become worse with time, often resulting in complete immobility for the dog. Small pieces of bone can break off the anconeal process and lodge in the elbow joint, resulting in further complications and pain. Dogs with ununited anconeal processes cannot spontaneously heal and lack of treatment even in dogs with relatively mild conditions will typically result in arthritis in the elbows as the joint continues to wear irregularly throughout the dog's life.
Thankfully surgical procedures are relatively common to correct this condition. Vets may either attach the anconeal process to the ulna using screws to fuse the bones or they may completely remove the anconeal process to eliminate the pain. New research and development of plastic joint replacement for severely affected dogs is being completed with wonderfully promising results at several research universities. Hopefully within the next few years this procedure will become more accessible and well known.
After surgery dogs will need to be immobilized until the joint and bone have healed. They will usually be put on pain medications as well as specialized diets to keep them within recommended weight ranges and avoid putting additional pressure on the joint. Most dogs will recover within a month or two but may always have a slight limp to their gait.