Thanks to good breeding practices and the absence of traits that could cause harm to the dog, the Silky Terrier is a relatively healthy breed. Like all breeds, though, there are some genetic conditions to which the breed is susceptible and which need veterinary care. One of these conditions is elbow dysplasia. The word "dysplasia" simply refers to some kind of abnormal development, while the "elbow" part of the condition obviously refers to the dog's elbow; hence, the condition involves the abnormal development of the dog's elbow joint.
In elbow dysplasia, various parts of the elbow joint may develop abnormally, with something like cartilage disruption or failure to fuse being seen often; these abnormalities usually lead to inflammation, an uneven joint surface, arthritis, lameness and joint swelling. Though the primary factor behind the condition is most likely genetic, the exact cause is still unknown; experts believe that more than one gene is most likely involved and that perhaps hormonal factors may play a part in the condition. Rapid growth combined with over-nutrition and trauma may also be triggering environmental factors.
The abnormality could involve the size, shape or formation of the elbow and actually refers to a number of related abnormalities that involve the joint; these are osteochondrosis of the medial humeral condyle, an ununited anconeal process, a fragmented medial coronoid process and elbow incongruity. The humoral condyle and the coronoid and anconeal processes are simply bony bumps located around the elbow joint, on one of the two bones that make up the joint. A problem with these bumps, usually the coronoid process and humoral condyle, has to do with abnormal cartilage formation, while elbow incongruity or an ununited anconeal process occur when the bones forming the joint don't fit properly together. A dog may suffer from more than one of these conditions at the same time.
Some scientists believe that all of these abnormalities may result from the presence of one broad disease, called osteochondritis dissecans, characterized by the abnormal development of cartilage. If your dog starts showing signs of lameness, especially for no apparent reason, or any kind of joint stiffness after he as rested, it may be a good idea to bring him in to the vet for a check up. When visiting your dog, the vet will check for lameness, though this is not always an indicative factor for any of these abnormalities. More conclusive tests will involve radiographs of multiple views of the elbow joint and occasionally a CT scan will be done.
For many dogs, vets will prescribe some kind of drug regimen, including anti-inflammatory agents and nutraceuticals (a nutrient that provides medical benefits); a change in lifestyle may also be recommended, including weight control and moderate exercise. In some cases, especially in younger dogs that haven't yet developed arthritis, surgery may prove to be helpful; damaged cartilage may be removed or the ulna may be cut. These interventions may help a bit with the function of the joint, but some form of arthritis will still develop.