“Kanga”, a 6 year old Springer Spaniel, belonging to Vet Laura and her partner Charlie, presented to the Vets where Laura worked at the time, after a sudden onset of lameness on her left foreleg. Kanga was from a litter of pups bred by a family member, and sadly, they already knew that two of her siblings had fractured their elbows, so Laura was suspicious she may suffer from the same condition.
After an initial period of rest and pain relief, there was no improvement. Kanga, being very stoical, didn’t show any reaction to manipulation of her leg and when x-rayed at her Vets, no significant abnormalities were found. Due to her family history, Kanga was referred to see Joachim at Calder Vets. In the meantime, Laura had accepted a job at Calder and started work the same week!
When examined by Joachim, she actually reacted more to manipulation of her shoulder rather than her elbow. Not what we expected! Kanga then had a CT scan, a 3-D radiograph, which gives a far more detailed picture and can detect very subtle abnormalities. The CT scan revealed inflammation in her left shoulder, but more worryingly, a hair line fissure between the condyles of her humerus (the “funny bone”) on her left elbow. The right elbow scan was clear.
Incomplete Ossification of the Humeral Condyle
This is a condition called Incomplete Ossification of the Humeral Condyle (IOHC), and is most commonly diagnosed in English Springer Spaniels. As dogs grow, the two separate ends to the humerus should fuse together at the elbow. In a Springer Spaniel with IOHC, there is a failure of fusion between the humeral condyles, creating a fissure which can cause pain and lameness. Of more concern though, is this fissure leaves a weakness, greatly increasing the risk of elbow fracture, even from just a simple fall or jump down. This is exactly what happened to Kanga’s siblings, before the family knew there was an inherited link. The resulting fracture can be in the form of a lateral condylar (two piece) or bi-condylar “Y” (three piece) fracture. These fractures can be extremely tricky to treat and in some situations when the fracture is so severe, repair is not possible and amputation, or sadly even euthanasia, may be the only option.
The fissure can never be fixed or fused, but the surgeon Joachim was able to place a “lag screw” across the elbow joint from one side of the humeral condyle to the other. This metal screw bridges the gap in order to reduce the incidence of elbow fracture in the future. The screw has to be positioned perfectly and as with any surgery there are risks of surgical and wound complications.
Kanga’s surgery went smoothly and she also had steroid put in her shoulder joint to reduce the inflammation there. Her recovery has gone equally well and she is back to running around with her friend Maya.