Heritability of Unilateral Elbow Dysplasia in the Dog: A Retrospective Study of Sire and Dam Influence

Front Vet Sci. 2019 Nov 22:6:422. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2019.00422. eCollection 2019.


Canine elbow dysplasia is a significant health issue affecting many breeds. Unfortunately, treatments remain relatively limited, so control of this disease often falls to selectively breeding for dogs with normal elbows. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the heritability of left-sided vs. right-sided elbow dysplasia, and to assess potential differential sire and the dam influence on offspring elbow status. In a retrospective study, elbow data from 130,117 dogs over 2 years old representing 17 breeds were obtained from the database of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and included in the study. Heritability estimates for unilateral elbow dysplasia varied between breeds (ranging from 0.01 to 0.36) and were similar between the left and right elbows. The estimated genetic correlation between disease in the left and right elbow ~1 in the majority of breeds, with the exception of the hybrids, Australian Shepherds, and the Australian Cattle Dogs, likely due to low numbers of affected individuals. The sire and dam had equal impact on the offspring's elbow status. Furthermore, there was no increased risk for the sire or dam to pass on the same unilaterality of their elbow dysplasia to their offspring. However, the overall risk of elbow dysplasia in the offspring did increase when one or both parents were affected, though this also varied based on breed. Understanding of the impact that the sire and dam have on the offspring and of the overall heritability of both bilateral and unilateral elbow dysplasia is important in guiding breeding decisions to reduce the incidence in future generations of dogs.

Keywords: breeds; dog; elbow dysplasia; heritability; sire effect.