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Radiography of the Front Leg of the Dog


Shoulder: lateral view. This radiograph is usually made with the animal in lateral recumbency with the shoulder of interest on the down side. The limb is protracted to move the humerus away from the sternum for clearer visualisation. The tip of an endotracheal tube is superimposed on the scapula in this dog. If the tube is inadvertently superimposed over the shoulder joint, it can interfere with visualisation of the bones.

This radiograph is usually made with the animal in dorsal recumbency with the limb extended.Notice that the medial aspect of the scapulohumeral joint is wider on the medial aspect giving it a wedged-shape; this is completely normal in the dog and cat.

Large Shoulder: lateral view. An example of the shoulder in a larger dog, which has a somewhat flatter humeral head and wider glenoid fossa than the other dog.

Immature Shoulder: lateral view. The proximal humeral physis is open. This dog is 6-9m old.

Immature Shoulder Arthrogram: Lateral view. Compared to the previous radiograph, 5ml of radiographic contrast medium (iohexol @100mgI/ml) was injected into the scapulohumeral joint using a lateral approach. The joint is quite well filled, showing the caudal compartment and the cranial compartment. The cranial compartment surrounds the biceps tendon, which appears as a curvilinear filling defect within the contrast medium. This appearance is normal.

The Elbow

Immature Elbow: Lateral view. This joint belongs to a 6m old Labrador. Notice the open growth plates at the distal humerus, proximal radius and olecranon process of the ulna.

Young Elbow:
Cr-Med, Cd-Lat Oblique view. The elbow has been pronated, so the articulation between the humerus and the radius is emphasised. This radiograph is rarely made in clinical practice.

Immature Elbow: Cr-Lat, Cd-Med Oblique view. In this radiograph the elbow has been supinated, producing a view of the medial aspect of the humeral condyle and the joint between the humerus and medial coronoid process of the ulna. This view might be useful if there is fragmentation of the medial coronoid process.

Immature Elbow: Cr-Cd view. The same dog as the previous lateral. Notice the angular shape of the humeral condyle, which articulates on the lateral aspect with the radius and on the medial aspect with the medial coronoid process of the ulna. The medial aspect of the elbow is a frequent site of lesions in dogs with elbow arthritis.

Flexed Elbow:
lateral view. This radiograph, with the elbow maximally flexed, is done to examine the anconeal process. This is considered one of the first places that osteophytes develop in dogs with elbow arthritis and hence this view is frequently used by clinicians looking for signs of arthritis. Suspected ununited anconeal process is another indication for this radiograph.

The Radius and Ulna

Immature Radius and Ulna: Lateral view. This radiograph of a young cross bred dog shows the normal curved shape of the radius and the straighter ulna. Open growth plates are visible at the proximal and distal radius and ulna. The distal ulnar physis is shaped like a cone, hence has a V-shape in the radiograph. The accessory carpal bone projects on the palmar aspect of the carpus.

Immature Radius and Ulna: Cr-Cd view. This radiograph is of the same limb as the previous. The limb is relatively straight with some lateral deviation of the paw. This degree of mild lateral deviation is normal and must be distinguished from a valgus deformity, which can occur in dogs following premature closure of the distal ulna growth plate. This view is useful when examining dogs with signs of angular limb deformity.

The Carpus

Immature Carpus: D-P view. This radiograph of the carpus of a 3m old puppy shows the growth plates at the distal radius, ulna and metacarpals. Notice that in each instance the metaphysis adjacent to the open physis appears more opaque and wider than the diaphysis of the bone. This is a normal appearance and should not be misinterpreted as a sign of metabolic bone disease.

Immature Carpus: Lateral view. Radiograph of the same dog as in the dorsopalmar view. An open growth plate is visible in the accessory carpal bone.

The Manus

Manus: D-P view. In this radiograph of the manus you should be able to identify the distal radius and ulna, the proximal and distal rows of carpal bones, the metacarpals and phalanges of each digit plus a number of sesamoid bones. For example, there is a small rounded bone on the medial aspect of the carpus, which is a sesamoid in the tendon of insertion of the abductor pollicis longus and there are paired, somewhat elongated palmar sesamoids superimposed on each of the distal metacarpals of digits 2-5. The very small rounded dorsal sesamoids that exist at the metacarpal phalangeal joints are not clearly visible in this radiograph.
The carpus includes two rows of bones: adjacent to the distal radius is the wide radial carpal bone, adjacent to the distal ulna is the relatively square ulna carpal, and superimposed on the joint between these bones is a rounded, opaque structure, which represents the accessory carpal bone. The distal row of carpal bones includes numbers 1,2,3 and 4, each of which is found at the proximal end of the relevant metacarpal, although note that carpal bone 4 articulates both with the fourth and the fifth metacarpal.
Also note that the first digit (the dew claw) has a very reduced metacarpal and only two phalanges. Another feature worth mentioning is the large pad on the palmar aspect of the paw, which creates a lucent line across the distal part of the proximal phalanges that could occasionally be mistaken for a phalangeal fracture.

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