I am a berner owner as well as member of Berner Rescue for Southern California. I can tell you that elbow dysplasia is extremely common in the breed now, as in all giant breed dogs and serves to emphasize what has happened in breeding since this breed fell into unreputable hands in the past five years. I see a lot of elbow problems in berners that we rescue and have had two this year with severe cases.
Where did you acquire your berner? If he is a puppymill/petstore dog then he came from unscrupulous breeders who did not do any health certifications
. If so, depending on where you are located, you may have good puppy lemon laws that enable you to receive compensation for all health issues from the petstore - California's lemon law is excellent but you must enact within the first year for example.
If you purchased directly from a breeder, have you spoken to your breeder? Did you get a contract with any health guarantees? If it is a backyard breeder who did not do any health certifications and did not offer a contract protecting the puppy, then unfortunately you have little recourse here.
I can tell you that I am not aware of a Board certified orthopedic surgeon that I have consulted with, including the U.S. and Canada that recommends surgery for UAP. It yields little results if any and the fact is that elbow surgery in dogs today is extremely limited and unadvanced. The orthopedic surgeon here does not recommend, as well as the one consulted at UC Davis, and the radiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. In the studies done on elbow issues in dogs, those dogs who did not have surgery did not have any more pain, lameness, DJD, or arthritis than the dogs who had surgery. Further, the dogs who had surgery in some cases had more arthritis at the invasive procedure site and more resulting lameness. The only offering of surgery is to potentially reduce DJD and arthritis, but that has not proven out.
I know one berner breeder who produced a UAP dog in both elbows. No surgery was performed in this case. With carefule monitoring, nutrition, and supplements, one elbow returned to normal and the other remained UAP, but the dog maintained a good quality of life.
We can correct hips, but not elbows. The only time elbow surgery is a good viable option in in the case of OCD to remove a flap, or if there is a joint mouse (the equivalent of walking with a rock in your shoe) that can be readily removed. Other than simple arthroscopic removal, I do not recommend an invasive procedure on the elbow.
Check out the Orthopedic Foundation's guidance on the subject:http://www.offa.org/elbowarticle.pdf
As well as join the Berner discussion group where you will find many experienced Berner owners and breeders who can share their experience with elbow issues and surgery.http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Berner-l/
I have a golden here with really bad elbows - no surgery. She runs and jumps still at age 6 but does not have UAP specifically. I feed whole fresh foods (a raw diet) avoiding inflammatory foods, give her glucosamine, celadrin, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin, yucca, willowbark, and bromelain, do acupuncture and physical therapy/massage each week, and further treat her with homeopathy. I attribute all of this, but largely diet, to her maintaining an excellent quality of life.
These joint diseases an inherited through poor breeding, but nutrition plays a pivotal role in how they are expressed and how severely. So please do not ignore all of these facets when considering his care and treatment.