Jul 31, 2012 11:31 AM by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP
Q: Choca is 9 and has been limping intermittently for the past few weeks. Now she will not put weight on her left, front leg. Clearly [it] is her left elbow. What are the most common possibilities (We know that diagnosis will be needed) and what are the basic charges we can expect, at least through diagnosis
A: I am sorry to hear that Choca is having pain. You are correct that an exam will be required to figure out what is wrong, and you should probably plan on some x-rays also.
When I hear a 9 year old Lab has front leg pain I think of several possibilities. Many Labs have joint problems from birth that do not manifest themselves until later in life. These issues include a shoulder problem called OCD and a group of elbow diseases that we call elbow dysplasias. Both of these scenarios can lead to some pretty nasty arthritis as our dogs age. We can also see pain in the carpus (wrist) manifest after years of wear and tear or from a sudden injury which is more likely in an older dog who is still highly active. My biggest worry would be bone cancer. A 9 year old lab is highly prone to cancer and the bone cancers can be very serious.
If diagnostics prove that you are dealing with arthritis, then the treatment will consist of weight control, some over the counter supplements and potentially an injectable product called Adequan and perhaps some oral pain control. Our hospital always takes this "multi-modal" approach to pain control in an attempt to minimize the use of stronger medications that can have side effects. If you are looking at cancer, treatment will depend on the type of cancer diagnosed and how aggressive you want to be. Amputation, chemotherapy and some "fancier" procedures are available.
Costs are almost impossible to predict. If the answer can be elucidated with just an exam and Choca doesn't need much besides some over-the-counter supplements, weight loss and rest, you get by for under $100. If Choca requires x-rays, that could add anywhere from $100-$300 depending on how many films are required. If you had to go to the extent of bone biopsies, surgery and/or chemotherapy, things will quickly get into the thousands of dollars. I can assure you that the fee for an examination will be money well spent, as Choca is surely in pain and will appreciate your efforts to help her to be more comfortable.
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