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What is Front Leg Deformity?

Depending on the reason for the deformity, there can be a breed or age predisposition. For example, Bulldogs, Lhasa Apso, and Shih Tzu are prone to angular limb deformity (ALD), while puppies can develop carpal hyperextension as they grow. Causes for front leg deformity can be injury, premature closure of the growth plate, or an inherited predisposition. The aim of treatment is to correct the deformity to give a pain-free, comfortable gait for the dog all the while preventing further damage that can result.

Front leg deformity is a condition that results in a disparity of limb length, reduced mobility in joints, and painful lameness. It can take many forms, and while your dog may not appear to be in pain, untreated front leg deformity will eventually lead to some degree of discomfort and pain for your pet. Consultation with a qualified veterinarian is imperative in order to resolve the deformity before it becomes painful for your dog.

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Front Leg Deformity Average Cost

From 63 quotes ranging from $500 - $10,000

Average Cost

$8,000

Symptoms of Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

Though your dog may not be showing signs that lead you to suspect the deformity needs to be addressed, we must remember that dogs are quite adept at working through pain, and attempting just to be themselves. However, a front leg deformity will eventually lead to more severe complications. If you see your pet exhibiting any of the signs below, a visit to the veterinarian is a must:

  • Limping or lameness
  • Discomfort when rising
  • Reduced function of the limb
  • Abnormal extension of the limb
  • Turning in of wrist to inside of leg
  • Swelling of leg
  • Grinding of joints
  • Front legs that are different lengths
  • Pain upon movement of joints
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
Types
  • Angular Limb Disorder (ALD)
    • An abnormal development of the foreleg bones (radius and ulna)
    • Can lead to shortened limb and bending or twisting of leg
    • Can be hereditary
    • Predisposition in Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers
  • Antebrachial Growth Deformity (AGD)
    • This can happen because of a premature closing of the growth plate
    • Compromises limb function and involves joint pain, decreased range of motion, and a default in normal leg length
    • Can eventually lead to osteoarthritis of the elbow and carpal joints if left untreated
  • Carpal Hyperextension
    • Puppies will have an abnormal development of ligaments that support the carpal joint
    • Older dogs will experience a degenerative hyperextension of the wrists (older Collies are predisposed)
    • Can also result from a sprain or trauma
  • Retained Ulnar Cartilage Cores
    • Occurs in young, large breed dogs
    • Is a disorder of the growth plate in the ulna
    • Bones form abnormally because the bone has not hardened properly
    • Diet may play a role
  • Elbow Dysplasia
    • Occurs when the bones that form the elbow do not fit together properly
    • Is most commonly seen in young large and giant breed canines
    • Can be genetic
    • Can progress to arthritis
  • Inherited Premature Closure of the Distal Ulnar Physis
    • Usually presents in dogs between the ages of three and five months
    • Can be seen in Basset Hounds, Welsh Corgis, and Sky Terriers
    • Results in circumduction (circular movement) of the limb
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Causes of Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

Front leg deformity can occur for a number of reasons. Many of the causes known to veterinarians are listed below:

  • Fracture
  • Degeneration
  • Injury before growth plate has matured
  • Improper alignment of bones
  • A pair of bones may have disparity in growth rate, causing one of the pair to bow
  • Trauma, or fall on a front limb
  • Damage to the blood supply of a growth plate
  • Genetics
  • Obesity during puppyhood
  • Improper diet and supplementation (deficiency in Vitamin D, excessive calcium or Vitamin C or A)
  • Foods too high in fat and protein may lead to weaker growth plates and bone
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Diagnosis of Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

With front leg deformity, the diagnosis method is similar in many cases. The veterinarian will need to take radiographs in order to diagnose the extent of the deformity, to see the extent of the hyperextension, or to assess the damage to ligaments. Checking for broken bones will also be part of the x-ray process.

Your dog may need to be sedated or put under general anesthesia for the radiographs. If additional imaging is necessary, as is sometimes the case when more detail or better clarity is required, a CT scan or MRI may be performed.

In the situation of elbow dysplasia, a technique called an arthroscopy is used to diagnose joint problems. Done under general anesthesia, this procedure allows the veterinary surgeon to view the inside of the joint. With this technique, correction of the problem is sometimes possible while in the exploratory stage.

Blood tests may be performed to check for nutritional deficiencies.

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Treatment of Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

Treatment of the deformity will depend on the cause and the extent of the problem. The goal is always to correct the position and length of the limb and regain comfortable joint movement. Of course, preventing further complications that can be secondary to the deformity is of utmost importance, too.

The treatment protocol may involve diet, surgery, splints or physical therapy. For example:

  • Antebrachial Growth Deformity
    • Corrective surgery will be done, conducive to stabilizing the limb with external or internal braces or framework. Sometimes cutting the bone, with the goal of realignment or equalizing bone length, is a success.
  • Carpal Hyperextension
    • The use of veterinary applied support splints, bandages, and physiotherapy can bring resolution. In some cases, the complete or partial fusion of the carpus is necessary. A procedure called arthrodesis is done to fuse the forelimb and paw using internal plates and screws.
  • Retained Ulnar Cartilage Cores
    • This deformity is treated with diet change. Adherence to a complete and balanced diet, with the removal of excess supplementation can have a favorable outcome.

Other treatments for front leg deformity include removal of part of a bone or plate. Some severe cases of front leg deformity will require complete amputation of the limb. It should be noted that most dogs can function very well on three legs.

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Recovery of Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

The prognosis for a dog with front leg deformity can be good; however, there can be some obstacles to face during a surgical recovery period:

  • Risk of infection around the implants
  • Breakage of the surgical repair (screws, etc.)
  • Poor bone healing

You may find that there is a need for an Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from licking the surgical site. The veterinarian will be able to provide this for you if required.

Many dogs, as they recover from surgery, have a lack of appetite. This should be of no concern for a day or two. If your pet still has no interest in food, try softening it and warming it up to increase palatability.

Constipation is often a post-surgery complication; you can expect limited bowel movements for a few days simply due to the fact that your dog did not consume much food before and after the operation. Some medication for pain and inflammation may cause constipation as well. If you are concerned, contact the veterinarian for advice.

Vomiting can occur for a period of time after the surgery. As dogs recover from the anesthesia, they can experience nausea. Allow your pet plenty of rest and quiet time to recover from the stress and fatigue of a surgical intervention. As always, let the veterinarian know how your pet is doing, and do not hesitate to contact the clinic with any questions or concerns.

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Cost of Front Leg Deformity in Dogs

There are a few different potential causes for a front leg deformity. Each potential cause has its own treatment options and overall cost. Antebrachial growth deformities can usually be fixed with surgery ($1,000-$2,800). The veterinarian may decide to cut the bone to properly realign it. Once the bone is realigned, the veterinarian will need to fit your dog for a cast ($100-$200). The total cost to treat this type of deformity ranges between $1,100 and $2,500. Carpal Hyperextension can be a little pricier to treat. The veterinarian will likely choose to fuse the carpus (arthrodesis) using plates and screws ($3,000-$5,000). The veterinarian will then stabilize the leg with a splint ($30-$60) and supportive bandages ($5-$10). It is best to follow this procedure with physical therapy ($75 per day). The overall cost of treating this deformity can vary from $3,110 to $5,145. Retained Ulnar Cartilage Cores is usually treated by changing your dog’s diet. Choosing an overall health and wellness dog food ($20-$30 per bag) usually does the trick! Your veterinarian may choose amputation ($400-$1600) to ensure the overall safety of your dog.

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Front Leg Deformity Average Cost

From 63 quotes ranging from $500 - $10,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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Front Leg Deformity Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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chawawha

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13 Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Right leg bent back at shoulder n is in so much pain please help.. ???

Jan. 4, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry your dog is having problems. Unfortunately, there is not very much that I can do over an email to help with this problem, and your dog does need to see a veterinarian right away. They will be able to figure out what is happening, and help with the pain that your dog is in.

Jan. 4, 2021

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Pit Bull

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Three Months

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Deformity

Yesterday my puppy started to walk no legged with her front legs and acting like she wanted to walk on her nails. Today, she is worse them her legs spreader apart more and I can tell she's uncomfortable.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Without being able to examine her, I can't really comment on what might be going on with her It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian who can see her, assess her gait, and see if there is a problem.

Oct. 8, 2020

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Front Leg Deformity Average Cost

From 63 quotes ranging from $500 - $10,000

Average Cost

$8,000

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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