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What is Septic Shock?

There are two categorizations of bacterial infection in dogs — bactermia and sepsis. Bactermia is a temporary presence of bacteria in the blood stream, while sepsis is when bacteria are in the bloodstream for a longer period of time, causing illness. When sepsis becomes severe, septic shock can occur.

Symptoms are broken down into early and late stages. Early stage symptoms may include increased heart rate, shaking, fever, and rapid breathing. Late stage symptoms may include low body temperature, difficulty breathing and organ failure. Treatment of sepsis typically requires IV fluids, antibiotics, cardiovascular support, insertion of feeding tubes, and others, up to and including surgery. While recovery from sepsis depends on the severity and underlying conditions, most cases in which the pet has gone into septic shock have a grim prognosis.

While there are thousands of different types of bacteria in the world, only a few kinds can cause disease. Bacteria enter the bloodstream on a regular basis though this usually occurs in small quantities. When there are more bacteria than the white blood cells are able to remove, an infection develops. There are varying degrees of infection. For example, bactermia is a more temporary infection and rarely exhibits any symptoms. Sepsis, on the other hand, is when the bacteria in the blood stream cause illnesses. Sepsis is more severe and will exhibit symptoms. A septic shock is a severe form of sepsis.

Septic Shock Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $9,500

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Septic Shock in Dogs

Symptoms of sepsis may vary depending on the severity and progression of the condition, as well as the underlying causes of the septic condition. Symptoms are typically broken down into two stages of progression, early and late.

  • Early stages:
    • Shaking
    • Fever
    • Weakness
    • Confusion
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Bounding pulses
    • Rapid rise in temperature
    • Rapid breathing or panting
    • Decrease in urinary output
    • Glucose deficiency in bloodstream
    • Red mucous membranes
  • Late stages:
    • Pale mucous membranes
    • Inconsistencies in pulse
    • Cool extremities
    • A daze-like condition
    • Low body temperature
    • Organ failure
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Fluid retention
Types

When illness develops from an excess of bacteria, there are two categorizations used to identify the severity of illness.

  • Bactermia is a term used to describe a presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. Temporary bactermia may occur with dental procedures, because the bacteria in and around the gums are freed into the bloodstream. This can also occur when bacteria from the intestine passes into the bloodstream, but these are removed when the blood then passes through the liver. Cases of bactermia are usually not serious.
  • Sepsis, commonly referred to as septic shock, is when illness results from bacteria and/or their toxins remaining in the bloodstream for a period of time. Sepsis is less common than bactermia and usually occurs when there’s an infection at some other place in the body, such as the lungs, stomach, or urinary tract. Sepsis can also occur when there is surgery being done on an infected area of the body. The risk of sepsis can be increased by the presence of a foreign body. Animals with immune system disorders are more vulnerable to sepsis. Septic shock is an extreme condition of sepsis.
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Causes of Septic Shock in Dogs

Cytokines, which are substances the immune system produces to fight infections, and toxins produced by bacteria is often the cause of sepsis. These substances cause dilation of the blood vessels, which leads to a drop in blood pressure. The flow of blood is reduced, including blood flow to important organs like the kidneys and brain. The body tries to compensate for this by increasing heart rate so that more blood is pumped. Over time this weakens the heart and blood flow is even further reduced. Sepsis most regularly originates from the GI tract, respiratory tract, severe dental problems, chronic UTIs, and infected wounds.

Conditions that may increase the likelihood of sepsis:

  • Surgery, especially if the location of the surgery is infected
  • Existing infections
  • Immune system disorders
  • Pneumonia
  • Uterine infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Skin infection
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Diagnosis of Septic Shock in Dogs

Diagnosis of septic shock may require a variety of tests.

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests that look at levels of white blood cells, oxygen levels, platelet count, lactic acid concentration and levels of metabolic waste products.
  • Electrocardiogram, looking for heart irregularities.
  • Blood cultures to identify the infectious bacteria.
  • Urinalysis
  • Urine culture
  • X-Rays of the chest and abdomen
  • Ultrasound of stomach and heart
  • If there is abnormal fluid found in the chest or stomach, a fluid analysis should be completed.
  • Catscan or MRI

Because sepsis is an infection of the blood, your vet will look for certain findings in the blood work that is done. This can include the following:

  • Increased or decreased count of white blood cells
  • Very high or very low blood sugar
  • Increased or decreased count of red blood cells, from dehydration or anemia
  • An increase in liver enzymes
  • An increase in kidney values
  • Abnormal clotting
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Treatment of Septic Shock in Dogs

Sepsis treatment is focused on removing the source of the infection, with a secondary goal of treating the symptoms. Possible treatments that achieve this include:

  • IV fluids to increase blood pressure
  • Antibiotic therapy
  • Cardiovascular support
  • Colloid and vasopressor administration
  • Drugs to increase blood flow to vital organs
  • Nutritional management
  • Administration of oxygen
  • Placement of feeding tubes, due to a decreased appetite and struggle eating
  • Surgery, typically used to drain abscesses or remove dead tissue.
  • Persistent monitoring for any change in status, particularly in clotting, hydration, and organ functionality.
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Recovery of Septic Shock in Dogs

Close monitoring is an essential part of the recovery process. Your vet may do follow-up tests, such as blood work, and will focus on organ function, hydration, and potential clotting. Treatment and follow-up will likely be completed in the hospital to monitor indicators of relapse—such as white blood cell count, blood sugar level, red blood cell count, liver enzymes, kidney values, and clotting. While recovery of sepsis depends largely on the severity of the condition and the underlying issues that led to sepsis, conditions in which the pet goes into septic shock have a grim prognosis.

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Septic Shock Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $9,500

Average Cost

$3,500

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Septic Shock Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Kiwi

dog-breed-icon

Miniature Pinscher

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating. Vomiting

Hi, my dog was recently operated for pyometra. She was in heat maybe 1 - 1 1/2 month ago and afterward she was lethargic, vomiting, not eating, bloated stomach. So we took her to the vet, they did a CBC test and noticed that she had a very high count of white blood cells. (46,000) They gave us antibiotics. We returned the next day because she still didn’t eat and the second visit we mentioned she was recently in heat. The vet then ordered an X-ray exam and noticed an enlarged uterus and he said it was filled with pus. They performed immediate surgery and removed her uterus intac. They tell us she has to say with them for a minimum of at least 3 days so they can monitor her. We are told she is given IV FLUIDS and two different types of antibiotics. We were notified that my dog still doesn’t want to eat DAY 1 POST OP and they can’t release her if she doesn’t eat. They say that she is in very great spirits though. 3 days POST OP and still having same problem, she won’t eat and she is vomiting some. They performed another CBC test and she still has a high blood cell count. They tell us it’s a blood infection from pyometra. My question is... what is the proganois? Will my dog survive? What is the mortality rate? My dog is also 11 years old.

May 16, 2018

Kiwi's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is always good practice to ensure that a dog is eating and drinking after surgery; severe infections like pyometra can take a toll on a patient and may take some time for recovery. I don’t have any statistics, especially since there are many variables, but with antibiotic and fluid therapy the prognosis is more favourable; however I cannot give a specific prognosis without personally examining Kiwi. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 16, 2018

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Sugar

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

4 Days

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hello, I have a lab that became septic very quickly and for no known reasons. She hadn’t had surgery or been ill prior to going lethargic. She spent 3 days in the hospital on fluids and came home on antibiotic and special dietary food. I believe we caught it early. After we finished the antibiotic, she seemed great and was her old self again for a week. She then quickly went lethargic again and appeared to have relapsed or gotten it again. I’m trying to figure out if this is normal or if it is possible that there is something at my home that caused it again as opposed to it being a relapse. Could she be ingesting something in the yard that is causing it? Any thoughts are appreciated. She is a lab and does like to get into things, but would the bacteria go septic that quickly? Or is it more likely a relapse?

April 20, 2018

Sugar's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

For Sugar to be having that problem repeatedly, there is probably something that is causing the ongoing problem, whether it is an internal problem or something that she is eating that is affecting her GI tract that dramatically. Without knowing more about her, it is hard for me to comment, but an ultrasound might be in order to search for any masses or abscesses, and if she is known to eat things that she should't, paying close attention to her and not letting that happen would be a good idea until you determine what the problem is. I hope that she is okay.

April 20, 2018

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Cali

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Lab/Pit mix

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting, Diarrhea, Tachycardia,

Hello. Three weeks ago my dog started vomiting in the early hours of the morning. About 2 very small piles. Then at 11 am she vomited a large pile of very mucousy undigested kibble. She started to become lethargic so I brought her to the vet. Blood told of high WBCs and globulins. They gave her fluids and she perked up a bit. They told her to bring her back the next morning if she was any more lethargic and sure enough she was VERY lethargic the next morning. Needless to say took her to the emergency vet. Took them a few hours to get her heart beat down..its was VERY fast. They got it down, ran blood work again, low sugar, and elevated liver enzymes. they kept her over the weekend. Then on Monday brought her to the cardiologist.Her beat was steady but xrays showed enlarged heart, and VERY small pockets of fluid in the abdomen which they checked and didnt see any bacteria. The doc sent her home on anti arrhythmics but her heart still beats very fast to this day..but she runs around barks eats and drinks water. She gets somewhat lethargic at night. No one can tell me what caused this arrhythmia and why it isnt going away. Any thoughts? Was this septic shock that gave her a lasting arrhythmia that requires meds for the rest of her life?

April 13, 2018

Cali's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I wish that I had an answer for you, but without being able to look at her lab work, and test results, as well as examine her, I don't have any way to know what might be going on with her. It would be a good idea to follow up with the cardiologist, as they should be able to give you an idea as to why this is happening and what the expected recovery is. If they did not explain it to you well, you have every right to ask. Sometimes we get busy and we forget that we need to slow down and explain things. I hope that she does well.

April 13, 2018

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Trina

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Pit bull

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Vomiting, Lethargy

Hello, my dog was viciously attacked by another dog about a month ago. It took us a little bit to find her since we weren't home when it happened. We rushed her to the ER, and she has been in and out of the hospital since. She is on Baytril shots for infection, something else for inflammation (injectable also), and a liquid medication to line her stomach. She keeps vomiting brown stuff, and she has ruptured sores everywhere. Our vet says that is a good sign, I am just very frustrated that she isn't getting better. Can you tell me if there is something else we could be doing?

Jan. 21, 2018

Trina's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I'm not sure the details of what is happening with Trina, what medications she is on or for how long, or what your veterinarian sees as a good sign? Dog bite wounds can be very nasty, and resistant bacteria are often a problem. If a bacterial culture hasn't been done, that might be a good idea to make sure the the antibiotics are working. You can also ask your veterinarian more questions and find out what might be causing this extended recovery from the attack, as I am sure that they have theories and might be able to answer more of your questions if they are aware that you are concerned. I hope that Trina continues to recover well.

Jan. 21, 2018

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Reese

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Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Bile Duct Blockage

On New Year’s Day My 10 year old female chihuahua started acting very lethargic, wouldn’t eat and urine was orange. I thought she probably had an uti. I called her vet Tuesday morning and they said they could see her at 4:15. They did blood work and all of her liver enzymes were through the roof (she just had her 6 month check up on 12/6 and everything was fine). I was told she needed to be in IVs so I took her the emergency vet to get fluids and antibiotics overnight. The next morning I took her to the internal medicine vet. After a sonogram it was determined her gallbladder was the problem but it wasn’t hardened or ruptured so emergency surgery wasn’t necessary. She stayed another night with internal medicine on IVs / antibiotics. The next morning her liver enzymes were no better so I was referred to the surgeon. The surgeon performed the surgery Thursday evening. The problem was not the gallbladder but a blockage in the bile duct. So he cleared the blockage and rerouted the duct. The next morning her labs were better but she wasn’t well enough to come home and They wanted to give her a blood transfusion On Saturday morning when we went to see her, the news wasn’t good. Her vitals weren’t good and liver enzymes continued to rise. The last thing to try was a plasma transfusion. Sunday morning we were there to see her at 8:30 am. Overnight she started having trouble breathing so she was in the oxygen kennel. Her bilirubin had increased and she was obviously struggling. We made the decision to go ahead and let her go. We tried everything we could and nothing seemed to help. Is there something else we should have done?

Jan. 10, 2018

Reese's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I'm so sorry for your loss. It seems that you did everything recommended. Sometimes, things just aren't fair, and despite everyone's best attempts, things don't turn out the way that we pray that they will. Again, I am very sorry for your loss of Reese.

Jan. 10, 2018

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Sam

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

Four Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

We had this dog, Sam, a shih tzu for just a month. He died just yesterday and he's only four months. I have to admit that due to our lack of knowledge about this particular breed, he suffered. One day he's so jolly as a young pup should be; next morning he's having symptoms. He vomitted early morning then there's wrong with his breathing which is the first time I heard. I thought he's just recovering from vomiting but it continued for hours. I did plan to bring him to the vet because he just won't sleep and I'm getting worried since it's very unusual of him to not sleep. Texted the vet if he's in the clinic. Got a reply too late. He died in my lap. We tried to bring him to other vets available in the area but he didn't make it. It is just really sad.

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Pepe

dog-breed-icon

Chihuahua Shi-tsu

dog-age-icon

13 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Shivering And Unable To Stand/Walk

My 13 year old Shi-Tzu-Chihuahua mix had eaten something off the sidewalk during a walk. I don't know what it was but I heard him crunching on it. He never eats stuff off the ground. The next day he had a normal bowel movement, but in the evening he was straining to poop and water was coming out of his rectum. It didn't look like diarrhea so I thought it would be better after eating a bland diet for a while. The next day he acted normal in the morning, but by 2 pm he had trouble walking and he was shivering all over. I comforted him and let him rest till dinner. By 5:30pm he couldn't stand up. At 6:00pm I took him to an animal hospital. The Doctor evaluated him, but did not accurately diagnose sepsis. She thought the shivering could be from back or hip pain. His temp was only 103f. So she sent us home with pain meds and said if he wasn't better in a day or 2 take him to your vet and get x-rays. By 10pm my dog couldn't stand or walk, so I slept with him on the floor and by 6am he was dead. After he died I researched symptoms of perforated stomach/bowel and sepsis. I learned that he had all the classic symptoms of sepsis - not eating, elevated heart rate, shallow rapid breathing, drooling, dehydration, lethargy, straining to defecate, difficulty standing or walking. I'm sad that the Vet did not take the symptoms seriously, but I'm glad he came home and died by my side rather than in the hospital overnight. By the time he started shivering it was too late and even with treatment sepsis is usually fatal. I don't blame the doctor, but I'm disappointed that she missed the signs. R.I.P Pepe.

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Miley

dog-breed-icon

Yorkie

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, Labored Breathing

My 10 year old yorkie was feeling lethargic she didn’t follow me around that was on a Friday. I thought maybe she was tired of the walk from yesterday. So I took her to the vet on Saturday they ran many test CBC looked fine, glucose was a little low. She also had mammary tumors but was told they were not cancerous. They thought maybe she had Addison disease or pancreas cancer. They ran test to make sure it wasn’t that but the results did not come back until Tuesday of next week. I took her home with antibiotics, steroids and pain meds, she looked fine. On Sunday morning I had to take her again to the vet because she had fever and it kept on going up they had her on IV fluids and antibiotics. They did another blood test glucose looked fine but her CBC started to go up not much just by 5 numbers. She wasn’t spayed so they thought maybe she had Pyometra. I was sent to the ER to have her get surgery, but after surgery the vet told me she didn’t have Pyometra and the checked her pancreas and didn’t see any tumors the only finding was her liver was a little enlarged noting to worry about. She looked fine she eat a little and drank water. They kept her in IV fluids antibiotics and pain meds over the night. Picked her up on Monday afternoon she looked bad. She was sent with pain meds antibiotics and appetite stimulation. She had labored breathing and her eyes were very red. In the sun she looked blind so took her to the vet again and was told she had two ulcers one in each eyes got medicine. Got home she ate a little drank a lot of water but was very lethargic, but seemed alert of her surroundings. The next day Tuesday she was no better her tummy looked bloated, had labored breathing, not eating, drank water, lethargic so decided to take to the ER. On our way to the ER she passed away. She did not have: Pyometra Addison’s disease Pancreas cancer No parasites in blood There were no findings and I don’t know the cause of her death. Symptoms: Lethargic Labored breathing Fever Eating a little Drinking water

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Maddie

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Old English Sheepdog

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, Vomiting, Not Eating

The Wednesday after a long weekend, we came home to multiple bouts of vomit through the house. We knew she had gotten into some grapes and was watching to see if it was a reaction. Thursday we came home to slightly less vomit, by bedtime Maddie had gone down to our washroom and had severe vomiting and now lethargic. We took her to emerge and the blood work was ok, no sign of kidney failure, but dehydration. We brought her home early Friday morning, but she never gained interest in food throughout the day. Saturday morning we took her to the vet for x rays. She had a blockage in the small intestine. We brought her right to emerge again, where they had to put her on fluids to bring up her blood pressure before surgery was an option. They operated, removed a sock and some necrotic intestines and put her in recovery. The intestines hadn't perforated. Her glucose values never came up, her blood pressure was low and her heart rate around 180. In check ups previously, there was no fever, gums were good. What was the likelihood she was septic even before surgery? How fast after ingesting a foreign body can it take for sepsis to occur? We decided to put her down about 8 hours after surgery as things hadn't changed... Was this too soon? I can't help but think had we done x-rays right away when the blood work was in we may have given her a fighting chance?

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Oscar

dog-breed-icon

Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

3 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain
Fever
Lethargy
Loss Of Appetite

My dog has an abscess on his back leg ,it recently got drained and he is now being given antibiotic (Velocef),painkiller and fluids for past two days He has fever and he’s been sleeping alot because of these medications i am just concerned does he have a septicaemia ..... Is my puppy going to make it? I am trying my best but he’s in too much pain The abscess have been drained and is being cleaned regularly followed by a dressing

Septic Shock Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $9,500

Average Cost

$3,500

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