My 5 yr old dog had elbow arthrodesis last year and has very little movement in that area now. When she is running in the backyard you would not think anything was wrong. However, she limps and/or does not use that leg often. When sitting or standing she holds that leg up and does not put weight on it. What are the chances she is experiencing pain in that joint? Other than pain medication is there anything that I can do to help her?
Elbow arthrodesis is usually performed as a "salvage procedure" for a joint that is not repairable. The goals of the procedure are to alleviate pain by removal of the joint via fusion or arthrodesis. There should be no motion in the joint after an arthrodesis. Alternatives to arthrodesis include joint replacement and amputation.
It is hard to know how painful our canine patients are. This is usually assessed by evaluating function and reaction on a physical examination. Since normal function is sacrificed for pain relief after an arthrodesis, a physical examination would be the best way to tell in this case. There are many methods of pain control in dogs, and chronic pain can sometimes require a multimodal attack. Of course, there are pharmaceuticals that treat pain via different mechanisms of action, however there are also other approaches like acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, and therapeutic lasers that can be helpful.
The elbow arthrodesis procedure is not designed to restore normal function, however pain control is its primary goal. If you feel that this has not been achieved, you should continue to seek help from your veterinarian.
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