How to Treat Dog Wrist Injuries: Carpal, Sprains & Hyperextension

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 05/07/21 •  11 min read
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Did you realize that your furry friend has wrists? While this is something you may not think about often, your canine has wrists and they are important for their mobility. If your pooch has an active lifestyle, there is a possibility that they might injure their wrists at some point in their lives.

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Sometimes, accidents cannot be prevented. This is a fact of life and just as much as this phrase applies to humans, it also applies to our pooches too. But the good thing is that medicine keeps on advancing. This means that there are a lot of treatment options for your furry friend and things that the vet can do to aid in their recovery and make sure they are back to their best again. There are some options you have to treat your dog’s wrist injuries, such as carpal, sprains and hypertension. Let’s break down the facts and take a look at what these conditions are and how you can help your canine.

Where is the Wrist Located on a Dog?

If you did not think your dog has wrists, you may not be familiar with where the wrists can be found on your pooch. Start by taking a look at your pup’s foreleg. The wrist is located below the elbow. The wrists are important for your canine and aid their mobility and movement in everyday life.

Just like other areas of your furry friend’s body, your pup can injure their wrists for a number of reasons. Perhaps they were in a physical accident, such as being hit by a car. Perhaps the injury occurred without you realizing at first. Maybe they were running or playing fetch and suddenly developed a limp. Either way, some treatment is going to be necessary on your canine’s wrists to ensure recovery and pain relief. The first thing you should not do is panic.

Signs that Your Dog Has Sprained the Wrist

If your pooch as injured themselves and has sprained the wrist during exercise or playtime, there are going to be some symptoms to look out for. Normally, they should be easy to spot and it will be things that are out of the ordinary for your canine. If you spot any of the following signs, it is best to arrange an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you can:

Once you arrange an appointment with your veterinarian, you can start to get to the bottom of why your pooch is suffering. If they do have a sprained wrist, your vet will be able to see this. They can carry out a physical examination. In addition, they may take this further and carry out bloodwork or take an X-ray of your pooch. This will allow them to see what is going on with the joints. In a small number of cases, an arthroscopy may be used. This is a way for the veterinarian to see inside the joint and what is going on. It is a type of minimally invasive surgery.

Once the vet knows the extent of the injury to your dog’s wrist, they will be able to recommend the appropriate treatment. There are some conservative treatment options, as well as surgery for serious cases.

The cruciate ligament in the front leg often appears in radiographs as the problem. Back legs can also show bone degeneration or a broken bone. These common injuries on a dog leg can also lead to dislocations in the forelimb. Dog’s bones are impacted by extended physical activity and at an old age osteoarthritis. A leg injury or muscle strain can be diagnosed in a physical exam done by your vet. Soft tissue injury may sometimes limit range of motion without being as serious of an issue.

Treatment for a Dog’s Sprained Wrist

If your pooch has a sprained wrist, this is going to require some treatment. But the type of treatment that is necessary will depend on the grade of the sprain given by the vet. For example, grade I sprains mean that the ligament is torn and some of the joint remains working. If your pup has a grade II sprain, there will be some more swelling and the joint is going only to be working partially. The worst-case scenario is when your canine has a grade III sprain.

This is the most severe and this is when the vet thinks that the ligament is extensively damaged or torn.

If your pooch has been classed as having a grade II or III sprain, the veterinarian may make a recommendation for your dog to have surgery. This is due to the seriousness of the injury and this procedure will help your canine make a full recovery. Since they are likely to be in some pain and discomfort, surgeries should be carried out quickly. Your veterinarian will tell you the first date that is available for your canine to have surgery. You will be told that there are some risks associated with your dog going under general anesthetic. While the risk of something happening to your pooch is low, this is still something that you should consider before surgery. Surgery can be expensive and you can expect treatment to cost from $1,000 to $5,000.

In other cases that are less severe, anti-inflammatory medicines can help your pup recover. They are able to take drugs at home to help with their recovery. During this time, a lot of rest will be necessary. This will involve limiting their exercise and playtime to allow the wrist time to heal. If your dog is active and has high energy levels, this can be difficult. However, it is going to be necessary for their recovery. Therefore, you may have to use a crate to enforce resting time for a few weeks. There are dog wrist braces that are also available that can support your canine too. For example, these wraps and supports can allow your pup time to develop scar tissue over the injury. They support the wrist, as well as the rest of the leg. They can relieve some discomfort for your pooch too.

Canine Carpal Hyperextension

Every dog is going to walk differently. Some pooches have funny walks that look like they are prancing. Other canines walk placidly and calmly like they do not have a care in the world. Then there are other beloved companions that actually have canine carpal hyperextension. This is a condition that means dogs walk with the palm or base of their paw and it is touching the ground. This is often referred to as plantigrade and this is the word you might hear from your veterinarian when they are explaining and diagnosing carpal hyperextension.

Most of the time, carpal hyperextension will happen suddenly and after an accident. This accident can rupture the palmar ligaments, which exist in the front of the foot. For example, if your dog falls when they are running or jumps awkwardly from a great height. But there are some dogs that are born with abnormalities, as well as the degeneration of certain ligaments happening over time. This is referred to as progressive palmigrade or plantigrade. As you would expect, this can happen to older pooches.

It is common to see carpal hyperextension in larger dogs. But this does not mean that smaller breeds cannot suffer from this. You should look out for common sprain signs for carpal hyperextension. This includes swelling, lameness and general discomfort. It is also possible that you can see the paw sinking to the ground when your pooch is exercising.

Forms of Carpal Hyperextension

There are different forms of carpal hyperextension that you should look out for. To begin, there is the type that will affect puppies. This is when the development of the ligaments that are supporting the carpal joint are not the way they should be. You will find that both of your canine’s wrists can be affected by carpal hyperextension. The second form to look out for involves an injury to the carpus. This happens as a result of trauma and can happen as an accident. There can be minor injuries, as well as major ones. The swelling and lameness will vary depending on the injury. The seriousness of the injury dictates the right treatment.

Then there is degenerative hyperextension that happens in the wrists. As the name suggests, this condition develops over time and is usually seen in older furry friends. In particular, one breed that commonly suffers from degenerative hyperextension is the Collie. The good thing that you should realize is that carpal hyperextension can be treated. While it can be upsetting to think that your pooch has a problem, the vet will be able to assist you in finding the right treatment for your beloved companion.

The treatment that is chosen will depend on the reason and severity of the problem.

How to Treat Carpal Hyperextension in Dogs

Of course, if your dog has been diagnosed with carpal hyperextension, the best thing to do will be consider to the treatment options. Your veterinarian is going to give you their opinion but you will make the final choice. The treatment that you can expect for your furry friend will be decided by why they have suffered the carpal hyperextension in the first place. For example, if your pup has minor carpal hyperextension, some rest and recovery time may be all your pooch needs. For example, you should encourage your canine to cut down on playtime and you can reduce some of the walks or intensity of exercise they receive. This is going to allow your beloved companion time to recovery from their injury. Sometimes, if your dog does not want to rest for long periods of time, crating them can be a good idea. The vet may also recommend purchasing a splint in order to support their leg. Physiotherapy can be an additional support system for recovery, as well as considering hydrotherapy.

If your dog has a more serious carpal hyperextension injury, surgery may be what the doctor ordered. Canines that are suffering from fractures will need surgery so that their leg can be stabilized again. Some pups will need a partial carpus fusion. This is when the vet will fuse the middle and carpometacarpal joints together. This is going to make sure there is less movement. Another surgical option for serious cases includes pan-carpal arthrodesis. This involves the fusion of three joints and has the purpose of preventing movement for the carpal joint. Dogs that require surgery will have to be given a general anesthetic. This allows the procedure to be carried out without any pain. But it is important to realize that going under a general anesthetic does have risks. Of course, your dog will be in the hands of qualified and experienced professionals. But just like humans who have surgery, there are risks that have to be acknowledged.

Some recovery will be necessary after carpal hyperextension surgery. You will need to ensure your pooch to rest after their operation even if they seem alert and bright. This might mean that crating is necessary in order for your pup to rest and recover. Provide a warm bed and blanket so that your furry friend can stay warm and comfortable. There will be other dogs that do not eat straight away and will refuse their favorite foods. But it is important to offer them snacks and food at different intervals to keep their energy high. In particular, high protein foods are recommended. This may help your pooch heal and encourage recovery within the joint. A cast will have to be worn for around six to eight weeks. Do your best to keep it dry and clean. If it becomes infected, this is going to slow down the healing procedure and cause other problems that you do not want for your canine.

Post-Surgery Results

Most dogs that have surgery for their injuries have good futures. Even with serious problems, around 3 out of four pups will regain full movement of their limb and proper function within four months of having the surgery. Unfortunately, there will be some pooches that do not regain the full function of their joint after surgery. This may mean that they are slower or still limp around. If this is the case for your beloved companion, you can discuss your options with your veterinarian.

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.

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