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How to Treat Sprains, Canine Carpal Hyperextension & Other Common Wrist Injuries in Dogs

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As in humans, a dog’s bones and joints are subject to strains, sprains, dislocations, and breaks that can cause pain and limited mobility. If your dog is limping on her front paw, showing weakness on her foreleg, or you notice swelling of the ankle, it may be a front leg injury. If there is a sudden onset of these symptoms, the wrist issue may have been caused by a traumatic event, such as a fall or getting hit by a car, or from your dog running and playing with a furry friend too rambunctiously. Chronic and progressive diseases, such as arthritis, can also cause pain in the wrist. No matter the cause, fortunately, there are many treatment options available to address your dog’s wrist pain.

Sprained Wrist 

Located on the foreleg below the elbow, the wrist is especially prone to injury. While strains are more common in hips and thighs from overstretching, sprains affect the ligaments (tissues) that connect bones, especially those in the wrist and knee. Dog wrist sprains can be caused by a hard landing from the car or rough exercise. 

Signs of a Dog’s Sprained Wrist 

If you’ve ever moved your wrist the wrong way or rolled an ankle, you know that the discomfort can linger long after the incident takes place. Symptoms of your dog’s sprained wrist include:

  • Limping and favoring one leg over the other
  • Swelling or redness of joints
  • Lameness
  • Swollen paws

If you identify that your dog is suffering from a sprained wrist (or even mildly limping if is persistent), it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible in case it is signs of a more serious condition, such as bone degeneration.

Your veterinarian will begin with a thorough physical examination and may choose to do bloodwork or take an X-ray to take a close look at the joints, depending on the symptoms and severity. They may decide to perform an arthroscopy, which is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows a veterinarian to examine the inside of a joint. 

Canine Sprained Wrist Treatments

In diagnosing your dog’s sprained wrist, the veterinarian will assign it one of three grades. For grade I sprains, a portion of the ligament is torn, but the joint is still functional. With more severe swelling, grade II sprains mean that the joint is only partially functional, but the dog may still be able to walk. In the most severe case (grade III), the ligament is severely damaged or torn and there is no connection between bones. One example of this is a torn canine cruciate ligament (CCL) in the knee. 

In some extreme cases of grade II and III, the veterinarian may recommend surgery. Anti-inflammatory medicines can greatly reduce the pain. When surgery isn’t an appropriate option, many dog owners consider dog wrist braces or front leg splints. The Ortho Dog Wrist Wrap stabilizes the joint to allow scar tissue to form a callus over the sprain for healing. Other treatment options include limiting physical activity.

What is Canine Carpal Hyperextension?

Composed of seven major bony structures, the carpus is located on a dog’s forelimb above the top of the paw (it is analogous to the rear leg hock). Normally an acute condition, Canine Carpal Hyperextension occurs when excessive force is applied to the carpus leading to collapse of the carpal joint. Dogs diagnosed with canine carpal hyperextension have likely suffered a traumatic event, such as falling from a significant height. Older dogs, especially Collie breeds, may show signs of hyperextension due to a degeneration of the ligaments. Puppies may experience developmental hyperextension.

Signs of Canine Carpal Hyperextension

Symptoms may include: 

  • Joint instability
  • Swelling of the forelimb
  • Favoring of one leg over the other

As always, consult with your veterinarian if you notice that your dog is in any significant pain.

Treatments for Canine Carpal Hyperextension

As with sprains, your vet will perform a full physical examination on your dog, including X-rays. They may recommend orthopedic surgery involving a partial carpus fusion, or (in more severe cases), pancarpal arthrodesis, which is the fusion of low motion joints in the carpal joint. Surgery can range from $1,000 to $5,000.

When surgery is not an appropriate option, especially if the case is mild, consider other ways to support your dog’s healing. As with sprains, exercise restriction, hydrotherapy, and a dog wrist wrap can provide support for natural healing. Ortho Dog’s Wrist Wrap can also be used for post-operative care. Front leg support for dogs can help stabilize the joint so the soft tissue can heal.

Support Your Dog’s Wrist Health

As with any other joint in the body, wrists are key to your dog’s mobility and active lifestyle. Whether your dog suffered an accident that compromised the health of her wrist or if she has developed arthritis in her front legs as she ages, there are a multitude of treatment options available to help her get moving on all four feet. We hope your dog will be high-fiving you again in no time.