Dog wrist swollen

Why is Your Dog’s Wrist Swollen? What You Need to Know!

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Being a pet parent brings a lot of responsibilities because your four-footed friend can’t communicate in your language, so you have to be vigilant and a good observer to understand the paw-sible problems and their needs. 

The carpal of the dog is equivalent to a human’s wrist, but dogs face 50% more carpal-related abnormalities than humans because the carpal bears 80% weight of the body and it is bearing pressure 24/7. Some of these problems are congenital, while some are acquired. Fortunately, most of these problems are treatable. 

White Dog wrist swollen

Large and active dogs are more prone to carpal injuries. However, the incidence is low in small breeds. Warning signs of the condition include limping, pain, and abnormal postures. 

If not treated, carpal abnormalities lead to dogs’ swollen legs and limping, and it can even take the shape of a disability. So careful management of the condition is crucial. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the dog’s swollen wrist, its potential risks, treatment, and prevention. 

Why is My Dog’s Wrist Swollen? 

Dog carpal hyperextension anatomy
Image from Veterian Key

The dog’s carpus (also called a dog’s wrist) comprises seven tiny bones. These bones are arranged in a row and joined by several ligaments and tendons. And these ligaments and tendons are responsible for the normal gait of the dogs. Any abnormality in the location and attachment of these ligaments can lead to the dog’s carpal hyperextension (partial and complete stretching and tearing of the ligament) and several gait abnormalities. 

Acquired carpus abnormalities are due to traumatic events, bad exercise, and uncomfortable bedding.

Several events can lead to these problems; we will discuss them in detail. 

Causes of Canine’s Wrist Injuries


  • In puppies, 50% of dog carpal hyperextension is caused by developmental abnormalities like inadequate nutrition and due to a cast or bandage that stayed at the carpal for an abnormally long duration. And sometimes, it is because of congenital abnormalities.
  • Trauma is the most common cause of carpal hyperextension in adult dogs. The most common causes of trauma are; falling from a height, beating with a stick, and wrong exercise practices. Trauma causes pain and swelling at the carpal joint, and the amount of limping and pain depends upon the severity of the trauma. 
  • In older ages, the degenerative changes sometimes degrade the ligament between the joints, leading to permanent carpal hyperextension in dogs. 
  • Auto-immune response (immune system inflammatory response) also causes carpal hyperextension. 

What are the Signs of Carpal Hyperextension in Dogs?

Dogs have a high pain threshold. So, in more than 50% of cases, the dog might be running and playing with a sprain in the carpal. But in severe cases of carpal hyperextension, dogs are comatose and reluctant to move. 

dog swollen joint front leg
Image from VCA Animal Hospital

The following are some signs that will help in the early detection of the problem. 

  1. Mild swelling and pain on touch 
  2. Abnormal posture and gait 
  3. Dog’s Swollen wrist Limping 
  4. Swollen paws 
  5. Lameness 
  6. Sluggish and not showing interest in activities 
  7. Unbalanced weight bearing on legs
  8. Swollen paws 

In severe cases of hyperextension, your four-footed friend will abnormally force the front leg into the ground. 

How to Diagnose a Dog’s Swollen Joint and Front Leg Hyperextension? 

To get an idea of the problem site you can do the pain on a touch test. To do this, move your hand firmly to the front leg of your four-footed leg. If there is pain at the level of the carpal, your pet will be reluctant to that touch and show aggressive behavior. If the pain test is positive, then it’s high time to visit a vet. 

The vet may give the confirmatory diagnosis after the multimodal diagnostic process. Usually, the vet observes the dog in standing and walking positions and evaluates the general health, bone condition, and nutritional status. 

dog swollen wrist limping
Dog Swollen Wrist Limping

The vet uses different orthopedic tools. And finally, he does a radiograph to see a confirmatory sign of hyperextension (ligament breakage is not obvious on a radiograph, but the stressed view helps in the diagnosis.) 

Well, just in case you are new to pet parenting and want to learn the crucial dog care guide? Click here for a detailed guide by our expert. 

Is Dog Wrist Injury Treatable? 

Yes, a dog’s swollen wrist injury is treatable. Treatment involves surgical and non-surgical treatment. In the case of mild hyperextension, non-surgical treatments are considered. Non-surgical treatment involves medical management, support with splints and physical therapy, or a combination of all. 

Medical Management of Dog Swollen Joint Front Leg 

  • Rest 

Rest is an essential component of medical management for a dog with a swollen front leg. When a dog has a swollen leg, it usually means that there is an injury or inflammation in the affected area. Resting the leg helps to reduce the inflammation and swelling, and also prevents further injury to the affected area. 


  • Anti-inflammatory drugs 

Anti-inflammatory drugs are best to control pain and reduce inflammation. The vet usually recommends a combination of rest and anti-inflammatory medicines.

Do you suspect any bone inflammatory illness in your furry friend? Read about the best dog supplement for arthritis. 

  • Apply cast 

Casts are applied to support the leg and to reduce the stress on the affected portion to a minimum. Remember, to apply the cast correctly, your vet might give anesthesia to your baby pet. 

In more than 50% of acute cases, medical management is unrewarding, so the vet suggests moving to surgical treatment. 

Surgical Treatment of Carpal Hyperextension in Dogs 

Carpal arthrodesis is the typical surgical procedure to repair the carpal ligament’s damage. In the surgical procedure, the vet might use a combination of screws and plates to fix the damaged bone and ligaments in the normal position. 

The surgical procedure usually restores the dog’s normal weight-bearing ability. After the surgery, the biggest responsibility is post-operative care. Because bacterial infection that happens after surgery can potentially kill your pet, so, pay attention to post-operative care. 

Final Thoughts 

Dog’s swollen front leg or hyperextension is not fatal. So, if your four-footed baby is facing this issue, don’t get upset and start working on the vet’s prescription, you will certainly get your healthy pet shortly. 

dog swollen joint front leg

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1 How long does it take for dog carpal hyperextension to heal?

Ans. The healing of the dog’s swollen leg entirely depends upon the level of ligament damage. However, if treatment and proper rest are provided, the mild condition heals in 2-3 weeks. 

Q.2 Can a dog’s swollen front leg joint heal on its own?

Ans. Mild cases of hyperextension will recover after rest and physical therapy. However, medical and surgical treatment is necessary in moderate and severe cases. 

Q.3 Can carpal hyperextension kill my dog? 

Ans. Hyperextension is not fatal itself. However, several secondary causes of the condition lead to weakness and, eventually, death. 

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