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What is Carpal Hyperextension

Carpal Hyperextension (or collapsing carpus) is an excessive extension of the wrist joint (carpus) of the dog or cat. This causes the wrist joint to drop closer to the ground.

What causes carpal hyperextension?

There are three main ways carpal extension may result

1. Puppies can be affected. This is due to abnormal development of the ligaments that usually support the carpus. Usually both front legs are affected.

Some puppies may also be affected on one leg due to prolonged immobilisation in cast or bandage resulting in weakening of the ligaments 

surrounding the carpus.

2. Hyperextension can result due to injury of the soft tissue that helps support the carpus. The amount of collapse of the carpus depends on the severity of the injury.

3. Carpal hyperextension can also occur in senior pets due to chronic degeneration of the tissues that normally support the carpus. This may be present in one or both front legs.

Some problems affecting the wrist joint also affect other joints and are in the group of polyarthritides. These are the animal equivalent of rheumatoid arthritis and can affect the joints of the fore and hind limbs of dogs and cats.

Diagnosis of Carpal Hyperextension

This condition can often be diagnosed with physical examination. Xrays and MRI may also aid in getting an answer.


Treatment will depend on what has caused the carpal hyperextension.

Surgical options are generally limited to arthrodesis (fusion of the joint).

Conservative options may be be helpful for some pets. These include manual therapies, home exercise program, splints and hydrotherapy.




Conservative treatments offered by Balance Vet Rehab that may be beneficial for these pets include:

Home Exercise Program

Some milder carpal hyperextension injuries may be able to regain some degree of normal function if a slow return to weight bearing and function is followed with the implementation of the correct home exercise program.

Hydrotherapy with Underwater Treadmill

This can be one of the tools we use in the early stages of strengtening tissues after a carpal hyperextension injury.

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