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What is Carpal Hyperextension?

Carpal hyperextension in cats is a condition in which the carpus, or wrist, in one of your cat’s limbs becomes over, or hyper, extended. When this extreme flexion occurs, the supporting ligaments in the carpus can become strained or torn, causing injury. When the ligament is weakened the joint is no longer able to maintain proper position, causing a lack of ability to support weight on the affected limb.

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Symptoms of Carpal Hyperextension in Cats

Signs of carpal hyperextension in your cat will all include lameness and an inability or unwillingness to bear weight on the affected limb. The full list of symptoms to watch for include:

  • Limping or inability to bear weight on limb
  • Unwillingness to jump or climb
  • Swelling of carpal joint
  • Characteristic heel touching ground stance
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Causes of Carpal Hyperextension in Cats

Carpal hyperextension in cats is typically the result of an injury to the affected joint. The injury may be sudden and the result of a trauma such as a car accident or other major impact or after landing from a jump from an extended height, or it may be due to repetitive use of the joint causing minor ligament damage over time that has a cumulative effect. Cats with diabetes may be more prone to carpal hyperextension. This is due to the disease’s effects on many bodily tissues, including weakening of ligaments.

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Diagnosis of Carpal Hyperextension in Cats

Diagnosis of carpal hyperextension in your cat will begin with a thorough physical exam by your veterinarian. You should provide your vet with a complete medical and symptomatic history of your cat. If the injury has been recurring or has improved and regressed over time, this may help your vet rule out other structures in the limb causing the injury.

Your veterinarian will closely observe your cat’s stance and the way they are holding the injured leg. The classic characteristic stance for a cat with a carpal hyperextension injury involves the wrist being fully extended and touching the ground in an unnatural 45 degree position. To the pet owner, this can appear as if your cat’s wrist has collapsed and they are now walking on their lower leg instead of their paw.

The definitive test for carpal hyperextension includes specialized x-rays known as stress radiographs. In this procedure, stress is applied to the joint at multiple locations in order to help identify which portion of the ligament and which specific wrist joint has become injured. In order to provide the best images, your cat will need to remain calm and still for the x-ray. Some cats will need to be given a mild sedative or anesthesia in order to obtain clear and accurate images.

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Treatment of Carpal Hyperextension in Cats

Unlike many other tissues in your cat’s body, ligaments are unlikely to heal or regrow. In mild cases of carpal hyperextension, your vet may recommend a wait-and-see approach to allow time for scar tissue to form in the damaged ligament. The scar tissue will sometimes act as a stabilizer for the damaged ligament. Additionally, these types of injuries typically occur as a result of a large amount of jumping or other movements that put a significant amount of pressure on the carpal joint of your cat. In order to have any chance of healing or scar tissue stabilization, your cat’s activity will need to be severely limited.

Given the difficulty in a conservative approach, the preferred method of treatment of carpal hyperextension is surgery to fuse the affected joint. Fusing the joint removes the ability of the carpus to flex and bend, creating a stability that is missing once the ligaments have become damaged. For this surgery, your cat will need to undergo anesthesia. Before being put under anesthesia your veterinarian will run a full blood panel to confirm there are no underlying medical conditions that may make the surgery more risky. While there are a few common complications, such as infection or failure of the bones to fuse properly, overall surgery to fuse a joint affected by carpal hyperextension is an effective treatment option.

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Recovery of Carpal Hyperextension in Cats

For cats that undergo successful surgery for fusing an affected joint, prognosis for full recovery is very good. You will need to carefully follow your veterinarian’s postoperative instructions, including keeping your cat in a calm, quiet place where their motion is limited while they heal from surgery. You will also need to administer all prescribed medicines to avoid any postoperative infections.

Long term, fusion of the joint will have some minor impact on your cat’s mobility. Due to lack of flexion, your cat may be unable to jump as high or as far as it used to. Cats that have had this surgery should be kept indoors and not exposed to outdoors obstacles and dangers.

With proper post-operative care and long term follow up and care, your cat will have a good quality of life after a carpal hyperextension injury and should make a good recovery.

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Carpal Hyperextension Average Cost

From 402 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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Carpal Hyperextension Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Bunny

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Stray cat

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3 Months

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lumping

My cat has carpal fracture in her front right leg. She is 3 4 month old hardly. She is stray cat and often visit our home. Can we cure this without surgery? Can you please assist us.

July 14, 2018

Bunny's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Whether Bunny can recover from a carpal fracture depends on the number of bones broken, the location of the break, and her activity level. Without seeing her or having x-rays to know that information, it isn't possible for me to say whether it will heal or not, unfortunately. It would be best to have her examined by a veterinarian, as they can look at her and give you a better idea as to healing potential.

July 14, 2018

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Fibi

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Persian

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Carpal

Hi I noticed that my cat's paw just underneath the carpal paw is swollen. She doesn't appear to be in pain (she lets me touch her wrist) she's not limping either and playing/running/jumping as normal. Its been like this for a week i think. When i told my friend who was staying with me she also said that when she stands she slightly lifts her swollen wrist paw from the ground. Im really concerned. Could you please give me an advice?

July 9, 2018

Fibi's Owner


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1 Recommendations

Without examining Fibi I cannot say for sure what the cause is, however if the area is swollen I would recommend restricting her movement for the time being and to monitor for improvement as activity may worsen the swelling. If there is no improvement in the swelling over the next few days you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 9, 2018

I'm sorry I meant to say the swollen area is between her paws and the carparl paw

July 9, 2018

Fibi's Owner

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Leo

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tabby

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4 Weeks

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Little Walking

So my 4 week old kitten is walking on his wrist with his paws turned inward is this carpal hyperextension or is this just another thing. I’m worried because he looks like he’s in pain and I just want to help

June 25, 2018

Leo's Owner

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1 Recommendations

It does sound like carpal hyperextension but I would recommend that you visit a Veterinarian to confirm; generally surgery is the best course of treatment as other treatment methods are generally unrewarding. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 26, 2018

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Olive

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Feline

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6 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My kitten was recently declawed and she hasn't stopped limping ever since, she isn't walking on her tip toes and is walking on her whole front forearms. My vet says her tendons are tights and we need to stretch her paws out a few times a day to loosen them up. Are there any other options ?

June 10, 2018

Olive's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Olive it is difficult to say what would be best, you should try some physical therapy with her if she doesn’t display any signs of pain or discomfort but your Veterinarian should show you what you need to do. However, as I mentioned I cannot really give specific advice without an examination first; if you have concerns, you should consult another Veterinarian in your area for an examination to be sure. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 10, 2018

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Zefferelli

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Bengal

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Walks On The Top Of His Paw

I don't know if my 5-year-old Bengal has carpal hyperextension or not. He was born with a cyst on his spine and could not walk. He was taught to walk. When I got him (kitten), I took him to a neurosurgeon and has the cyst removed. Now he is walking on the top of his left paw. I have wrapped it to see if he will put his paw back down and walk normally. Where should I take him? His regular vet has seen him. I have moved away from the neurosurgeon that he saw for his surgery. I am scared he is going to develop an ulceration on the top of his paw if this persists.

April 30, 2018

Zefferelli's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Zefferelli I cannot say what the best course of action would be; don’t try to splint the leg yourself or wrap the leg as this may cause unwanted complications. You should visit a Specialist for an opinion on what, if anything, could be done to help him; your Veterinarian should be able to refer you. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 30, 2018

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Carpal Hyperextension Average Cost

From 402 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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