Jump to section

What is Elbow Luxation?

An elbow luxation, like any dislocation of a joint, is a very painful injury that will cause a cat to be unable to use the injured limb. These dislocations often occur as the result of a traumatic experience such as being hit by a car, being attacked by a larger animal, or falling from an extreme height. An animal that is limping, holding its leg up when it walks, and/or has a swollen or misshapen elbow must be taken to the veterinarian immediately to prevent further injury and extreme pain.

Three bones—the humerus, the radius, and the ulna—meet to form the elbow of a cat. At the elbow, these three bones are connected by ligaments, which are called collateral ligaments. When a traumatic injury occurs to the elbow of a cat, tearing the collateral ligaments, these three bones cannot be held together and will become dislocated from one another. Medically speaking, this dislocation is referred to as an elbow luxation.

Elbow Luxation Average Cost

From 497 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,400

Symptoms of Elbow Luxation in Cats

Cats are usually very nimble and athletic animals. Therefore, it is often quite noticeable when a cat has a significant leg injury. If you observe any of the following symptoms, it is extremely important that you have the cat examined by a veterinarian immediately, as your cat is likely in a great deal of pain and may have either elbow luxation or a broken bone. The following symptoms are common signs of elbow luxation in cats:

  • Limping
  • Inability to walk, run, or jump
  • Holding leg so paw does not touch the ground
  • Swollen elbow
  • Misshapen elbow 
  • Licking the elbow
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiding 
  • Other signs of a traumatic injury such as cuts, blood, and swelling
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Elbow Luxation in Cats

Although there are some very rare conditions that can cause some cats to have a disposition toward joint dislocation, the vast majority of elbow dislocations in cats occur because of one of the following three traumatic experiences:

  • Being hit by a car
  • Being attacked by a larger animal, usually a dog
  • Falling from an extreme height 
arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Elbow Luxation in Cats

The difficulty of diagnosing a dislocated elbow in a cat is often determined by the behavior of the cat and the extent of other injuries. If the animal is displaying the symptoms listed above, your veterinarian will likely employ the following techniques to determine if the cat is suffering from a dislocated elbow, which is a very painful injury:

Palpation

The vet will likely use her or his hands to examine the joint. This type of examination is often called palpation. Palpation can enable the vet to feel if the joint is out of position, if the joint can be moved as normal, and if there is pain in the joint. 

X-Rays

X-rays are, perhaps, the most valuable diagnostic tool as they will enable the vet to see for certain if an elbow luxation has occurred if the pain and limping is being caused by something else, such as a bone fracture or severe arthritis.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Elbow Luxation in Cats

If the veterinarian determines that your cat has a dislocated elbow, he or she will likely begin treatment immediately in one of the following ways:

  • In many cases, a dislocated elbow, especially when it is treated soon after the injury, can be manipulated back into place by a veterinarian while the cat is under general anesthesia. 
  • More severe cases and cases that have been allowed to go untreated, which most often results in further damage to the joint, may require an invasive surgical correction of the dislocated joint.
  • Chronic elbow luxation in cats may require arthrodesis, which is a surgical fusing of the joint.
  • In rare and severe cases that cannot be treated in another way, the limb may be amputated.
arrow-up-icon

Top

Recovery of Elbow Luxation in Cats

If the vet was able to repair the dislocated elbow without surgery, the cat will likely be sent home with the leg in a splint, which will cause the leg to stay straight while it heals. It will likely take around two weeks for the joint to heal. During that time you will need to make sure the splint stays in position and that it is not causing discomfort or pain by rubbing against the cat’s skin. If the injury required surgery, you will need to care for the wound and administer any medicine, such as antibiotics, that have been prescribed by the veterinarian. Whether the injury required surgery or not, in order to prevent a repeat injury of the joint the cat must be kept inside during this healing period and away from other pets and small children. Your vet will likely expect to examine the cat one or more times in the weeks following the original treatment. The long-term prognosis for a cat with elbow luxation is usually quite good, although the joint may develop arthritis over time.

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Elbow Luxation Average Cost

From 497 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,400

arrow-up-icon

Top

Elbow Luxation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Lloyd

dog-breed-icon

DOMESTIC

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Left Radial Head Luxation

My cat suffered a Left radial head luxation (how, we don’t know) he has surgery to correct it almost 2 weeks ago and has been in Metacam and wearing a cone on his head upnuntil yesterday when he had his stitches removed. He is on cage rest and has only been allowed out for literally a few mins to walk a few paces and be brushed etc. So far he has been good, walking well on the leg and seemed to be getting better. Today however, when we got him out for a few mins of walking he started limping again exactly as he he before the operation, holding the effected leg up when he sits and not using it when he walks. He has a screw through the joint to hold it in place which is due to be removed in 4 weeks. Is it at all possible that this is just part of recovery and he is having a bad day maybe feeling it a bit more as no longer on Metacam? Or is it more likely that the operation hasn’t worked and the joint is still diclocated? Very worried and can’t call the specialist hospital until tomorrow :(

Sept. 4, 2018

Lloyd's Owner

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Cupcake

dog-breed-icon

house cat

dog-age-icon

5 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Broken Elbow

My Cat Is Still A Baby And She Has Tooken A High Fall That Injury Her Front Right Leg. I Took Her To The Vet For X-rays And They Have Told Me That Her Elbow Is Broken That She Should Get It Amputated. I Feel Like As A Baby Still There Can Be Other Choices Besides Amputation. Should I Let It Heal On It's Own ?

June 14, 2018

Cupcake's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Elbow fractures don't tend to heal well on their own, unfortunately, and she would probably be in constant pain. Cats do quite will with amputations, they just need to live inside. Since I cannot see her, it would be best to trust your veterinarian, and ask more questions if you aren't sure. If you need to get a second opinion to see if there are any other options, there isn't anything wrong with that.

June 14, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

baby

dog-breed-icon

domestic house

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Walking Tenderly
Loss Of Appetite
Not Grooming
Hiding
Paw Swelling
Pads Bleeding

hi my cat always walked kinda oddly but this last week he has been not walking this oddly way i'm unsure if my cat has Ulna or radius dislocation, and if he does can he recover after a week of it being unnoticed , can this cause his pads to bleed?

May 28, 2018

baby's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Without examining Baby, it is impossible for me to determine whether or not there is a serious injury; you should keep an eye on him and bathe any sores on the paws. You should also visit your Veterinarian for an examination to determine the severity of the injury and whether any further treatment is needed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 29, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Toby

dog-breed-icon

house cat

dog-age-icon

10 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Limping,

had xrays done today of my 10 month old cat. He has a small chip in his front leg from his elbow. He is limbing but still runs, and jumps but is favoring that leg. Surgery I have been told is $3 to $4 thousand dollars to remove the chip. If I do nothing what will happen

April 30, 2018

Toby's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It really depends on where exactly this chip is on the elbow; is it an ununited anconeal process, bone flap on an articular surface or something else? Generally in these cases, the ‘chip’ will cause chronic pain and bring early onset arthritis; without without knowing the specifics I cannot say for certain. You should speak with your Veterinarian for clarification; but you should have the surgery done. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 1, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Milky

dog-breed-icon

Siamese mix

dog-age-icon

7 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Carrying Back Leg
Ball Like Swelling On Inside Elbow

Good day My cat walked into our house carrying her back leg. She was meowing more for attention, but not a painful meow. She puts her foot down, but does not use it. She also sits down like normal, although the sore leg does protrude slightly further out when looking at her from the back. She still jumps on our bed and onto higher surfaces, but 2 days later, I have noticed the elbow on her back leg has a slight swollen lump on the inside of the elbow. No other swellings anywhere. I pick her up under her tummy and she does not meow in pain or anything, also, both her back legs when I carry her under her tummy, hang down at equal lengths. She is a 7 month old. this is the third day now, she is still now using her leg, and the swelling has not got any worse?

April 19, 2018

Milky's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Without examining Milky I cannot say whether or not the leg is sprained, dislocated, fractured or other; you should however discourage movement and stop running, jumping etc… If the lump gets bigger or there is no improvement you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination since in three days we would normally expect some change. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 19, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Aurora

dog-breed-icon

Unknown

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Hello, I started googleing the situation of our cat and came across your page. As of last week, we have a cat from a shelter (shelters in Chile are very bare), and we do not know much of her back story. We know she was thrown over the fence at the shelter a couple of weeks or so before we got her. While in the shelter this was not very apparent, she developed a limp at home within 2 days or so, so we had the vet back to have a look. Her right front paw (the affected limb) is also rotated out to the side when she sits. The doctor recommended an X-ray, which we took, and it turns out she had what we think is a dislocated ellbow that had not been treated (well) at the time. Other than the limp, she is using the right front leg just fine, she does not seem to be in any pain and uses it as much to play as the other leg. We know she is about 1 year old. You have answered the question about surgery for older cats above. Would this be something that should be done for a young cat, though? I am asking because our doctor suggested NO surgery and a homeopathic treatement for long-term effects, and I am not a fan of homeopathic treatment (for reasons of lacking evidence). We might be taking her to a surgeon next week, btu the language barrier might be tricky, so it'd be great to get another opinion, even if only online. I could also provide pictures of the X-rays. Thanks, Boris

dog-name-icon

Bandit

dog-breed-icon

Cat

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping Paw Turned Out Swollen Leg

We have an outside cat that like to roam a lot. Off and on I have noticed him favor his left leg. But then it will get better and he walks fine. Tonight he is favoring the left leg again but this time I noticed his front left paw is kind of pointing outward (kind of like when a human breaks their hip) and the part where he bends his leg is swollen. He was pawing a blanket with both paws tonight and when I try to feel his legs he doesn’t act like he is in extreme pain. What could this be?

Elbow Luxation Average Cost

From 497 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,400

How can we help your pet?