Flat Feet in Dogs

Flat Feet in Dogs
July 6, 2019

Flat feet in dogs is never a healthy hereditary trait. Flat feet in dogs is mainly due to trauma or a genetic predisposition. The most common condition which can affect your dog's feet is Carpal Subluxation, while vets also report a fair few cases of carpal hyperextension. We will cover both of the conditions down below in comprehensive detail, however, the advice in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a vet.

How your dog’s flat feet are treated will depend on a variety of different factors, however, it mainly falls down to the severity of the condition which your dog is suffering from. There are certain medications available to improve the concern, but more serious cases will require surgery or splinting on the affected legs.

Carpal Subluxation

A dog’s leg isn’t all too different from your own wrist and it can suffer the same forms of misalignment. Just as we can get carpal tunnel syndrome, dogs can suffer from carpal subluxation. This means that their joint can dislocate. The dislocating won’t be immediately obvious, it will only be when the dog has walked on the dislocated joint over time, only then will you start to notice that your dog’s feet look flat. 

As you can imagine, this can all be incredibly painful dogs, as they will have little choice but to walk on the dislocated joint which causes further hardening of the ligaments and swelling of the tendons. 

This condition tends to occur in males than with females, the rates of occurrence are also impacted by the breed of the dog. Dog breeds which are most likely to suffer from Carpal Subluxation include Irish Setters, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and Shar-Pei dogs. However, there is the chance that every type of dog breed can experience Carpal Subluxation and it can occur at any time in their lives. 

As you can see from the list of breeds mentioned above, the condition primarily affects larger breeds of dog, it is also most prevalent in dog breeds which are active.

The usual treatments include bandaging, supportive splints and physiotherapy. Hydrotherapy has proven to be incredibly effective in helping dogs recover from Carpal Subluxation.  However, in more severe cases your dog may require surgery to implant a new forelimb.

Flat Feet in Puppies

Puppies can start to show signs of carpal issues between the ages of six to twelve weeks, however, in some cases, the symptoms don’t become apparent until much, much later. The puppy may not be experiencing any pain as a result of the carpal issues, but they may have some trouble waking. If you start noticing that your puppy is a little too wobbly on their feet, take them to the vet for a checkup. 

If their carpal issues aren’t all too serious, the treatment will usually consist of steroid injections which will be injected into the tendon sheath on all the legs which are affected. Depending on the severity of the condition, your puppy may need to have multiple shots to make sure that it has been effective. In severe cases, surgery may be required to alter and strengthen the tendon sheath. Even though surgery can have an immediate benefit for your puppy, it does increase the risk of them suffering from early onset arthritis. 

Carpal Hyperextension

More often than not, Carpal hyperextension happens as a result of a fall or accidents, especially when a dog has jumped down from a substantial height. If this happens, you will see the lameness in the foot immediately along with swelling and the flat foot appearance. If you notice any of these symptoms take your dog to the vet immediately for an emergency appointment. Your vet will ask you questions about your dog’s general health and the details of the event which led up to the admission. After a physical examination, your vet will carry out X-rays of the leg, plus any other location that they believe may have been affected by the impact trauma. 

Dogs with Carpal Hyperextension will be given pain management medication and the leg will be splinted to prevent any additional sprain, however, it is likely that your dog will require surgery on the affected legs along with a long period of rest. The outcome of the operation depends on the severity of the injury, in some cases, dogs can go back to normal with a pain-free gait in the long-term. However, more substantial damage may mean that your dog won’t regain much range in motion after the surgery. 

Preventing Carpal Hyperextension in Dogs

While you can’t wrap your dog in cotton wool, you can take sensible and preventative measures to ensure that there is minimal risk of them experiencing a trauma which leads to Carpal Hyperextension. As most cases of the condition ae reported after a fall from a significant height you will want to make sure that your home is as safe as possible. It may sound ludicrous that a dog may want to jump out of a window which isn’t on the ground floor – but it can happen. Dogs with incredibly strong prey drives could be inclined to jump out of a window – regardless of what floor they are on after a cat, a squirrel, or any other animals which they would care to chase. Always keep the doors and windows to upper levels in your home dog proof and locked while your dog is around. 

If you have a steep staircase or gaps in your bannister, limit your dog’s access to the upper floors of your home. Caution must also be taken to ensure that your dog doesn’t injure themselves while they are out and about. This means keeping them on a leash whenever there are cliff edges, bridges, or waterfalls around – basically everything that your dog could potentially fall down.  

Ensure that when you let them off the lead you are surrounded by even ground.