Carpal Laxity Syndrome in Dogs

Large breed puppies are at risk for carpal laxity.
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Carpal laxity syndrome is a condition that primarily affects puppies, especially of medium and larger breed dogs. While it is not generally painful, the deformation may cause lameness and difficulty walking. There are a number of theories as to what causes this syndrome and how it can be treated, but so far none have been completely confirmed.

Carpal Laxity Basics

This condition, also known as carpal hyperextension, carpal hyperflexion or carpal flexural deformity, consists of a hyperextension of the carpus, the lower bone on a dog's forelegs. No sign of disease or other pathology has been found in puppies with the syndrome. It is most common in puppies who are 8 to 16 weeks old. Treatment is usually effective within a few weeks, and the puppies suffer from no long-term effects.

Potential Causes

There are a number of theories as to what may cause this syndrome, "The Canadian Veterinary Journal" reports. Some hypothesize that a faster rate of bone growth than tendon growth is to blame. Others suggest that malnutrition, an excess of vitamins or overly slippery surfaces lead to the condition. Still other veterinarians point to genetic predisposition. Weakness in the tendons due to a high weight before the bones are developed enough to support the puppy may also play a role, suggests Jeff Vidt, a veterinarian who specializes in shar-peis, a breed prone to carpal laxity.

Possible Treatments

Since the cause is uncertain, it is difficult to know what the ideal treatment for the condition may be. A study published in a 2007 issue of "Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology" showed that a balanced diet and gentle exercise may be enough to reverse the problem. For example, your vet may suggest switching to an adult formula of dog food to slow the rapid growth that worsens the condition. If the condition is severe, she may also recommend a soft wrap like an ACE bandage. Hard splits, however, restrict use of the muscle and may make the condition worse.

Risk Factors

Certain puppies are at a higher risk for carpal laxity. Large and medium breed puppies are susceptible, while small breeds seem unaffected. Certain breeds, including shar-peis, Doberman pinschers, German shepherds and Great Danes, suffer from carpal laxity more frequently. There also seems to be a higher incidence among male puppies than female, according to the 2007 "Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology" study. Whatever the cause, the recovery rate is high and most puppies with this condition will go on to lead completely normal lives.