The ankle joint also known as the tarsus in athletic dogs can sustain injury resulting in collapse of the joint. This condition is painful and will need surgical stabilization.
Trauma or rarely immune mediated diseases affecting the ligaments of the joints.
Typically an impact to the hind limbs, a fall, stumble, or jumping from tall heights can cause injury leading to tarsal hyperextension.
Diagnosis will involve multiple approaches. In general, tarsal hyperextension can be characterized by the observation of the pet’s gait in the hind limbs. Often the paw appears collapsed at the ankle and the posture can resemble a duck’s foot (plantigrade stance). In the most severe cases, there is a right angle formed by the hind leg and paw compared to the upright stance in the normal cat and dog limb. It is easily identified using only radiographic imaging. You, your family veterinarian, and our veterinary surgeons will discuss utilizing computed tomography (CT) if needed.
The best treatment is fusion of the tarsal joint. This surgery involves placing a steel locking plate in the hindlimb spanning the ankle joint, tibia and the metatarsal bone. Typical rehabilitation period is 12 weeks. Most of the time the patients go home with a bivalve cast bandage needing frequent weekly or biweekly changes. Prognosis is good and patients return to normal activity even with a fused joint.