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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Dislocated Joint (Luxation)

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

A strong force is needed to rupture a joint and displace the bones. Such injuries are usually caused by auto accidents and falls from a height.


Signs of a dislocated joint are sudden pain and inability to use the limb. The elbow or knee may be bent with the leg pointing either toward or away from the body. The affected leg may be either shorter or longer than the opposite leg.


Subluxations (also called luxations) are dislocations in which the bones are only partly out of the joint. Some subluxations are congenital, but most are caused by trauma. The limb does not shorten and joint deformity is minimal.

Dislocations and subluxations affect the hips, stifles, shoulders, elbows, and the small joints that make up the hocks and wrists. Subluxations of these smaller joints can be caused by a sudden force, such as jumping from a height.


Diagnosis is made by veterinary examination. This is needed to rule out fractures and to replace dislocated bones - a procedure that requires anesthesia.


The treatment of other life threatening injuries may take precedence. After reduction (the replacement of the dislocated joint), the limb is immobilized in a sling or splint.

Depending on the extent of the injury, the dog is placed on strict crate rest or allowed limited exercise on a short leash. Physical therapy with exercises that move the joint passively through a limited range of motion, and activities such as swimming, help the dog to recover strength and joint flexibility.

Joint surgery is necessary for dislocation that cannot be reduced by manipulating the limbs. Surgery gives the best results for recurrent dislocations and for subluxations of the wrists and hocks. Surgery may also be required to repair associated soft tissue injuries.


There is no prevention for this injury.


Please contact your veterinarian if you think your pet may have this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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