The 13-week-old rat terrier suffered from congenital elbow luxation, a rare condition in which the rotated joint causes the paws to bend out of place.

Imagine having to crawl on your wrists everywhere you go. That was the exact reality for Siggi, a 13-week-old rat terrier rescue dog with congenital elbow luxation, a rare medical deformity causing her paws to point upward instead of downward. But thanks to Oklahoma State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) and Dallas Dog RRR, Siggi can now play like any other pup. 

"It definitely wasn't just an illusion. It was real," says Erik Clary, DVM, Ph.D., DACVS, and small animal surgeon at OSU's VTH. "Siggi's paws really were upside down."

Though it looks like a problem with the paws, Clary says the deformity occurs when the elbows come out of their joints and rotate either while dogs are in utero or shortly after they're born. Siggi's elbows rotated nearly 180 degrees, causing her paws to point upward. 

Vets hold dog with upside down paws before his surgery to fix them
Credit: Courtesy of Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine

A video posted on the veterinary school's YouTube page shows Siggi doing what looks like an awkward army crawl toward a veterinary staff member. She shuffles forward, balancing on her bent wrists as her tail gives a little wag. 

"It definitely is an issue with respect to their quality of life," Clary tells Daily Paws. "They just can't get around well, and on top of that, they're prone to hurting the tops of their wrists because those aren't designed for weight bearing."

Dallas Dog RRR decided to send Siggi to OSU after reading about the OSU vets' work with Milo, a foxhound puppy with upturned paws Clary operated on in 2019. On May 12, Clary performed surgery to put Siggi's bones back in their elbow joints. He had to create fractures along her bones in order to realign them. They then placed orthopedic pins in Siggi to help her heal correctly. The pins were protected by a large, front-body splint for around six weeks.

Once Siggi healed from the successful surgery, she was sent back to Dallas Dog RRR on June 29 to begin rehabilitation. There, Siggi was placed with Lorraine, a medical foster parent with DDRRR who was tasked with teaching the pup to walk and build up her muscle. Clary's team helped inform and guide her care from Stillwater. 

"Siggi's recovery isn't complete in the sense that there's continued rehab, but she's continued to make progress," Clary tells Daily Paws. 

Today, Clary is pleased to report that Siggi is happy, healthy, and living a lifestyle on par with most dogs her age. She runs and plays, just as a puppy should. 

Siggi's new way of life is a major veterinary success, one that Clary insists is a product of great work from a wide spectrum of caring professionals. Beyond the students and faculty of OSU's vet school, he's especially appreciative of Lorraine with DDRRR.

"[Siggi's] made very good progress and I attribute that not just to having the surgery done but also to the care that has happened after surgery," Clary says.

Clary suspects many dogs with alarming or abnormal conditions like paws facing upward may be euthanized instead of brought in for treatment, but there may always be hope for our furry friends. Siggi is proof.

"Even when things look pretty severe, sometimes these conditions can be treated," Clary says.