Is your puppy knuckling—walking or standing on the top of their feet instead of their paws? Our Los Angeles vets discuss the causes of knuckling in puppies and the available treatments.
Knuckling in Puppies
Knuckling occurs when a dog walks on the top of its feet rather than its paws. Puppies may knuckle on one leg or all four, which may not happen with every step. Your puppy might knuckle under on a front or back paw.
Various reasons, ranging from minor to severe, such as neurological disorders, nerve damage, or sore paws, can cause this condition. If you observe your puppy knuckling, promptly contact your vet, as it could indicate a serious underlying condition.
When puppies knuckle, they tuck their feet under and drag them on the ground, posing a risk of physical injury to any part of their foot. Reaching out to your vet as quickly as possible if you notice your pup knuckling is crucial.
How To Recognize Knuckling in Puppies
Watch for signs of knuckling in your puppy's gait—unevenness or unsteadiness when walking towards or away from you. Have your puppy stand, lift each paw, and ensure they place it down without the knuckle tucked under. If your dog maintains the knuckled position without correction, they're likely knuckling.
If you observe knuckling in your canine companion, promptly contact your vet to schedule an appointment to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.
The Causes of Knuckling in Puppies
While the cause of knuckling is not known, we have listed some potential causes of knuckling in puppies:
- Inappropriate nutrition
- Sore or Injured Paws
- Poor footing (slippery surfaces)
- Improper exercise
- Weakness between the flexor and extensor muscle groups
- Carpal Flexural Deformity
- Unbalanced growth
- Poor muscle tone
- Intervertebral Disc Disease
- Muscles, tendons, or ligaments can't support the pup's weight
Certain breeds, such as Dobermans and Shar Peis, appear predisposed to this issue. Male puppies may be more affected due to their rapid growth. This condition typically manifests between 6 and 16 weeks of age. While all breeds can be affected, larger breeds are generally more susceptible to knuckling than smaller ones. This condition may arise if a puppy is malnourished, as quality nutrition can lead to rapid growth, triggering knuckling.
Hence, we advise against overfeeding rescue pups, as excessive feeding may result in undue weight gain. Knuckling may be unavoidable in malnourished puppies, as the processes are already in motion when they enter care.
Treating Knuckling in Puppies & Dogs
The cause behind your pup's knuckling determines the treatment approach. Treatments vary, ranging from supportive care or dietary adjustments to surgical intervention, while some cases may only be manageable without a cure.
Take immediate action if your dog is knuckling due to an injury or a sore paw. Clean, bandage, and treat the wound to provide relief. In the case of an injured paw, promptly contact your vet for professional treatment or guidance on necessary steps.
For other causes of knuckling, consider implementing one or more of the following management or treatment methods:
- A Foot Brace (designed for knuckling dogs)
- Toe Grips
- Anti-inflammatory Medications
- Physical Therapy
- Avoiding walks or physical play
- Keeping your puppy in a Warm Environment (cold weather can worsen the condition)
- Mobility Aids
- Cage Rest
- Laser Therapy
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
- Avoiding putting your puppy on slippery surfaces such as floorboards (stay on surfaces such as grass, rubber mats, and carpet)
It's generally recommended to allow your puppy to move around on recommended surfaces rather than putting them in a cage or pen when they struggle to walk. Always follow your vet's advice in caring for your puppy.
There's no cure for degenerative myelopathy in dogs. However, treating symptoms as they progress can help maintain your dog's quality of life. Place puppies on a soft bed during recovery and rotate them every few hours. In some cases, a puppy that has recovered from knuckling can walk within 2 to 6 weeks.
If your puppy is knuckling, the best course of action is to contact your vet. They can diagnose the underlying cause and provide the best treatment plan for your furry friend.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.