Puppy Paw Knuckling

A puppy walking or standing on the tops of its feet can cause various health issues. This condition is referred to by our vets in Lakewood, as knuckling.

What is Puppy Paw Knuckling?

When a puppy is knuckling, it means that they are walking on the top of their feet instead of their paws. This can occur in one or all of their legs, and it may not happen with every step they take. It's possible that your puppy's front or back paws could be affected. The underlying causes of this condition can range from minor, such as sore paws, to more severe issues like nerve damage or neurological disorders. If you observe your puppy knuckling, it's crucial to contact your veterinarian immediately as the underlying condition may be fatal.

If your puppy tucks their feet under and drags them along the ground, it could result in physical harm to any part of their feet. It's important to seek veterinary care as quickly as possible in such cases.

How Can I Identify Puppy Knuckling?

If you suspect that your puppy is experiencing knuckling, you can look for signs of unsteadiness or an uneven gait when they are walking towards or away from you. To check, have your dog stand still and lift one paw up at a time. Place the paw down with the knuckle under and observe if your puppy corrects its position or leaves the knuckle tucked under. If the latter is the case, it's likely that your puppy is knuckling.

If your puppy is knuckling, call your vet immediately to book an appointment for an exam. Our veterinarians in Lakewood treat and diagnose internal medical conditions in pets. 

What Causes Knuckling in Puppies?

While the cause of knuckling is not known, it may be related to one of the following items:

  • Sore or Injured Paws
  • Improper exercise
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease
  • Weakness between the flexor and extensor muscle groups 
  • Poor footing (slippery surfaces)
  • Genetics
  • Unbalanced growth
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Inappropriate nutrition 
  • Carpal Flexural Deformity
  • Muscles, tendons, or ligaments can't support the puppy's weight

Knuckling is a condition that some dog breeds, such as Dobermans and Shar Peis, may be predisposed to. Male puppies may be more affected due to their rapid growth. Typically, the condition shows up between 6 to 16 weeks of age, and while any breed can be affected, large breeds tend to be more susceptible to knuckling than small breeds. In malnourished puppies, the condition may be a concern as receiving quality nutrition can cause rapid growth, triggering knuckling.

It's crucial to avoid overfeeding rescue pups to prevent excessive weight gain. However, knuckling may sometimes be unavoidable in malnourished puppies since the process has already begun before they come into care.

Can Knuckling in Dogs be Cured?

The approach to treating knuckling in dogs depends on the underlying cause. Some causes may be managed with supportive care, while others may require surgical intervention, and some may not be treatable at all but can be managed.

If your puppy is knuckling due to an injury or a sore paw, cleaning, bandaging, and treating the wound can help. However, if your dog has an injured paw, it's essential to contact your veterinarian for proper treatment or guidance on the necessary steps to take.

Other causes of knuckling may require one or more of the following management or treatment methods:

  • Surgery
  • Anti-inflammatory Medications
  • Laser Therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Cage Rest
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
  • Mobility Aids
  • Physical Therapy
  • Avoiding putting your puppy on slippery surfaces such as floorboards (stay on surfaces such as grass, rubber mats and carpet)
  • A Foot Brace (designed for knuckling dogs)
  • Keep Puppy in Warm Environment (cold weather can worsen the condition)
  • Avoiding walks or physical play
  • Toe Grips

Although crating or penning a puppy may seem like a solution when they have difficulty walking, it's generally advisable to encourage them to move on appropriate surfaces as recommended by your veterinarian.

Degenerative myelopathy in dogs has no known cure, but managing the symptoms as they progress can help maintain your dog's quality of life. While recovering, puppies should rest on a soft bed and be rotated every few hours. In some cases, puppies that have recovered from knuckling may resume walking within 2 to 6 weeks.

If you notice your puppy knuckling, it's crucial to seek veterinary care immediately to determine the underlying cause and develop the most effective 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.

Contact our Lakewood vets today to schedule an appointment if you believe your dog is knuckling.