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Knuckling in Puppies

Is your puppy walking or standing on the top of their feet instead of their paws? If so, they may be knuckling. Here, our Carrollton vets talk about the causes of paw knuckling in puppies and the treatments available.

What is knuckling in puppies?

Knuckling is when a puppy walks on the top of its feet instead of its paws. It is possible for pups to knuckle on just one leg or all four legs, and they may not do this with every step they take.

This condition can be caused for a variety of reasons. These range from minor to severe and include neurological disorders, nerve damage, and sore paws. If you notice your puppy knuckling, call your veterinarian to find out why.

When your puppy knuckles, they tuck their feet under and drag them on the ground, this can cause physical injury to any part of their foot, making it imperative to contact your vet as fast as possible if your pup is knuckling.

How can I recognize knuckling in my puppy?

When your puppy walks, look for an uneven gait or unsteadiness that indicates knuckling. If you do, have your puppy stand, lift one paw at a time, and place it down with its knuckle under. If your dog does not correct the position of their paw and keeps their knuckle tucked under, they are most likely knuckling.

If your canine companion is knuckling, call your vet immediately to schedule an appointment so they can diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

What are 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
  • Genetics
  • 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

Some breeds, like Dobermans and Shar Peis, seem predisposed to this issue. Because they grow faster, male puppies also seem to be affected more. This condition usually presents when a puppy is between 6 and 16 weeks. While it can happen to all breeds, large breeds tend to be more susceptible than smaller breeds.

Therefore, we don't recommend overfeeding rescue pups because overfeeding could make them gain too much weight. Knuckling is sometimes unavoidable in malnourished puppies as the processes have already started when they come into care.

How can a veterinarian treat knuckling?

The treatments used for your pup's knuckling will be determined by the underlying cause. Some dogs may be treated with supportive care or diet, other causes may require surgery, and some can't be treated at all and can only be managed.

If your dog is knuckling due to an injury or sore paw, you can help them by cleaning, bandaging, and treating the wound. If your puppy has an injured paw, you should contact your veterinarian so that they can treat the wound or advise you on what steps to take.

Other causes of knuckling may require 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
  • Surgery
  • Avoiding putting your puppy on slippery surfaces such as floorboards (stay on surfaces such as grass, rubber mats, and carpet)

While it may seem like a good idea to crate or pen your puppy when they are struggling to walk, it's generally recommended that puppies still move around on the surfaces recommended above. Always remember to follow your vet's advice when it comes to caring for your puppy.

If your puppy is knuckling the best thing you can do is contact your vet to have them diagnose the underlying cause and provide your furry friend with the best possible treatment plan.

Can knuckling over in puppies correct itself?

Possibly. However, many of the underlying causes of knuckling in dogs require veterinary care and intervention. For that reason, we strongly recommend consulting with your veterinarian if you notice your puppy knuckling. Err on the side of caution and don't assume the issue will fix itself.

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.

Is your puppy knuckling? Contact our Carrollton vets today and arrange an appointment for your pup.

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