Is your puppy walking or standing on the top of their feet instead of their paws? If yes, they might be experiencing knuckling. In this blog post, our veterinarians in Seattle discuss the causes of knuckling in puppies and the available treatments.

What is knuckling in puppies?

Knuckling occurs when a puppy walks on the top of its feet rather than its paws. Puppies may knuckle on just one leg or all four, and they may not exhibit this behavior with every step.

Various factors can cause this condition, ranging from minor to severe issues such as neurological disorders, nerve damage, and sore paws.

If you observe your puppy knuckling, it is essential to contact your vet to determine the cause. When puppies knuckle, they tuck their feet under and drag them on the ground, risking injury to their feet.

Therefore, promptly contact your vet if your puppy is knuckling.

How can I recognize knuckling in my puppy?

To identify knuckling, observe your puppy for an uneven gait or instability while walking. If you notice these signs, have your puppy stand and lift one paw at a time, ensuring they place it down with the knuckle underneath. Failure to correct the position of their paw, leaving the knuckle tucked under, indicates knuckling.

If your canine companion is experiencing knuckling, promptly contact your vet to schedule an appointment for diagnosis and treatment of 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.

Hence, we advise against overfeeding rescue pups, as excessive intake can lead to excessive weight gain. Knuckling may be inevitable in malnourished pups, as the processes have already commenced upon their arrival into care.

How can a veterinarian treat knuckling?

The underlying cause will determine the treatments for your pup's knuckling. Some dogs may benefit from supportive care or dietary adjustments, while others may require surgery. In cases where treatment isn't feasible, management becomes the only option.

If your pup is knuckling due to an injury or sore paw, you can assist by cleaning, bandaging, and treating the wound. However, if your pup has an injured paw, it's crucial to contact your veterinarian for proper treatment or guidance on necessary steps.

Various management or treatment methods may be necessary for other causes of knuckling, including:

  • 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 crating or confining your struggling-to-walk puppy might seem beneficial, experts generally advise encouraging puppies to move on recommended surfaces. Always heed your vet's guidance for proper puppy care.

If your puppy exhibits knuckling, the best course of action is to promptly contact your vet for diagnosis and the most suitable treatment plan for your furry companion.

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 or kitten knuckling? Contact our Seattle vets today and to arrange a checkup your adorable pet.