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Knuckling in Puppies

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 Brentwood vets talk about the causes of paw knuckling in puppies and the treatments available.

What is knuckling in puppies?

Knuckling occurs when a puppy walks on the tops of its feet rather than its paws. Puppies can knuckle on either one or all four legs, and they may not do so with each step.

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. 

When your puppy knuckles, they tuck their feet under and drag them on the ground, which can cause physical injury to any part of their foot. If your puppy is knuckling, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

How can I recognize knuckling in my puppy?

When your puppy walks, look for an uneven gait or unsteadiness that could indicate knuckling. If you do, have your puppy stand and lift one paw at a time before placing it down with the knuckle underneath. If your dog fails to correct their paw position 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, such as Dobermans and Shar Peis, appear predisposed to this problem. Because they grow faster, male puppies appear to be more affected as well. This condition typically appears in puppies aged 6 to 16 weeks. While it can happen to any breed, large breeds are more susceptible than smaller ones.

As a result, we do not recommend overfeeding rescue puppies because they may gain too much weight. Knuckling is sometimes unavoidable in malnourished puppies because the process starts when they enter care.

Can knuckling in puppies correct itself?

Knuckling in puppies may correct itself as they grow and develop stronger muscles. However, if the issue persists or worsens, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for further evaluation and potential intervention.

How can a veterinarian treat knuckling over in puppies?

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.

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 Brentwood vets today and arrange an appointment for your adorable pup.

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