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Knuckling in Dogs - What It Is & How It Is Treated

If your dog is standing or walking on the top of its feet instead of its paws - your dog is knuckling. Knuckling can be a symptom of an underlying condition. Read on to learn more about this troubling action and how knuckling might be stopped.

What is Knuckling in Dogs?

Knuckling is when a dog walks on the top of its feet instead of its paw pads. Pups can knuckle on just one leg or all of them, and they might not do this for every step they take. Your dog could be knuckling under, on a front paw, or back paw. This condition can be caused for many different reasons that could be minor or severe such as neurological disorders, nerve damage, and sore paws. If you notice your dog knuckling you should call your vet because the reason for it could be a serious condition that may be fatal.

When your dog knuckles their feet tuck under and drag on the ground which can cause physical injury to any part of their foot, making it important for you to contact your vet as quickly as possible if your dog is knuckling.

What Does it Look Like if a Dog is Knuckling?

You can tell if your dog is knuckling by watching for an uneven gait or unsteadiness when they are walking to you and away from you. Then have your dog stand. Lift one paw up at a time and put it down with the knuckle under. If your dog doesn't correct the position of their paw and leaves their knuckle tucked under, they are probably knuckling.

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

Why Does Knuckling Happen?

Here is a list of some of the most common causes of knuckling in dogs:

  • Sore or Injured Paws
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease
  • Fibrocartilaginous Embolism ( spinal stroke)
  • Carpal Flexural Deformity
  • Muscles, tendons, or ligaments can't support the dog's weight

Is There a Way To Cure or Stop Knuckling?

The cause of your dog's knuckling can affect the way this condition is treated, some may be treated with supportive care, other causes may require surgery, and some can't be treated at all and can only be managed.

If your dog is knuckling as a result of an injury or sore paw they can be helped by cleaning, bandaging, and treating the wound. However, if your dog has an injured paw you should call your vet so they can treat the wound or tell you the steps you should take.

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

  • Cage Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory Medications
  • Laser Therapy
  • Toe Grips
  • Mobility Aids
  • A Foot Brace (designed for knuckling dogs)
  • Physical Therapy
  • Surgery

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

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.

If your dog is knuckling contact your vet right away, or reach out to our Tucson after-hours emergency vets.

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Our board-certified critical care specialists and skilled emergency veterinarians are here for you and your pet. If your dog or cat needs emergency care, get in touch with us right away.

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Contact (520) 795-9955