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Puppy Knuckling

Is your puppy standing bow legged, or walking with their arms curled, instead of straight? This is a condition referred to as puppy knuckling and can point to various health issues. In this post, our vets in Hattiesburg and Wiggins explain what knuckling is in puppies and how it can be stopped. 

What does puppy knuckling mean?

When a puppy is knuckling, it's walking on the top of its feet instead of its paws. This creates the appearance of curved front arms, instead of straight ones. Pups can be knuckling on a singular leg, or all of them, and the condition can have many different causes that may be minor or severe. Sometimes, knuckling can cause sore paws, nerve damage, or neurological disorders. But if you notice your puppy knuckling, you should contact your vet. The underlying condition may cause future health concerns. 

If your puppy tucks their feet under and drags them on the ground, this can cause physical injury to any part of the foot, making it important to seek veterinary care as quickly as possible. 

How can I tell if my puppy is knuckling?

You can tell if knuckling is an issue for your puppy if you notice an unsteadiness, wobbliness, or uneven step when they are walking toward you or away from you. Have your dog stand, lift one paw at a time, and put it down with the knuckle under. If your puppy doesn't correct their paw's position and leaves their knuckle tucked under, they are likely knuckling. 

If your puppy is knuckling, call your vet immediately to book an appointment for an exam. Our veterinarians in Hattiesburg and Wiggins treat and diagnose this medical condition in pets. 

What causes paw knuckling in puppies?

While the cause of knuckling is not known, but it may be related to:

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

Some breeds, including Dobermans and Shar Peis, appear to be predisposed to this condition. Due to their rapid growth, male puppies may be affected more than females. The condition usually presents itself between the ages of 6 to 16 weeks.

While all breeds can be impacted, large breeds tend to be more susceptible to knuckling than small breeds. If a puppy has come into your care suffering from malnutrition, this condition may be an issue.

To keep your puppy healthy, it's recommended not to overfeed pups so they do not put on too much weight. 

Can knuckling over in puppies be cured?

The cause of your dog's knuckling can affect treatment. Some may require surgery, and some can't be treated at all but can only be managed.

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.

In some cases, knuckling may require one or more of the following management or treatment methods:

  • Acupuncture
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
  • Toe grips
  • Mobility aids
  • Cage rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Laser therapy
  • A foot brace (designed for knuckling dogs)
  • Avoiding putting your puppy on slippery surfaces such as floorboards (stay on surfaces such as grass, rubber mats, and carpet)
  • Physical therapy
  • Keeping the puppy in a warm environment (cold weather can worsen the condition)
  • Avoiding walks or physical play
  • Surgery
If your puppy 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.

Contact our Hattiesburg and Wiggins vets today to schedule an appointment to begin treatment for your dog's knuckling.

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Holland Veterinary Hospitals in Hattiesburg and Wiggins are accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of all animals big and small. Get in touch today to book an in-house or on-farm appointment with our experienced vets.

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