Knuckling in Puppies: Why Your Puppy Drags Their Paws and How To Stop It

Knuckling in Puppies: Why Your Puppy Drags Their Paws and How To Stop It

Have you ever heard of knuckling in puppies? Knuckling is a condition in which puppies walk with their paws turned under, effectively walking on the “knuckles” of the foot instead of on the paw pads. While this problem may happen on all four feet at once, it is more commonly seen in just one or two feet at a time.

If your puppy is knuckling, it’s normal to feel some concern. This condition can be a sign of a serious underlying health problem, and it’s important to have it checked by your vet as soon as possible. Read through the article below to learn more about knuckling in your puppy.

puppy knuckling in matthews, nc

What causes knuckling?

Knuckling is caused by a variety of health problems in young dogs. Some are considerably worse than others, and some are very mild and require little intervention to heal. Potential causes of knuckling in puppies include:

  • Muscle weakness
    • Some puppies are born with muscle weakness due to birth complications, and others may have this condition as a result of their genetics.
  • Lack of nutrition
    • Without proper nutrition, a puppy’s muscles, ligaments, and tendons will not grow the way they should and could become malformed.
  • Invertebrate disc issues
    • If anything is wrong with the puppy’s spine, this could lead to knuckling.
  • Paw injury
    • Sometimes, puppy knuckling is caused by a paw or paw pad injury, which is easy to recover from.

It is important to note that knuckling is not the same as puppies accidentally tripping over their own feet. Tripping while growing into their bodies is a normal activity for puppies of all sizes. If your puppy stumbles but then rights itself immediately, this is likely not knuckling.

Which breeds are prone to knuckling?

Breeds that are very muscular and dense are known to knuckle more than others. Dobermans are one such breed, and Shar Peis are another. Other breeds with similar body structures may be more likely to suffer from knuckling as well.

Rapid growth contributes to knuckling often, so large and giant breeds may be more likely to have this issue too. Additionally, male dogs are more likely than female dogs, and puppies under four months of age are the most commonly affected age range.

Can you fix this problem on your own?

Possibly. Many underlying causes of knuckling in dogs require veterinary care and intervention. However, some of the milder causes of short-term knuckling can be handled at home. Consider crate training your puppy and encouraging them to rest in their crate as much as possible to help the problem heal.

You may also want to provide your puppy with a warm place to lay. This can help ease inflammation and other issues that contribute to knuckling. Do not use electric heating pads or mats for puppies. Instead, use a self-heating mat that uses their own body heat to warm them up.

What are some other treatments for knuckling in puppies?

If your puppy’s knuckling issue cannot be treated at home, then you’ll need to work with your vet to consider the best option moving forward. Some possible vet care options include:

  • Medication
    • Your puppy may need medication to control the inflammation in their joints, which may be contributing to the problem.
  • Physical therapy
    • Some puppies may recover fully from this problem with the help of physical therapy.
  • Foot braces
    • If your puppy needs a foot brace, your vet will have to help you fit it properly and learn how to care for it, too.
  • Surgery
    • Sometimes, the problem may be severe enough to require surgery to correct your dog’s gait.

What is the prognosis for treating knuckling in puppies?

There is no set cure for knuckling in puppies, but many of the causes of this problem do have cures. Additionally, even those that cannot be cured can be well maintained throughout the dog’s life. If you work with a trusted and experienced vet, you should have no trouble keeping your dog healthy, safe, and comfortable despite her knuckling issue.

If you have any questions or concerns about your individual dog’s health, you will need to ask your vet these as well. Your vet can help you understand your puppy’s needs from day one.


Based on this information, you can see how concerning knuckling may be, especially if your puppy is already at risk for some type of serious underlying health problem. However, in some instances, knuckling is not a sign of a major issue and it is something puppies will grow out of.

Since it is difficult to pinpoint the cause of knuckling on your own, it’s important to work with a vet to figure out what’s going on with your puppy. The vet can help you make the right decision regarding treatment and management of the problem as well.

If your puppy is knuckling or dragging their paws near Matthews, NC contact our team at Caring Hearts Animal Hospital. We’ll find the root cause of this issue and help you and your pup move forward. Our team is also Fear Free Certified.  Make an appointment for your dog by calling us at (704) 893-2799 or by scheduling an appointment online.