Paw knuckling in older dogs

Paw knuckling in older dogs

##Key Takeaway:

Key Takeaway:

  • Paw knuckling in older dogs is a common sign of neurological or joint problems that should be addressed by a veterinarian.
  • Common symptoms of knuckling in dogs include abnormal paw positioning and unsteadiness or knuckling over when walking.
  • Testing for knuckling in dogs involves observing their gait for signs of unsteadiness or knuckling, lifting paws to test for knuckling, and checking for sore paws or injuries.
  • Treating knuckling in dogs typically involves using steroids, anti-inflammatories, or surgery for severe cases.
  • Breeds predisposed to intervertebral disc disease are particularly susceptible to knuckling and should receive regular veterinary care to prevent and manage the condition.


As dogs age, they can develop paw knuckling – a condition where their paw folds under and they walk on the tops of their digits. But what exactly causes this condition and what can it mean for our furry companions? In this section, we will explore the intricacies of paw knuckling in dogs, shedding some light on what it is, what causes it, and what to do if your dog is experiencing this issue.

Understanding Knuckling in Dogs

Knuckling in dogs is a worrying thing. It’s when the paw isn’t in the right position, so it drags on the ground while walking. Owners can recognise it by seeing how the paw and foot are positioned, as well as unsteadiness or knuckling. Certain breeds are more prone to it, like those with intervertebral disc disease, arthritis or neurological problems.

To test for knuckling, watch the dog’s gait for signs of trouble, lift the paws to check, and look for injuries or soreness. Older dogs with knuckling should get vet care. Treatment options can range from drugs to surgery in worst cases.

Understanding knuckling is key to spotting health troubles that could affect mobility. If a pet owner notices their dog having difficulty walking, they should go to the vet. This way, they can get the right diagnosis and treatment, which can improve their pet’s quality of life.

In conclusion, knuckling in dogs can look harmless, but it may be a sign of something worse. Pet owners should be aware of it and seek help as soon as possible, to keep their furry friend healthy.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Knuckling in Dogs

As dog owners, we are always keeping a lookout for any signs or symptoms that may indicate a decline in our furry friend’s health. In this section, we will discuss the common signs and symptoms of knuckling in dogs.

We will explore the sub-sections relating to:

  • Paw positioning
  • Foot scraping
  • Unsteadiness or knuckling over when walking

By understanding the causes and symptoms of knuckling in dogs, we can provide early intervention and potentially prevent further complications for our beloved pets.

Paw Positioning and Foot Scraping

Observing a dog? Keep an eye on their paw positioning and foot scraping. This could be knuckling. Knuckling causes the paw to turn in or out when walking. Result: lack of stability, balance issues. Here’s a 4-step guide.

Step 1: Look at the paw placement when walking/standing.
Step 2: Search for dragging/scraping.
Step 3: Check if toes curl under or if flat-footedness occurs.
Step 4: Look for signs of pain/discomfort during movement.

Paw positioning/foot scraping not always knuckling. Age, breed disposition, injuries can affect gait. A vet can examine and determine the underlying cause(s).

Unsteadiness or Knuckling Over When Walking

Don’t ignore it when your pup walks unsteadily, or knuckles over! This condition is known as paw knuckling, and it could indicate underlying neurological problems.

Other signs of neurological issues include limping, favoring one limb, and wobbling while standing and walking.

These symptoms may point to more serious conditions like arthritis or neurogenic diseases. Get professional help right away. Only a vet can tell what is causing the problem. So don’t wait – seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Causes of Knuckling in Dogs

Knuckling in older dogs is a common problem that can significantly affect their mobility and quality of life. This section aims to explore the causes of this issue, including neurological problems and arthritis, so that dog owners can better understand the root of the problem and seek appropriate treatment. According to the Reference Data, these factors account for the majority of cases of paw knuckling in older dogs, making it crucial to differentiate between them to provide targeted care for our furry friends.

Neurological Problems

Neurological issues in dogs are anything that affects the nervous system. This includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. These issues can bring about different signs and may originate from various causes, like injury, illness, or genes.

Dogs with neurological problems may show different symptoms. These can be weak or paralysed limbs, tremors or fits, difficulty standing or walking, lack of balance, and behavioural changes. The indications can differ depending on the location and severity of the problem.

In some cases, head or spine injuries can cause neurological issues in dogs. This can lead to damage to parts of the nervous system, necessitating immediate medical care. Other causes include infections like meningitis or encephalitis, genetic disorders like epilepsy or DM, metabolic disorders like diabetes or liver disease, and stroke.

If you think your dog has neurological problems, it’s vital to seek help from a vet straight away. Early detection and treatment can reduce the severity of the condition and make managing the symptoms easier. Treatment varies depending on the cause, but could include medication, surgery, physical therapy sessions, and other supportive measures as recommended by the vet.


Arthritis is a common condition in dogs. It can result in reduced movement and pain. It may be caused by genes or an injury which harms the cartilage in the joint structure. If untreated or as the dog grows older, it gets worse, leading to other physical problems, like muscle loss, nerve harm, and bone bump.

Thankfully, veterinary care can ease some of the symptoms of Arthritis. Anti-inflammatory drugs and supplements, like glucosamine-chondroitin, have been seen to work. Also, cold lasers have been observed to be very helpful for treating weaker affected areas.

Preventing Arthritis in dogs is important too. Keeping your pup at a healthy weight and doing regular exercise with help from a vet can stop arthritis from developing or worsening. Controlling breed-specific troubles that enhance arthritis risk, like hip dysplasia, with early diagnosis and surgery advice, as well as timely treatment of any injuries that may affect joint health, can keep your pup content and free of ache.

Testing for Knuckling in Dogs

As dogs age, they may experience a decline in mobility and coordination, which can be difficult to detect. In this section, we will explore various methods of testing for knuckling in dogs, including:

  1. Observing their gait for signs of unsteadiness or knuckling
  2. Lifting their paws to test for knuckling
  3. Checking for sore paws or injuries

With these techniques, we can identify underlying health issues and take proactive steps to address them.

Observing Gait for Signs of Unsteadiness or Knuckling

Observing a dog’s gait is important. Look out for signs of unsteadiness or knuckling. It could be a sign of underlying issues that need addressing. Check for abnormalities in the way they walk or move. This includes dragging paws, stumbling, or slowness. Also check the position of their feet and claws, and how they hold their tail. All this helps diagnose knuckling.

Different dogs have different symptoms of knuckling. Some breeds may be more predisposed to neurological problems. Careful observation and attention to detail are key in identifying this issue in dogs. Seek veterinary care and advice from animal health professionals. They have the training and expertise needed for proper evaluation and treatment. This can help improve or reduce any symptoms your pet is experiencing.

Lifting Paws to Test for Knuckling

To check for knuckling in dogs, lifting up their paws is an effective way. This action is done to detect any weaknesses or issues that could be present in their limbs. Here is the procedure for lifting a paw to evaluate knuckling in dogs:

  • Position yourself next to your pet on a solid surface, like a table or counter.
  • Clasp the limb and lift it until it’s even with their waist.
  • Gently put your other hand below their paw and hold it firmly as you let go of the leg being raised.
  • See how they react when you remove their leg – if they sustain proper alignment of their paw, with no knuckling or caving in, then there shouldn’t be any cause for worry.

It’s important to remember that each dog is one-of-a-kind, so not all of them will show signs of knuckling. Some dogs may have weaker legs than others, which can cause trembling or shaking during regular activities like walking. It’s suggested that pet owners get veterinary care and guidance if knuckling continues or if there are other signs of distress, pain, or injury.

Pro Tip: To make your dog feel safe and secure during this exercise, talk softly and give treats and compliments after every lift to promote good behavior.

Checking for Sore Paws or Injuries

Checking for signs of knuckling in dogs requires looking for sore paws or injuries. Any dog can get injured, so it’s important to inspect their paws regularly.

Walking on rough ground, playing with sharp objects, or being too hot can hurt a dog’s paw and cause them to knuckle their paws to ease the pain. Inspecting your pet’s paw often and taking action if you see something odd can help prevent serious knuckling problems.

To check for sore paws or injuries, lift each paw individually. Look at the toes, pads, claw bed, and webbing between the toes for bruises, cuts, punctures, or fracture lines. Also, check for ingrown nails that can lead to limping. These can develop quickly, so it’s essential to inspect them frequently to ensure quick intervention if needed.

Treating Knuckling in Dogs

As dogs age, they can develop a number of health issues, one of which is knuckling. In this section, we will explore different methods for treating this condition. We will take a closer look at the benefits and risks associated with the use of steroids and anti-inflammatories, and discuss the potential need for surgery in severe cases. Additionally, we will investigate breeds that may be predisposed to developing intervertebral disc disease, which is a common cause of knuckling in dogs.

Steroids and Anti-Inflammatories

Steroids and anti-inflammatories are often used by vets for treating knuckling in dogs. Steroids reduce inflammation, which can reduce pain and swelling. Both of these meds can be helpful for knuckling due to arthritis or neurological issues – but only when under the guidance of a vet to avoid side effects. Short-term relief is possible, but it’s key to address the underlying cause for long-term solutions.

It’s important to remember that different dog breeds can respond differently to steroid and anti-inflammatory treatments for knuckling problems. Breeds susceptible to intervertebral disc disease may need supplementary treatments beyond meds. So, it’s essential to get advice from a qualified vet for the right diagnosis and treatment plan for your pup.

In severe cases of knuckling, surgery may be necessary to get your pup back on all fours.

Surgery for Severe Cases

When dealing with severe paw knuckling in dogs, surgery may be an option. Meds like steroids and anti-inflammatories can help manage symptoms, but not always. Surgery is recommended for neurological or arthritis issues that don’t respond to other treatments.

IVDD, which can partially or fully paralyze limbs, may require emergency surgery. Breeds like Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, and Shih Tzus are more prone due to back weakness. Surgery involves removing damaged discs through a surgical incision on the back.

When considering surgery, seek a vet experienced in animal orthopedic surgeries. This helps ensure positive recovery and quick rehabilitation. Physiotherapy may be recommended after surgery to help dog regain motor function.

Surgery requires financial commitment and specialized expertise in animal care after. Be sure to consult your vet before making any decision, as there might be alternative ways better for your dog’s condition.

Breeds Predisposed to Intervertebral Disc Disease

Pups like Dachshunds have a higher chance of getting intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). It can cause pain, weakness, and even paralysis. Breeds such as Shih Tzus, Beagles, and Lhasa Apsos have a medium risk. While French Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, Miniature Poodles, and Corgis have a low-medium risk.

It’s important to know that just because your pup is at risk for IVDD, it doesn’t mean they will have it. But, if you spot any signs of the condition, take your pet to the vet right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve their quality of life.

Protect your pup! If they’re in a breed prone to intervertebral disc disease, stay alert. Seeking help quickly is key to keeping them healthy and happy.

Conclusion: Seeking Veterinary Care for Knuckling in Dogs

Veterinary attention is essential for older dogs suffering from paw knuckling. This neurological issue can be painful and debilitating. If not treated, it can decrease the dog’s quality of life and cause discomfort. Older dogs are more at risk due to factors such as arthritis, spinal cord disease, and nerve damage.

Signs of paw knuckling may include the dragging of the paw, especially when the dog is walking or standing. Seek veterinary care to treat and reduce the condition. If you notice your dog exhibiting symptoms, get veterinary care right away. Delaying treatment can cause muscle atrophy and additional nerve damage.

Veterinary care is important for the health and happiness of your older dog. Early detection and intervention can make a difference. Don’t wait; make an appointment with your veterinarian today.

Five Facts About Paw Knuckling in Older Dogs:

  • ✅ Paw knuckling in older dogs can affect one or more legs and is a sign of an underlying health issue. (Source:
  • ✅ Neurological problems, such as intervertebral disc disease, degenerative myelopathy, and cervical spondylomyelopathy, can cause paw knuckling in older dogs. (Source:
  • ✅ Arthritis can also cause paw knuckling in older dogs due to joint pain and stiffness. (Source:
  • ✅ Early signs of paw knuckling in puppies usually appear between 6 and 14 weeks of age and commonly affect large and giant breeds, while senior dogs usually show symptoms at around 8 to 14 years of age. (Source:
  • ✅ Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a common condition that can cause paw knuckling in older dogs, and treatment options range from medication to surgery. (Source:

FAQs about Paw Knuckling In Older Dogs

What is paw knuckling in dogs and what are the common causes?

Paw knuckling in dogs is when they walk or rest on the top of their feet instead of their pads. Common causes include neurological disorders such as intervertebral disc disease, degenerative myelopathy, fibrocartilaginous embolism, and carpal flexural deformity, as well as arthritis.

Can paw knuckling in older dogs be a symptom of Degenerative Myelopathy?

Yes, paw knuckling in older dogs can be a symptom of Degenerative Myelopathy, a genetically inherited condition that impacts a dog’s mobility and can cause dragging or scraping rear paw.

What are the signs of paw knuckling in senior dogs?

Senior dogs may show signs of paw knuckling under at around 8 to 14 years of age, particularly those suffering from Degenerative Myelopathy or Arthritis. Signs of paw knuckling under include foot scraping, shaking, and paw positioning where the toes are tucked under the foot.

How can I diagnose paw knuckling in my dog?

To diagnose paw knuckling in your dog, observe your dog’s gait for signs of unsteadiness or knuckling over. Lift each paw and place it down with the knuckle under, your dog should immediately correct the position. Sudden knuckling may be caused by sore paws, so check for thorns, burns, bug bites, broken toes or claws. If the issue does not resolve within a day, take your dog to the vet to avoid infections.

How can I treat paw knuckling in my dog?

Treatment for paw knuckling in dogs depends on the underlying cause. Steroids and anti-inflammatories can treat mild cases, while surgery may be needed for severe cases. Additionally, red light therapy and training socks may be recommended by your vet to improve conscious proprioception, which is the dog’s ability to know where their limbs are in space.

What breeds of dogs are predisposed to paw knuckling?

Some breeds that are predisposed to paw knuckling due to a disorder of cartilage formation include Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, Corgis, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Shih-Tzus, Poodles, and Pekingese. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, and Labrador Retrievers are also commonly affected by intervertebral disc disease, which can lead to paw knuckling in dogs.

Joe Inglis
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