Dog Front Paw Knuckling Under

Dog Front Paw Knuckling Under

In this blog, we look at dog front paw knuckling under, what causes the dogs to do this and how to treat and prevent it from happening again.

Dog Paw on the knucklesWhat is dog knuckling?

The term dog knuckling refers to when a dog walks or rests on the top of their feet as opposed to their paws. This can happen to one limb or a couple but rarely all 4. Knuckling under is an uncomfortable position to be in and restricts dogs from doing all manner of things with ease, the most obvious ones being running and walking. If left untreated, dog knuckling back paw or dog knuckling front paw can lead to permanent damage and affect their gait forever. If you see your dog has started to knuckle it’s time to find a possible cause and to organise a trip to the vents.

What causes dog paw knuckling under?

Causes for knuckling in dogs vary wildly, there isn’t just one cause for it to happen. When looking to confirm if your dog is actually ‘knuckling under’ or just coincidentally placed it like that for no reason then hold your dogs paws and place it in a knuckling position on the floor; if your dog corrects it then they aren’t knuckling; if your dog doesn’t correct then they are knuckling under. It will be much more obvious if they do it with more than one paw.

Disclaimer: are not a qualified source of canine medical help, and this guide is to be informative but not advice. If you suspect your dog needs medical attention consult a vet immediately. 

Here are some common reasons why your dog may be knuckling under their paws:

Sore Paws

One of the biggest causes for knuckling paws and the one you should look for first is sore paws. Sore paws itself could then have more than one symptom but if you check them out it should become obvious if this is the root cause of the knuckling. Has your dog cut or grazed their paws making it painful to walk on them? Be sure to clean the paw out and seek disinfectant for the wound and allow to heal over time – obviously try to not to make them go for walks unless necessary during this time. Other causes could be broken or infected nails which can arise from cutting them too close to the quick (we have an article of interest for the best dog nail clippers) or from their nails being split from wearing or a sudden impact.

Have a look at the paw and see for yourself, if it hasn’t resolved or healed well in a 24 hour period then consult a vet.

Carpal Flexural Deformity

Carpal flexural deformity means that the dog’s “wrists” haven’t developed well enough to bare the weight of the dog and makes the dog knuckle under to allow them to bare the weight. Carpal flexural deformity occurs usually in young puppies as they are under going a growth spurt and a plausible theory is that some parts of the dog is growing and developing faster than others. A splint can help get the development back on track and usually should rectify the problem permanently. It’s most common in larger breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds and Dobermans.

If you notice your puppy knuckling under and it’s a medium to large breed then consult your veterinarian straight away.

Dog KnucklingArthritis/Degenerative Myelopathy

Older dogs who are experiencing arthritis can struggle to move because of their joints seizing up and this can lead to dogs knuckling under their paws as a means to make it a little bit more comfortable, this is a well known progressive disease which will only worsen with time unfortunately, knuckling under is likely to not be the first symptom of arthritis.

Degenerative myelopathy is a similar condition which affects the white matter in the canine’s spinal cord slowly making them lose control of their hind limbs slowly. This is a condition affecting dogs between the ages of 8 and 14 and unfortunately like arthritis this is a condition which will only get worse. However, it is not painful for the dog.

If you have a older dog whose paw is knuckling under then I’d consider these two reasons first, especially if they are of a larger breed such as a German Shepherd.

Carpal Flexural Deformity

Carpal flexural deformity is another condition which occurs during the dog’s early days. This is often as a result of a poor diet (see our range of high fibre dog food and wet dog food) and having an excess protein intake. As we’ve mentioned previously, we aren’t qualified veterinarians so if you have a young dog under 5 months of age who is knuckling their paws under then take them to the vet and they will be able to see if the cause can be treated with an improved diet. With carpal flexural deformity if treated properly and perhaps with the aid of a splint symptoms (knuckling) should go away after a couple of weeks.

Don’t self diagnose a dog. Go get them seen by a professional.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Fibrocartilaginous embolism is a nasty condition which can is brought on by sudden trauma during exercise, the trauma breaks of a part of the spine which cuts off blood supply to area of the body such as limbs and so on. This is a very serious condition which is difficult to spot initially – you may notice a yelp during exercise but may not see your dog in any more pain after that. Knuckling is but one of many symptoms of fibrocartilaginous embolism so you’ll probably know to take your dog to the vet before any knuckling happens.


There’s never a good reason why a dog front paw knuckling under and regardless of the root cause medical intervention is recommended. If they experience it when they’re young the outcome looks hopeful but if their older it poses more of a problem. However, our advice still stands – take them to the vet!

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6 thoughts on “Dog Front Paw Knuckling Under”

  1. Sheila Baker

    Have read your article fully is there anything that can ve done for an older dog with this condition I on front paw.

  2. TL DeVita

    After electro-acupuncture was performed on my dogs front pads he had difficulty walking. As if his feet were too sore. This lasted a few days but now he is knuckling on both front feet. Seeing his usual vet tomorrow and not the vet who did acupuncture.

  3. My great dane is knuckling front paw does not appear in pain has had TPLO when 2 years old now 7 this was done on hind leg fit and healthy otherwise

  4. I’m my 14 year old chihuahua is knuckling under on front right foot as he walks . He does have arthritis and kidney disease . Is there anything I can do to help him

  5. Patricia O'mara

    My friend has a Chihuahua which is 11 years old his front paw keeps knuckling when he just sits there any advice plz

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