How to Treat Dog Paw Knuckling

What is proprioception? How does it affect my pet? What can be done to help my pet? Why does my dog struggle with paw placement? These are common questions I used to hear from my Rehabilitation clients. Let’s dive right in and understand what this term means and how we can help.

What is Proprioception?

dog paw knuckling in rear leg

Proprioception is the awareness of the position and movement of the body. Dogs diagnosed with proprioceptive or CP deficits have abnormal body positions or movement due to a lack of ordinary perception.

In many cases, dogs with CP deficits experience paw knuckling or dragging while walking. Knuckling occurs when your pet stands on the top of the paw, instead of normal paw positioning and has no idea that his paw isn’t in a correct position. Paw knuckling is a sign of a neurological disease.

Conditions that Affect Proprioception

Dogs with proprioceptive issues struggle to place their paw the way they should. This could mean walking on the tops of their paws or dragging their feet and toes. A dog’s paw knuckles under typically when there is pressure in the spinal cord or spinal nerve damage; here are a few of the most common causes of knuckling in dogs:

Causes of Paw Knuckling

Paw knuckling can impact dogs of any size or breed, and the underlying cause can range from a minor paw injury to a neurological condition; here are a few of the most common causes of knuckling:

  • Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI) or Wobbler’s Syndrome
  • Cervical Disc Disease
  • FCE
  • IVDD (affecting the rear paws)
  • Neurological Disorders causing paw knuckling

If your pet is recovering from spinal surgery or injury, you’ve likely been told your pet needs to improve its proprioception. Physical Rehabilitation along with the No-Knuckling Training Sock can play a crucial role in your pet’s recovery process.

front no knuckling training sock
Front No Knuckling Training Sock
rear training sock
Rear No Knuckling Training Sock
disabled pet leash
Up-n-Go Rear Support Leash

Rehab Therapy for Paw Placement

German Shepherd gets rehab help for paw placement and knuckling

If Physical Rehabilitation is prescribed for your pet, your rehab professional will design an exercise program based on your pet’s individual needs. There are many rehab techniques to help your pet reach their goals.

Your pet will be guided through exercises designed to improve paw placement and increase its overall strength. Strength training is vital, as most pets with proprioception deficits in the rear also suffer from hind end weakness. Your rehab professional can also help teach you additional exercises for at-home training.

Common Proprioception Exercises

  • Cavaletti Poles: Commonly used in a rehab setting. This is when your pet steps over poles to make them think about paw placement.
  • Underwater treadmill sessions with “patterning” or the use of the No-Knuckling Training Sock are effective in helping your pet build strength and proprioception. Enhance hydrotherapy sessions by introducing the No-Knuckling Training Sock to encourage your dog to lift their leg as they walk.
  • “Patterning” is when the therapist moves your pet’s legs for them to help retrain a normal gait.

Proprioception Solutions

Large Dog Front Paw Knuckling

According to Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ, a “veterinarian may recommend a training sock as part of the rehabilitation process, which is designed to enhance proprioception and encourage the pet to pick their foot up and place it correctly.

For dogs who knuckle when they walk, the No-Knuckling Training Sock for rear or front legs can help to correct your dog’s gait. This training tool helps to improve your pet’s paw placement by encouraging your dog to lift its paw off the ground. After watching several of my patients struggle to lift their legs due to hind end weakness, I created the sock.

The training sock is lightweight and simple to use. The sock’s straps wrap above and below the joint to provide additional joint support.

  1. Wrap the No-Knuckling Training Sock around your pet’s leg and secure with touch fastener straps.
  2. Place the elastic cord between your pet’s center toes.
  3. Pull slowly at top of cord to tighten.
  4. Check your dog’s reaction. If at first your dog isn’t lifting their paw, gradually tighten the cord to increase the cord tension.

How the No-Knuckling Training Sock Works

The elastic cord stimulates the nerves in your pet’s paw, triggering a withdrawal or flexor reflex, causing the pet to pick up the leg. The hip, knee, and hock will flex (bend) with the help of the sciatic nerve when this withdrawal reflex is engaged—slowly retraining the pet to pick up its affected foot while walking.

The No-Knuckling Training Sock can be used on walks at home by pet owners and only needs to be worn for two to five minutes at the beginning of every walk or as directed by your Physical Rehabilitation professional. Incorporate the NKTS into your pet’s rehab sessions to enhance their training. Training Socks are available for both the front and rear legs to help any pet dealing with knuckling.

Many exercises and techniques in human medicine have been incorporated into Veterinary Rehabilitation, and now human medical advancements are being used to help our pets. With the combination of rehab and the proper tools, your dog’s proprioception abnormalities can be improved.

Renee Mills, VT, CCRP's Profile Picture

Guest Author:
Renee Mills, VT, CCRP

Renee Mills is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner and Veterinary product specialist.

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15 Comments

  1. My do front foots or turn out bad when he stand his front feets like they or broke bc they or turn out like duck feets I need to get the right brace for them to be correct if hes not to old to be correct. Hes 11 months I rescued him and his feet need to be fix so if you can help please let me know so I will know what rout to take bc I dont want to get no surgery so if you can please help I will appreciate thanks

    • Hi John,

      I would recommend speaking with your Vet if you are looking to correct the paw turn out. Our splints will help to support your dog’s foot, but are not designed to correct the position. You may need to look at a custom orthotic or work with a rehab professional. Your Veterinarian will be able to guide you in the right direction and come up with a plan for your dog.

    • Hi Pam,

      The No-Knuckling Training Sock is designed to work as a training tool, it should only be used for 2-5 minutes at a time (it can be worn multiple times a day). What many people do, is use the training sock during walks or while exercising and wear either a boot or a bootie splint to protect the foot the rest of the day. Our Customer Care team is always happy to help and answer any questions you may have, please call us at 888-253-0777 so we can help you.

  2. Hi. When my corgi is standing still he seems to roll his foot on to his toes and bends his knee. Almost like he is posing with his foot propped up. I don’t know if that makes since or if I’m even explaining it right. I am planning to take him to the vet ASAP, I just can’t exactly afford it at this very moment. But I have been trying to come up with enough money for a vet visit. In the meantime, I have been looking for answers online. I think it might be knuckling but I’m not sure. It’s his front right leg. He’s a little over a year old. When it started, it only happened every now and then. But now it happens every time he’s standing. Any advice or knowledge would be much appreciated. I have pics but I didn’t know if I could post them here. Or how to.

    • It does sound like knuckling. If your corgi is scraping the tops of his front foot I would recommend a splint or boot to protect his paw when he walks. A Front No-Knuckling Sock can be used to help retrain the paw and assist with correct paw placement. We’re happy to help answer any questions you may have, please call us at 888-253-0777

  3. My 6 year old dog has almost no nails on her front feet and you can hear them scraping on the ground when she walks.

    • Hi Lisa,

      It certainly sounds like your dog is knuckling in her front paws, which can lead to wearing down her toenails as well as scraping her feet. You can protect her paws with boots or a bootie splint, the Front No-Knuckling Training Sock can help to retrain her paw placement. Please give us a call at 888-253-0777, we’re happy to help answer any questions you may have.

  4. I have a 4-week old puppy, still with its Mum and suckling, one of 5 pups, that is knuckling on his front right paw. It looks as if the ankle joint is too weak and the leg folds under from the ankle, (carpal) when he now tries to walk. He was a very fat pup and was always feeding the longest so probably caused due to too much protein and a growth spurt. We have been manipulating and massaging the affected joint, but not much improvement. Should we fit a splint or a ‘no knuckling training sock’?? he seems a bit young for the cord around his toes?
    Thank you.
    Suzie

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Since he’s still so young, I would definitely ask your Vet what they would recommend. Since he’s still developing I would think a splint that supports the joint as well as protect the paw would be best, but it never hurts to double check with your Vet just in case. If you have any questions, please call us at 888-253-077

  5. […] Proprioception is the awareness of the position and movement of the body. Dogs diagnosed with proprioceptive deficits have abnormal body positions or movement due to a lack of normal perception. In many cases, dogs with proprioceptive deficits experience paw knuckling or dragging while walking. Knuckling occurs when your pet stands on the top of the paw, instead of normal paw positioning and has no idea that his paw isn’t in a correct position. Paw knuckling is a sign of a neurological disease. — handicappedpets.com […]

  6. Hi,
    My dog is 8 years old. She is 6 lbs. A month ago she got sick and had difficulty walking. She is better now, but is not walking with her paws. Her front paws flip outward and she is walking on the bone or bend where the paw collapses in the front. She looks like she has duck feet. I can’t tell by watching if it’s painful for her, but it is not normal. She was not doing this before she got sick. She has been to the vet many times, animal hospital once, and internal medicine doctor. She had an ultrasound and no cancer or tumors were found. My vet said the only time she has seen this is with a dog that had been on high steroids. My dog has never been on steroids.
    Will your sock work for her? What do you suggest?

    • Hi Donna – the No-Knuckling Training Sock may help your dog with paw placement, but it won’t help to support the leg joint. You may want to consider the Walkin’ Carpal Splint. The Carpal Splint will help to support the leg joint itself.

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