Knuckling Over

Indulge us for a moment.

Stand up, place the knuckles of your hands on a table and push down on them. Hold your wrists so that they form a straight, vertical line. You could do this for awhile, couldn’t you? Now move your wrists slightly forward so that they’re are no longer held in a straight line. If you’re like the rest of us, your wrists will start to quiver. It’s not something that’s very comfortable, nor can it be easily sustained for very long.

Dogs are no different, and when it’s present, it’s called “knuckling over.” “Knuckling over” is seen in a dog’s pasterns (wrists) and is sometimes first noticed by the average person when their dog drags his front paws, scrapes his toenails along the ground, or if the dog’s front legs shake. Sometimes it may seem as if the front of the dog (the weight bearing part of the body) can’t support the dog’s weight.

The condition is complex because a dog’s foot/pastern assembly is complex. It’s not something that can be adequately addressed in a short post, so you’ll want to do your homework to learn more. This is only a quickie thumbnail sketch meant to encourage you to investigate if further you suspect it in your dog.  Our caveat is always to consult your veterinarian (and mention it to your dog’s heritage breeder if appropriate).

There are many opinions about the causes of “knuckling over;” sometimes it’s a growth spurt seen in large breed puppies, and sometimes it appears in old dogs as part of the dog’s aging process. It can be the result of trauma, uneven growth patterns between bone, and tissue/muscle, aging or disease. Some people believe it’s the result of diet. Generally speaking, it’s not thought to be genetic when seen in growing puppies or geriatric dogs – but (emphasis on but), it can be a symptom of Degenerative Myelopathy. If you see this in your dog, please don’t wait to see a vet (when you check out the images on a simple Google search we did on “knuckling over,” some of you will gasp. We didn’t have consent to use an image of a dog knuckling over, so we use a fun picture instead.

Image: Photo credit: Markus Jaschke Samu and the Starfish via photopin (license)

4 thoughts on “Knuckling Over”

  1. My Old Man had DM (suspected, never confirmed). I watched him slowly, over the course of three years at least, go from barely the occasional toenail drag to full-on knuckling over in the rear. Near the end, he occasionally took steps with full knuckling before righting his feet.

    To complicate the diagnosis, his proximate cause of death was primary liver cancer. The vet opened him up, took one look, and promptly closed. I wish I’d thought to ask him to send a section of spinal cord for analysis.

    I don’t think I have any photos of him knuckling, but I’ll check with my brother and see if he may have taken any. If I find one I’ll send it to you.

  2. If this occurs suddenly and the dog seems to have little sensation in the same leg, IMMEDIATELY contact the vet as it can be a sign of a fibrocartiliginous embolism (FCE)…which requires immediate treatment

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