Have you noticed that your dog’s paws turn inward? Has it made you a little concerned; is it normal for dogs? Is there anything you will need to do bout it? Well, here is everything you will want to know and consider.
So, why do my dog’s front paws turn inward? A dog’s paws may turn inward as a result of physical trauma, such as from over-exercising or excessive jumping. In more extreme cases, carpal varus, degenerative myelopathy, or certain neurological diseases (e.g., Wobbler’s Syndrome) can result in inward paws.
As you can see, the underlying cause can vary quite dramatically.
So you will need to investigate.
Is this something that is new? Or has your dog had inward paws for a little while now?
Either way, let’s continue to explore the potential underlying causes to help you try and identify which one is could be, before turning to what the appropriate response would be for each context.
Why Are My Dog’s Front Paws Turned Inward?
Your dog’s front paws could be turned inward because of soreness or trauma. Carpal deformities can cause this, too, especially in young puppies. Other times a more serious disease or disorder is at fault, such as Intervertebral Disc Disease, degenerative myopathy, or another neurological disorder. It could also be lousy walking habits!
Soreness or Trauma
Sometimes physical trauma can lead to your dog’s paws starting to turn inward. Over-exercising can cause this trauma, too.
Jumping from high places can also cause trauma to your dog’s paws and spine.
In addition, your dog’s paws are highly sensitive.
Unlike us, dogs walk directly on the ground all the time, and their paw pads are sensitive to ground temperatures.
On very hot or very cold days, your dog may find it painful to walk and perhaps start dragging his paws as a result.
If your dog starts knuckling (turning his paws under), he might be indicating he’s finding it uncomfortable to walk.
Carpal Deformities (Carpal Varus)
It could be your dog’s inward-turned paws are from carpal deformities. Puppies can be particularly prone to carpal deformities as they go through growth spurts.
Carpal varus can get to the point where your puppy trips over his own paws.
Carpal deformities can sometimes be caused by too much protein or when puppies haven’t been weaned properly.
Take a look at your dog’s diet, and consult with your vet for the best way forward.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) could be causing your dog’s paws to turn inward. IVDD is a serious disease (although treatable) and may happen either with age or due to physical trauma.
There are two types of IVDD – Hansen Type I and Hansen Type II.
Hansen Type I
Hansen Type I is commonly seen in chondrodystrophic breeds such as:
- Dachshunds (as much as 70% of IVDD occurs in Dachshunds)
This type of IVDD involves an acute disc rupture, usually due to the impact of a forceful landing (from jumping, for example).
A ruptured disc can result in:
- Difficulty walking
- Inability to urinate
Hansen Type II
In the Hansen Type II IVDD, the most common breeds affected are large dogs, such as:
- German shepherds (the overwhelming majority of cases)
With this type of IVDD, the spinal discs gradually harden over time and eventually rupture or bulge to compress the spinal cord.
This can happen anywhere along your dog’s spine, but 65% of disc ruptures happen in the midback area and 18% in the cervical region (the neck).
For Both Types of IVDD
A dog with IVDD of either type will lose back flexibility which makes him more susceptible to injury.
Because his spinal cord is slowly degenerating, in addition to his paws turning inward, you may notice any of the following:
- He becomes more stiff
- He turns his paws under (knuckling)
- His gait isn’t normal
- He becomes weaker overall
- He yelps if you lift his tail
IVDD requires immediate veterinary intervention to stop the progression of the disease. It usually requires surgery, though not always.
Fortunately, the prognosis for IVDD is usually good, although the recovery period requires additional support, usually from professionals (see below).
Some older dogs (ages 8 to 14 years) may experience degenerative myelopathy, which is a condition that involves the degradation of the white matter that surrounds your dog’s bones.
You may not notice this disease right away as your dog might not be in immediate pain, but as the disease progresses, you may notice him struggling to walk.
Symptoms of Degenerative Myelopathy
The early warning signs of degenerative myelopathy include:
- Difficulty getting up to stand
- Loss of balance (so tripping and stumbling)
- Walking with exaggerated movements or a swaying back end
- Scraping toenails when walking
- Rear legs crossing
Sadly, degenerative myelopathy progresses rather quickly. Most dogs can become paraplegic within six months to a year.
- The more advanced stages can result in:
- Gradual loss of strength in his front end
- No longer able to stand on hind legs
- Not able to stand even when lifted
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
Degenerative myelopathy is deadly – with the degeneration eventually progressing to the neck, brain, and brain stem. Your dog won’t be able to move his limbs and will struggle to breathe and swallow.
Susceptible Dog Breeds
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to this disease than others, for example:
- German shepherds (the most susceptible of all dog breeds)
- Wire fox terriers
- Chesapeake Bay retrievers
- Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh corgis
- Cavalier King Charles spaniels
- Bernese mountain dogs
- Golden retrievers
- Great Pyrenean Mountain dogs
Wobbler’s Syndrome (Cervical Vertebral Instability)
Wobbler’s Syndrome is caused by compression of the spinal cord. It is a neurological disorder that causes your dog’s gait to gradually worsen.
Wobbler’s Syndrome is most common in large dog breeds, such as:
- Great Danes
The early signs of Wobbler’s Syndrome include:
- Difficulties getting up after lying down
- Scuffing toenails
- Weak pelvic limbs
The later signs of Wobbler’s Syndrome include:
- A weak gait that appears uncoordinated (often spotted first in the pelvis)
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Thoracic limbs that are painful or stiff
- Partial or total paralysis
Another Neurological Problem
There are also warning signs to look for that could indicate a different neurological problem that could be causing your dog’s paws to turn inward:
- Trouble balancing
- Appearing disoriented or confused
- Neck or back pain (perhaps your dog yelps when you touch an affected area)
- Abnormal eye movements
- Phantom scratching
- Mobility problems (especially in the hind legs)
If you observe any of the above symptoms in your dog, the safest thing is to get him to the vet.
Your Dog Has a Bad Gait
It’s possible that your dog has picked up bad habits which cause him to walk with his paws turned inward. In this case, you may be able to help him with physical therapy and training assistance (see below).
Is It Normal for Dogs’ Front Paws To Turn Inward?
Although it isn’t normal for a dog’s front paws to turn inward, some breeds are more susceptible to this problem than others.
What’s Normal and What Isn’t
It isn’t normal for any dog to have turned-in feet, and you would be correct to worry if you notice this in your dog, particularly given the possible causes (see above).
Any dog can develop paws that turn inwards.
It’s essential to get your dog checked as soon as you notice the problem so that it doesn’t become worse. Some dogs eventually can’t even walk!
If your dog’s paws are turning inwards and he seems healthy otherwise, even when he walks, runs, or plays, it’s still worth a visit to the vet to make sure he doesn’t have a neurological disorder that could get worse.
Be mindful of how your dog is walking and if you notice any odd walking movements or if your dog appears uncomfortable, get him checked by your vet.
Susceptible Dog Breeds
Some dog breeds are more likely to develop turned-in paws, such as:
- Great Danes
- Shar Peis
If your dog is one of the above breeds, you might consider his genetics to be a factor, although you’ll still need veterinary assistance for a proper diagnosis and treatment (see below).
What Should I Do About My Dog’s Front Paws Turning Inward?
The actions to take depend on the cause of your dog’s front paws turning inward, although in most cases, you’ll need to start with a visit to your vet.
The first thing your vet will do is usually check for injury or trauma in order to rule out less serious causes.
If they find a wound, they will clean it and treat it to avoid infection and recommend you let your dog rest.
They may also administer pain medication for your dog, depending on the severity of the injury.
Minor injuries you have spotted can sometimes be dealt with at home (see below).
For Minor Trauma or Soreness
If you know for sure that your dog’s paws are sore and are causing him to knuckle when he walks, you will need to get him checked by your vet.
Perhaps he’s burned his paw on a hot sidewalk or harmed it on sharp objects or extra-cold surfaces.
If the injury isn’t too serious, you can try letting your dog rest for a day or two to see if the condition improves on its own.
If your dog has suffered from a wound, look at his paws first. Check for any bleeding or broken nails that might be causing the problem.
Note: If you spot any crusting or oozing around your dog’s paw – or if you can’t see an obvious injury – it’s essential to get your dog to the vet.
If you suspect second or third-degree burns, you cannot treat this yourself. Get your dog to the vet urgently.
For lesser burns, wash your hands first, and then:
- Submerge your dog’s paw pads in cold water for at least ten minutes. If your dog is resistant to this, hold a cloth soaked in cold water over his paw pads instead.
- Once the paw pads are soaked, carefully wash his paws with dog-friendly soap and water (or betadine) to clean away dirt or bacteria that could cause an infection.
- Cut away any hair that could get into your dog’s paw pads and irritate them further.
- Gently pat your dog’s paw pads dry – avoid rubbing, as this would be painful for your dog.
- Carefully apply a vet-approved balm to soothe your dog’s discomfort.
If Your Dog Has Carpal Deformities
If your vet has diagnosed carpal deformities as the source of the problem, he will do different things depending on your dog’s age.
For puppies, these deformities can sometimes resolve themselves over time, especially if your puppy is under four months of age.
Ask your vet about your puppy’s ideal diet, too, to avoid giving him too much protein (which can exacerbate the problem).
Make sure you get your young puppy checked by your vet, even if you think his feet might return to normal.
Get him looked at so that you can avoid long-term deformities.
If Your Dog Has Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
Your vet will diagnose this disease, and they may administer medication to your dog to help with any pain, such as:
- Muscle relaxants
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
Your vet will often have to perform corrective surgery on your dog.
The surgery will remove the diseased disc material to ease the pressure on your dog’s spinal cord.
Surgery will also help improve blood flow as well as prevent future disc problems.
The recovery period after surgery requires medication, sedatives, and strict crate rest.
The process can take from three to six weeks. If your dog is usually sporty and full of energy, the sedatives will help your dog stay calm.
If your dog doesn’t get enough crate rest, he risks doing himself further damage, which could require emergency surgery.
In extreme cases, such incidents can result in incurable paralysis.
If your dog is resistant to swallowing medication, you can get dog treats with pockets where you can put the tablet to make it easier for him to swallow.
If your dog doesn’t need surgery, the pain medication will be essential while the injury heals: a slipped disc hurts a lot.
If Your Dog Has Wobbler’s Syndrome
If your vet diagnoses Wobbler’s Syndrome (usually with X-rays or an MRI), they will suggest either medical management or surgery, depending on your dog’s condition.
Medical management means:
- Restricting physical activity
- A course of corticosteroids to reduce spinal cord swelling from compression
Your dog may need surgery if the progressive signs are not improving with medication. Surgery often involves a “dorsal laminectomy,” which enlarges the vertebral canal.
If your dog also has a chronic bulging disc, your vet may remove the disc material with a “ventral slot.”
The overall prognosis for your dog depends on the severity and degree of spinal cord compression and malformation.
Surgery is for stopping the progression of the problems, and if the compression has been going on for a long time, the spinal cord is often permanently damaged.
Some dogs can walk following surgery, while others aren’t.
Other dogs can maintain an abnormal gait after months of physical therapy: but many can still have a good quality of life.
If your dog is only mildly affected, he has a much greater chance of recovery.
If Your Dog Has Degenerative Myelopathy
Sadly, if your dog is diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, there is no cure or treatment.
Although it’s frightening to see a dog’s mobility degenerate so quickly, the disease is not usually painful. Your vet will discuss your options for palliative care if you wish.
Some dogs can do well for months or even several years with a doggie wheelchair. Some people opt for slings or carriers, too.
It’s essential to keep your dog at a healthy weight to avoid excess fat adding strain to his overworked body.
In addition, some cases have had a slower progression by administering a combination of medications and supplements, including:
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Epsilon-aminocaproic acid
Other Things You Can Do To Help Your Dog
Here are some additional things you can do for your dog. Discuss any of the following with your vet, depending on your dog’s diagnosis:
- Changing his diet. The right diet is essential to avoid your dog putting undue pressure on his paws because of excess weight. If you have a puppy, make sure he isn’t getting too much calcium in his diet.
- Getting dog boots. Dog boots can not only offer protection for your dog’s feet in extreme weather conditions, but they can help ease joint discomfort.
- Trying training socks or a foot brace. If your dog needs physical therapy, for example, training socks or a foot brace can help support his joints while he recovers. Often dogs use these tools if they’ve had an injury or surgery. Depending on the severity of your dog’s turned-in paw or paws, he may need these all the time or from time to time.
- Making sure your dog rests between physical activities. You don’t want your dog to put undue strain on his joints – especially while they are restabilizing. It’s especially crucial to look after your dog’s joints while he’s young: this is why young dogs and puppies should never climb stairs or jump in and out of cars until they are fully grown.
If Your Dog Has a Bad Gait
Sometimes a dog may develop bad habits that cause his paws to turn inwards, in which case you can retrain his gait.
Note: Be sure you have ruled out injuries or serious conditions at your vet’s before attempting to retrain your dog. Check with your vet before using any of the suggestions outlined below.
You can try several things to retrain your dog’s gait:
- Underwater treadmill sessions. These sessions are suitable for just about any dog as long as he likes being in the water. Often used with training socks (see above), treadmill sessions are good for building up your dog’s strength as he has to lift his paws out of the water.
- Cavaletti poles. These are usually used in physical therapy sessions for your dog. He has to step over the poles, placing his paws carefully to do so. As long as your dog doesn’t have carpal or spinal injuries, these poles could be suitable as part of his physical therapy.
- Patterning. Patterning is when you lift your dog’s legs for him (slowly). Do this carefully (get advice from your vet first), and use training socks if you can.
Some final reminders:
- If you are retraining your dog’s gait, be aware that this will take time. Your dog will need time to relearn how to walk and to recover if he has been ill or injured.
- Be mindful of his capacity for effort, and encourage him throughout the process.
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of rest, preferably as quality time cuddling with you!
If your dogs paws are turning inward, it’s only natural to be concerned.
In fact, it’s a good job you’ve noticed it.
If it’s the result of soreness or trauma, you may find that this is something that resolves itself naturally with a bit of time and rest.
But if you suspect it is a little more serious, are in doubt, or notice other adverse behaviors/symptoms in your dog, get them checked out.
As you can see, this could be a sign that something more serious is going on. And for that, prompt medical attention is best.
Other paw-related guides you may want to check out:
- Dog Paw Pad Skin Hanging [What You Now Need To Do]
- Do Dogs Paw Pads Grow Back?
- Why Does My Puppy Bite His Paws? [Should You Stop Them?]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.