Dog Behavior, Dog Paws

Why Do Dogs Bend Their Paws


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For pet parents, dogs are beloved members of the family, and we want to understand their behavior in certain ways. One common question that often arises is why do dogs bend their paws? It is a behavior observed in dogs of all ages, from young puppies to older dogs, and in various sizes, including larger dogs.

Whether they are scratching an itch, digging, or regulating body temperature, the reasons behind paw bending can vary. In this article, we will explore the different reasons why dogs bend their paws and the possible medical conditions that could be causing it.

Why Do Dogs Bend Their Paws?

The following are some common reasons to shed light on why dogs bend their paws.

Scratch an Itch

Dogs often bend their paws to scratch their fur and get rid of any pesky itch-causing parasites.

Spread Scent

Dogs have scent glands located in the pads of their paws. When they bend their paws, they spread their scent onto whatever they are walking on, claiming their territory.

Feel the Ground

Dogs bend their paws to feel the ground with their sensitive paw pads. This helps them identify any potential threats or changes in the terrain.


Dogs will often bend their paws when they’re trying to dig for something. This helps them use their paws as shovels to dig deeper and faster.


Dogs will sometimes bend their paws as part of a stretching routine. This helps them keep their muscles flexible and limber.

Regulate Body Temperature

Dogs have sweat glands in their paw pads. During cold months, they try to stay warm by bending their paws to keep body heat in. It’s just like humans wearing a hat to keep body heat inside the body.

Scratch Ears

Dogs will bend their paws to reach and scratch their ears, especially if they have an itch.


Dogs will use their paws to play with toys or other animals as well as bend their paws to reach and grab them.

Sleeping Position

A dog’s sleeping position is unique and can often tell us important things. From the ‘superman position’ to the paw lift, each of these positions can tell us a lot about our pup’s comfort level.

The ‘superman position’ is one of the most common sleeping positions for dogs, and it involves lying flat on their stomachs with their legs stretched out behind them. This position is usually seen when a dog feels safe and comfortable in its environment, as it takes up less space than other positions. It also allows for easy access to the dog’s paw should they need to defend themselves.

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The ‘paw lift’ is another common sleeping position that can be seen in many dogs. This position involves the dog resting on one side with its paw lifted off the ground, which could indicate they are feeling relaxed or even sleepy. It’s also a sign that they feel safe enough in their environment to take this comfortable posture.

dogs bend their paw

Paw Bending Health Problems

The above reasons for why do dogs bend their paws are not serious situations, but there are conditions that cause paw bending that should be discussed with a vet.

Dog Paw Knuckling

Paw knuckling is an abnormal gait in dogs, which involves the animal bending its paw while walking. It’s a sign of a medical condition known as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). This disorder is caused by a degenerative condition of the discs between vertebrae in the spine and can lead to pain, muscle weakness, or even paralysis. In some cases, it can be caused by a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE), which is a blockage of blood vessels that cut off the oxygen supply to the spinal cord and result in paralysis.

When it comes to treatment for dog knuckling, there are several options available depending on the severity and type of IVDD present. These include medication, physical therapy, acupuncture, or surgical intervention. In more serious cases of IVDD or FCE, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the affected nerves and restore mobility.

It’s important for dog owners to be aware of paw knuckling so they can take steps to help their pets if they notice any signs or symptoms of this condition. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to helping improve mobility and minimizing further damage from IVDD or FCE. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian are important for monitoring changes in your pet’s health and catching any potential problems early on.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism

Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is a possible reason why dogs are seen bending their paws. It is a medical condition caused by the obstruction of blood vessels in the spinal cord and is usually seen in small and large breed dogs. Degenerative myelopathy, a form of FCE, has been associated with breeds such as German Shepherds, Boxers, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

FCE can cause difficulty in movement and pain due to the lack of blood supply to the affected areas. The inability to move normally can result in the dog trying to use his/her body language to indicate that they are uncomfortable. This could include them curling their paws up or even lying on their sides for extended periods of time.

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Dogs suffering from FCE may also exhibit other signs such as an inability or reluctance to jump or climb stairs and lameness when walking. If you notice any of these signs in your pet, it is important to consult your veterinarian who will be able to diagnose and provide treatment options.

In order to ensure your pet is getting the best care possible, it’s important to take note of any changes you see in their behavior or movements so that you can talk to your vet about them promptly.

Carpal Flexural Deformity

Carpal flexural deformity, commonly known as ‘sore paws’, is a condition in which the rear paws of dogs are bent downwards. This condition occurs in the hind limbs of canines and it can be caused by a variety of reasons such as genetics, arthritis, or injuries.

The most common symptom of this deformity is an abnormal bending of the paw when the dog walks. This may cause them to walk on their wrists instead of their toes and make it difficult for them to move around. Additionally, they may experience pain and discomfort due to this deformity.

Treatment for carpal flexural deformity will vary depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Some methods include rest, physical therapy, corrective surgery, or medication. It’s important to note that if left untreated, this deformity could lead to other health issues such as lameness or joint problems in the future. So it’s important to take your pet to the vet for further evaluation if you notice any signs or symptoms associated with sore paws in your dog’s hind limbs.

vet for dog paw bending

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive condition that affects dogs of all breeds but is especially prevalent in larger breeds with longer limbs. This disease gradually weakens the dog’s hind legs and leads to the bending of the paws, known as carpal flexural deformity. This can be a sign of degenerative myelopathy, which begins in the spine and eventually causes paralysis in the back legs.

The cause of degenerative myelopathy is not fully understood, but it appears to be an inherited disorder. It can also be associated with other diseases such as spinal trauma or inflammatory conditions that damage the nerves in the spine. Symptoms typically start with mild weakness in one or both rear legs, progressing over time to more severe weakness and even paralysis. As the disease progresses, dogs may show signs such as difficulty getting up from lying down, dragging their feet when walking, and bending their paws.

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Treatment for degenerative myelopathy includes physical therapy, medications to reduce inflammation, diet modifications, and supplements to improve nutrition and muscle strength. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this progressive condition and symptoms will continue to worsen over time. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help slow down its progression and provide relief for your pet’s discomfort.

Nerve Damage And Paw Lift

Nerve damage can affect a dog’s ability to properly use his/her paws, leading to a condition known as paw lift. This occurs when the nerves in the legs are damaged, causing the muscles in the legs to become weak. In order to compensate for this weakness, dogs will lift up their paw while they walk. This helps them feel more secure and ultimately provides them with warmth.

The paw lift can also be caused by degenerative myelopathy, which is a disease that affects the spinal cord. As the disease progresses, it causes nerve damage that leads to muscle weakness and lack of coordination. This makes it difficult for dogs to balance on all fours and may lead to an abnormal gait or dragging of one or both rear legs. In order to protect themselves from further injury, dogs will lift up their paws while walking.

Paw lifting can be a sign of pain or discomfort in your dog and should be monitored closely. If you notice your dog is having difficulty walking or is lifting up one or both of their paws, visit your veterinarian for an examination as soon as possible. They can diagnose any underlying issues and provide treatment options and pain medication if necessary. By recognizing signs of nerve damage early on and seeking professional help, you can ensure your pup’s ultimate warmth and comfort.

If you suspect your pup has any of the above medical conditions, contact your veterinarian to ask questions about the symptoms. The vet will be able to tell you if your dog’s paw bending is a concern.

Takeaways About Dogs Bending Their Paws

Dogs bend their paws for many reasons, including scratching an itch, spreading scent, feeling the ground, digging, stretching, regulating body temperature, scratching ears, and playing. While most of these reasons can be part of a dog’s behavior, there are also health problems that can cause paw bending, such as intervertebral disc disease, fibrocartilaginous embolism, carpal flexural deformity, and degenerative myelopathy. If you suspect your dog may have a medical condition causing paw bending, it is important to consult a veterinarian as early diagnosis and treatment are key to improving mobility and minimizing permanent damage.

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