How To Fix Knuckling in Great Dane Puppies

6 mins read
Knuckling in Great Dane Puppies

Knuckling in Great Dane puppies can be alarming! If you are concerned because you have a Great Dane puppy with crooked paws, bowed out legs or bumps, you’ve come to the right place.

Is My Great Dane Puppy Knuckling?
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Is My Great Dane Puppy Too Small?
Great Dane Puppy Growth Chart

Knuckling is one of the most common growth complications in Great Danes. From a medical perspective, knuckling is known as ‘Carpal Laxity Syndrome’, and each case is different. Some puppies have a mild case, others have a more severe case.

While the exact cause of knuckling is unknown, it is believed to be related to dysfunctional growth, improper nutrition, excessive or improper exercise, and slippery or hard surfaces.

It is also believed that stressful experiences (going to a new home or boarding, for example), poor breeding conditions and medical experiences such as ear cropping/anesthesia and vaccines may trigger knuckling.

(Unsure if your Great Dane puppy is knuckling or not? Read our article here:

This photo is of an 8 week old Great Dane puppy that was diagnosed with HOD and knuckling.
knuckling 16 1

This is a fairly severe case: notice the bowed appearance and toes.

It’s important to understand the warning signs that may indicate early or developing problems in your puppy, and see a giant-breed-knowledgeable veterinarian ASAP:

  • Weak limbs that ‘shake’ on soft surfaces
  • Flat toes/splayed feet
  • Ankles that rest over the top of the foot
  • Bowing out
  • Crooked front limbs or ‘ballet feet’ (which may also indicate growth plate damage and angular limb deformity, more serious than knuckling)


While the exact mechanism behind the cause of knuckling still needs more research, there are strong correlations to the following:

  • Feeding a combination diet of two or more different types of kibble, toppers or home made foods  at the same time, which can cause an imbalance in nutrients. Many people recommend adding yogurt or cottage cheese, for example, which could imbalance the diet. Choose ONE kibble and make sure that treats and toppers (including raw bones and chews) make up less than 10% of the overall diet.
  • Feeding the wrong kibble, which may be poorly formulated or unbalanced.
  • Switching kibbles often. We recommend choosing an appropriate kibble and sticking with it.
  • Feeding chicken & rice (this is often done to alleviate loose stools, however it is wildly unbalanced for a quickly-growing puppy and should be used sparingly. We recommend rehydrated Olewo Carrots as the first defense for loose stools.)
  • Home cooked diets, no matter how ‘healthy’ it may seem to offer ground meat, rice and veggies in lieu of kibble.  Homemade diets should only be made under the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist.
  • Improperly balanced raw diets, see above.
  • Adding unnecessary vitamins and minerals into your Dane’s diet, including multi-vitamins or calcium supplements.
  • Feeding your puppy too much food and over-nutrition which can promote uneven, fast growth.
  • Feeding an incorrect balance of calcium/phosphorus (calcium should be at or below 1.5% with phosphorus close behind it). Also, throwing off that balance with toppers.
  • Stress from travel, veterinary visits, training, etc.
  • Medical stress from ear cropping, anesthesia or vaccines.
  • Poor nail maintenance (nails should be trimmed every 5-10 days)
  • Slick or hard floors. 


It is believed that nutrition is a key factor in bone and growth disorders in giant breed dogs.

It is extremely important to find and stick to an appropriate balanced diet for your puppy! We recommend:

Protein below 28%

Fat 12-18%

Calcium 1.5% or lower

Phosphorus close behind calcium.


This is a MLM/marketing scheme food that is often promoted by breeders in exchange for a more robust health guarantee. The breeder makes a solid commission on the sale of the food, and is rewarded for breeding more and more puppies to continue generating income this way.

We are dubious about claims that the food has better nutrition, and we have seen puppies with severe knuckling, loose stools, allergies and poor health being kept on this food because the breeder ‘required’ it.

As of this writing, we understand that Life’s Abundance is NOT formulated by a board-certified Veterinary Nutritionist, and it is co-packed by large dog food manufacturing plants in Ohio and New York.

We consider this practice extremely shady in the world of breeding; if you have a puppy knuckling or experiencing health issues on Life’s Abundance, please email us [email protected] so we can document it.

knuckling 15


We update and modify this list often, as new research comes available. We recommend choosing a brand and sticking with it until 6+ months, unless you are seeing other health issues (not just knuckling, but severe gut issues and allergies).

Protein below 28%

Fat 12-18%

Calcium 1.5% or lower

Phosphorus close behind calcium

Meat and/or meat meal in the first 4 ingredients

Here is a list of ‘food deal breakers’:

Grain Free (most grain-free kibbles heavily rely on peas, potatoes and legumes which may be linked to dietary DCM/Heart Problems)

Fat in the first four ingredients (which may increase the risk of bloat)

We’ve listed some brands that meet the analysis requirements below.

Note, some of these brands may or may not have been formulated by a staffed board certified Veterinary Nutritionist, may or may not have undergone intensive feeding trials and may or may not meet AAFCO or WSAVA guidelines; if this is important to you, we recommend sticking with the big name brands such as Eukanuba, Royal Canin and Purina.

Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Large Breed Adult and Large Breed puppy

Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy

Nutrisource Large Breed Puppy or Adult

Diamond Naturals Large Breed

Kirkland (Costco) Adult Chicken & Rice (Similar to Diamond Naturals)

Fromm Gold Large Breed Puppy or Adult

Choosing the correct food for your Great Dane puppy is extremely important!
Chat with your breeder and a giant-breed knowledgeable veterinarian for more advice.


Many people swear by Vitamin C to aid in the treatment of knuckling in Great Danes, and we have to agree!

We recommend starting with a low dose (500mg) and working up to 1000 mg each day.

Vitamin C can cause diarrhea and loose stools, so take it easy at first!

Ester C is the best form, and it’s readily available on Amazon.

It is believed that Vitamin C is depleted by stress (including fast growth, poor breeding conditions, ear cropping, veterinary visits, harsh training methods, etc.) and that dogs with adequate vitamin C are better able to recover from stress, disease and other ailments, including knuckling!


In addition to addressing the nutritional aspect of knuckling (we recommend switching food immediately with a short transition period), there are other things you can do!

  • Change the diet ASAP.
  • Add Vitamin C.
  • Keep the nails trimmed. They should be trimmed every 5-10 days. Now is the time to start working with a Dremel as well! For tips, look here:
  • Put runners down, everywhere. Your puppy should not be jumping, sliding, running or walking anywhere with a slick surface, especially while treating knuckling.
  • Do not allow your puppy to jump up or to launch themselves off of furniture. Use ramps, training, crates and gates to prevent this behavior.
  • Avoid hard pavement and leashed walks, which are hard on joints and don’t allow the puppy to move naturally.
  • Don’t run or bikejore with your Dane puppy until they are age 2+, have good hips and feet and are well conditioned to exercise.
  • Avoid training methods that use physical force and pressure for down/sit, alpha rolls/pinning, extended down-stay, or long ‘pack/structure walks’. None of that is healthy, natural or necessary, especially for giant breed puppies.
  • Limit crate time, which can lead to weakness and poor orthopedic development.
  • Unless your veterinarian prescribes rest, allow your puppy to freely walk, move, run and explore varied terrain every single day. Grass, sand, gravel, hills and dirt are great examples. As a bonus, this is great for socialization! Use a long leash or a fenced yard.
  • Work with a certified Canine physical therapist to strengthen the feet, toes, ankles, shoulders and core.
  • Choose orthopedic beds, like the BIG BARKER (our personal favorite).
  • TALK TO YOUR BREEDER! They can be the best resource, especially if you’ve done your research and chose an ethical breeder that supports your puppy for life.

We always believe that you should also work with a giant-breed experienced veterinarian!

Some bone growth issues are much more serious than knuckling (angular limb deformity, HOD and Wobblers for example) and it’s important to rule them out.

Have more questions about knuckling or want to share your experience? Leave a comment below! 

You can also join our shiny NEW group on Facebook and share photos, we are always happy to help!

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. We do our best to present the most up-to-date research, however it is up to the reader to make decisions regarding the health and well-being of their dog. We make no claims here to prevent or treat bloat or any other condition related to Great Danes. Find a veterinarian with GIANT breed experience, and chat with them.

Some of the products we list on our website contain affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase, we may receive a small commission for referring you. We only recommend products that we truly believe in. This commission does not affect the price of the product and is used to fund our content and expenses related to operating this website. 

Hello Danes

Dane lover and believer in ethical breeding, training and rescue practices. Positive + Balanced trainer, owner of rescue dogs and dogs from breeders. Love the dog in front of you.

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