What You Should Know about Dog Dewclaws

Look at the feet of your dog. What number of toenails can you count? The majority of dogs have five toenails and four on the rear feet. The dewclaw is that extra nail in the inner, upper part of the dog’s feet.

You came up with another total. You need not worry, as some dogs may have double or single dewclaws. What is the dewclaw and does it cause problems?

What are Dewclaws?

Dewclaws resemble the big toes and thumbs in the world of dogs. Although they’re not exactly the same as human structure, there are similarities. The toes on a dog’s front foot that touch the ground when standing are the same as our index, pinky, middle, and ring fingers. Dewclaws are the thumb. The big toe on the hind canine foot is the dewclaw if present.

The dewclaws of a dog are attached firmly to the foot. If your dog only has one front dewclaw it is. The dewclaw will wiggle a bit, mostly in forwards and backward motions. However, you’ll feel the ligaments and bones that attach it to the leg. The rear and double dewclaws are usually only attached to the leg by skin, and they’re much more flexible.

What is the purpose of dewclaws?

The dewclaw attached to the dog’s foot by bone serves a specific purpose. Dogs’ front paws often bend so far that their dewclaws touch the ground when they run. These dewclaws help to stabilize the wrist joint and provide additional traction at high speeds, especially when turning.

Dewclaws are also used by some dogs to climb or grasp objects. It is not clear how useful dewclaws attached only by the skin are.

Dewclaws should be removed?

Front dewclaws are important for many reasons and should never be removed. Dewclaws can be damaged or become ill (such as cancerous tumors) in rare circumstances. In these cases, it is best to remove them. These problems are so rare that it makes no sense to remove healthy dewclaws in order to prevent them.

Sometimes veterinarians recommend that loosely-attached double dewclaws or rear ones be removed to avoid injury. The actual frequency of this problem is also quite low. So the surgery’s value is still up for discussion. The procedure is usually scheduled in conjunction with the neutering or spaying of the dog.

Some breeds of dogs have their dewclaws cut off to improve their look in the show rings. Breeders who choose to remove the dewclaws should do so by having a vet perform this procedure when their pups are less than 5 days old, and after a local anesthetic has been applied. Remember that some breeds like Great Pyrenees are disqualified from showing if the dewclaws are removed.

Treatment of Dewclaw Injury

Dewclaw injuries do happen, although they are rare. Nails can be pulled out, damaged, infected or even ingrown if they are not properly trimmed.

Most nail injuries can be extremely painful, and are prone to infection. (Imagine all the places where your dog’s feet may have been!) It’s best to get them checked out by your veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian can trim or remove ingrown nails (under sedation if needed) and prescribe antibiotics and pain relief if required.

Dewclaws: How to maintain them

Dewclaws require the same maintenance as other dog nails. Dewclaws can be worn down by extremely active dogs, and may not need to be trimmed. Regular nail trimming is needed for the majority of pets to maintain healthy nails, especially for the dewclaws which don’t come into contact with the floor as often as other nails. The dewclaws can require more frequent trimmings, and without care and attention, they may become too long.