What Are Dew Claws On Dogs & Should You Remove Them?

What Are Dew Claws On Dogs & Should You Remove Them?

Author WDF Staff


We discussed dog nails and the proper way of caring for them earlier. But did you know that dogs have one extra toenail? Don't be hard on yourself if you didn't notice this; many dog owners don't realize that dogs come with extra toenails on their front legs.

This toenail is called a dewclaw. Since this toenail is further apart from the rest of the dog nails, one of the first questions we get asked is: “Do dogs even need dewclaw, and can I remove it?” We will help you understand what exactly dewclaws are used for and why removal isn't a good idea. Let's start.

What are dewclaws?

Dewclaw is one extra toe positioned higher than the rest of the dog's toes. Compared to the human hand, the dewclaw is a thumb in dogs' world. Most dogs have dewclaws only on their front legs, but it is certainly possible that dogs have dewclaws on their rear legs.

Some dog breeds even have double dewclaws on the same legs, meaning the dog will have two toes with two nails instead of one. Most commonly, this can be seen in Great Pyrenees.

dew claw

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How many toes do dogs have?

The majority of dogs will have 18 toes. Mathematics is simple, every dog has 4 toes on each paw, with 2 dewclaws on the front legs, which together give 16 toes. As we said, some dogs could even have dewclaws on their rear legs, meaning that these dogs will have 20 toes.

Why do dogs have dewclaws?

Although it may not seems to you like this, dewclaws have an important purpose in dogs' life. Ancestors of modern dogs used their dewclaws more often, and as dogs became more domesticated, the need for usage of dewclaws decreased, and evolutionary this toe has moved up higher on dog leg.

Even today, some dogs use their "thumb" for different purposes. Dewclaw will provide additional stability for dogs that move on different and hard terrain (police, military, and working dogs), and their "thumb" serves as a way to move quicker.

If you give your dog something to chew on, you may notice that he will hold a chew with his dewclaws because it gives him a better grip.

Dewclaws also served as a good thing for sled dogs because they could easily move on snow, ice, and harsh terrains. Also, if they ended up in the water, with dewclaws, they could easily climb out of water.

dew claws

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What dog breeds have dewclaws?

All dog breeds are born with front dewclaws; if you don't see them on your dog, your breeder probably removed them while your dog was a puppy. Saint Bernards and Icelandic Sheepdogs are also born with dewclaws on their rear legs, so if you own one of these dog breeds, don’t be surprised if you notice dewclaws on their front and rear legs.

Is it a good idea to remove dewclaws?

Dewclaws have a purpose and can help your dog in some situations. There is no good reason why you would want to remove dewclaws. Some breeders decide to remove dewclaws from their puppies to prevent future injuries. But the truth is that dewclaw injuries are so rare that removing them doesn't make much sense.

Most common injuries can occur to working dog breeds, but they are also the ones who will need their extra toe while they work.

If you still want to remove dewclaws from your puppies, it must be done in the first 5 days from birth, when the bones are still not fully developed. The area of the dewclaws should be numbed with anesthesia.

Removal of dewclaws in adult age can happen, but this is also rare. Mostly removals will occur because of some medical state, such as tumors or fractures that will cause problems for your dog.

dew claw removal

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Why do some breeders remove dewclaws from their puppies?

The unofficial opinion of many breeders is that dogs with removed dewclaws will perform better in the show ring. Although there is no scientific evidence, some breeders still do it. Also, removing dewclaws from some breeds can cause instant disqualification in the show ring.

How to care for dogs' dewclaws?

Caring for dewclaws is no different from caring for other dog nails. Dewclaws will still need trimming if your dog doesn't wear the nails down on their own. Since dewclaws are not in contact with the ground as the rest of the dog nails, there is a possibility that the dewclaws will require more frequent trimming.

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What are common dewclaw injuries?

Many dog owners started to understand the importance of caring for their nails but often forgot about dewclaws. Dewclaws should also receive proper care. In many cases, dewclaws can become overgrown, causing much pain and discomfort for the dog.

Most common dewclaw injuries in dogs

1. Broken dewclaw

Since this toe is dislocated, there could be a situation where your dog will break the dewclaw. To reduce the possibility of a broken dewclaw, you must regularly trim your dog's nails. If your dog doesn't receive proper care after he breaks his nail, an infection can happen, and this will cause more problems for your dog.

2. Infection

Infection can happen because of many reasons, and some of them include ingrown toenails, injury, and broken or split toenails. If your dog starts to lick and chew this area, this could be an indication of an infection. Also, watch for any redness and swelling around the dewclaw.

3. Ingrown dewclaw

Dewclaws that haven't been appropriately trimmed can quickly become ingrown and cause a lot of pain and discomfort for the dog. In many cases, ingrown toenails will become infected, and your dog will need medical treatment.

For every dewclaw injury, it is best if your vet is treating your dog since this injury can cause much pain for your dog, and you don't want to make things worse.

World Dog Finder team

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