Most of our pet parents are familiar with the dewclaw as that extra nail on the inside of their dog’s front feet. While many dogs have this extra appendage, a great many others do not because they have been removed either by the breeder or a veterinarian. 

With many people removing dogs’ dewclaws, our staff at Sunrise Boulevard Animal Hospital is often asked if it is best to remove them, or not. 

Doggy dewclaws aren’t without a purpose, and we are happy to share our knowledge about them with you.

The Dynamic Dewclaw

When it comes to anatomy, you may not realize that a dog’s paw has the same bone structure as your hand. A dog walks on the equivalent of your four fingers, with the thumb being the same digit as the dewclaw. Yes! Dogs do have thumbs! 

A dog’s dewclaw is typically attached by bone to the rest of the paw, though it does not usually bear weight. Some dogs may not have a dewclaw at all (although these typically have been removed by humans at some point in time). Other dogs may have detached dewclaws, more than one per paw, or declaws on the back paws.

Historically, we have considered dewclaws without purpose. Many breeders began to remove them to provide a more cosmetic look and to avoid them becoming snagged and injured. As with many things, though, the more we begin to investigate, the more we find out. 

We have begun to observe that normal, attached front dewclaw serve several purposes including:

  • Bearing weight at high speeds and in sharp turns
  • Helping with traction on slippery surfaces
  • Providing extra stability to the carpal joint
  • Utility in holding items still
  • When digging
  • Climbing, such as trees or pulling themselves up after falling through ice, etc.

Many athletic and working dogs depend on their dewclaws for daily function.

Caring for Your Pet’s Paws

Dogs can certainly function without dewclaws and there is no need to worry if your pet’s have been removed. In general, however, we do recommend leaving your dog’s dewclaws intact if they are present. 

Dewclaws may need to be surgically removed if they become injured, infected, or are affected by something like cancer. 

Attached dewclaws generally require minimal extra care and rarely cause problems for the pet. In fact, routine grooming and nail trims should be all that is necessary. Extra care should be taken to be sure that the dewclaws are trimmed regularly. Since they do not typically wear down with weight bearing and may be covered in long fur, they are more prone to growing long and potentially becoming ingrown. 

If you need help trimming your dog’s nails, please give us a call. We are always happy to help. You can also help keep your pet’s paws happy by keeping the hair trimmed to prevent slipping and irritation and being sure to avoid hot or harsh walking surfaces. 

A dog’s dewclaws may not have always been the rage, but modern pet owners are starting to realize that they are a useful body part. When it comes to dewclaws, the team at Sunrise Boulevard Animal Hospital votes them a doggy do!