Tip of the Month

3/5/2014 Dewclaw Care

Keeping Your Dog’s Dewclaws Trimmed


The Dewclaw

When you trim your dog’s nails, you should pay special attention to his dewclaws. They lay a bit higher than the rest of the paw’s toes and are similar to human thumbs, except they aren’t functional. They can be found on the front as well as the hind legs. In many dogs, the dewclaws never touch the ground and thus the nails might need to be shortened. Depending on their location and your dog’s specific breed anatomy, dewclaws sometimes hang or dangle and are prone to being injured during activities. This can lead to pain, infections and eventually, veterinary intervention.

The Advantage and Disadvantage of Dewclaws

Certain breed types, such as hunting dogs, will have their dewclaws removed as puppies in order to prevent ripping and tearing when working in overgrown terrain. The procedure is usually done at the age 2 to 5 days old and requires only local anesthetic by a veterinarian.On the other hand, for agility trial dogs dewclaws can be helpful in changing direction and traction; their removal can present a disadvantage. Dogs also use it to grasp a bone or toy. Mountain breeds, such as Great Pyrenees, have dewclaws on their rear legs as a breed standard. You might even find double dewclaws on the same foot.

Should Dewclaws Be Removed?

Unlike declawing cats, which involves the removal of the tips of fingers and toes, dewclawing in dogs involves only the removal of the first digits or “thumbs”. At the time of spaying or neutering, your veterinarian might discuss the removal of your dog’s dewclaws if they are not “properly” attached and could present future problems. In such cases, the dewclaws have very little bone and muscle attachments and are connected only by the dog’s skin. As mentioned, the procedure is pretty simple for puppies; however, for an adult dog, the procedure requires general anesthesia and bandages. Aftercare can be challenging, as a dog will tend to lick at the suture site. The veterinary office staff can help you select the appropriate after-surgical measures, such as using an Elizabethan collar or no-chew sprays.

There has been a lot of controversy on the topic of removing dewclaws, especially since certain breeders sell puppies “dewclawed.” In some countries this practice is illegal. For most adult dogs, removing dewclaws is considered unnecessary aesthetic surgery. If a dog’s dewclaws do not present a problem, they are to be left alone.


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