A dog with a dewclaw

When we watch our dogs stalk and chase “prey”, we are reminded of their wild wolfish ancestors. Behaviors aside, there are other links to their interesting past. 

Dewclaws offer a glimpse into the canine evolutionary process. Millions of years ago, they were necessary for climbing trees and rough terrain. Over time, dew claws changed to accommodate more speed while running and hunting. 

Thumbs Up?

You’re likely well aware that your dog has a little toe that sits up a little higher than the other digits. The dew claws are attached to these toes, don’t touch the ground, and are referred to as “thumbs”.

Dewclaws can either be tightly or loosely attached to the skin. Some dogs have dewclaws on both the front and hind legs, and others, like Great Pyrenes or St. Bernards have double dewclaws on the rear feet.

What’s Your Function?

Dew claws can help dogs hold something they’re eating or licking between their paws, and can provide help when turning quickly in hot pursuit. Unfortunately, dewclaws that are loosely attached or floppy can easily tear or break potentially leading to bleeding, sensitivity, limping, and pain. 

This type of injury requires veterinary care. The nail may have to be trimmed off, the foot bandaged, and medicine like antibiotics and pain relief are imperative to your dog’s comfort and healing. 

Know What to Do

It happens frequently to active dogs, but dewclaw injuries can be prevented by keeping the nail short. The quick can be difficult to see in some nails, but with practice and patience you and your dog will eventually accept clipping as part of the routine. Please let us know if you need help learning how to effectively trim your dog’s nails. Our groomers also provide this great service. 

The Controversy

Dewclaws can be permanently removed, but only when medically necessary. For example, if your dog’s dew claws are loose and provide extra risk to their health and wellbeing, surgery may be a logical next step. In general, however, elective or cosmetic permanent removal of dew claws is not widely practiced.

Do Right By Dewclaws

The Pet Experts know how important your dog’s feet are to their overall quality of life. In fact, foot and paw health are so central to their well being we make it a point to examine their extremities every time we see them.

If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s dew claws, please let us know. We are always here for you at Elmhurst Animal Care Center