Dew Claws

When you’re a loving pet parent of a dog, you want to know everything about your fur baby. Why does he have whiskers? What’s the purpose of the tail? Why does your best buddy shake every time he gets up from a nap? The questions are endless and could take volumes of encyclopedias to answer. For now though, let’s focus on that mysterious even strange little appendage on your pup’s foot known as a dew claw.

The next time you’re cuddling with Fido, take a look at his feet. You will notice that your dog has five nails on each front paw and four on the back. They may also have an extra one that looks something like a thumb. This is known as the dew claw. In general, dogs’ single front dew claws are attached to the animal’s leg via bones and ligaments, while rear dew claws are usually only attached by skin.

Although dew claws may look like thumbs, they don’t provide the same degree of dexterity as humans or monkeys get from theirs. However, that is not to say that dew claws have no function. For many dogs, these claws act as thumbs and big toes, enabling Fido to gain traction on slippery surfaces, climb out of the water or grasp objects such as toys. They also help to stabilize the dog’s carpal joint.

All About Dew Claw Removal

You might be wondering if dew claws are necessary and if it might not make sense to remove them altogether. Traditionally, there have been several reasons cited by owners and veterinarians to justify removal of dew claws:

  • Mistaken belief that because the dew claw does not touch the ground, it serves no purpose and might as well be taken off.
  • Belief that owners will forget to maintain their dog’s dew claws during the normal grooming process, leaving their pets susceptible to infection, nail embedment or injury.
  • Cleaner, more streamlined appearance.
  • Removes the risk of potential injury stemming from the dog ripping its dew claw.

Certainly, those dew claws that are attached via bone and ligament are vital since they assist the animal in numerous daily tasks such as balance, turning and grasping. However, the same is not necessarily true of the back dew claws that are only held on via skin.

There are times when it is recommended that a dog’s dew claws be removed. This is a surgical procedure that takes off the entire dew claw, which is located along the front and back paws. When it comes to the front dew claws, this surgery is only recommended in cases of severe injury or disease.

There are instances when veterinarians recommend the removal of rear dew claws that are loosely attached or double in order to prevent injury. This surgery usually takes place at one of two distinct times: before the puppy is five days old or at the same time the animal is spayed or neutered. The likelihood of these claws ever causing harm to the dog is low, making this a questionable reason for medical involvement. Another time when surgery is sometimes indicated is for certain breeds of show dogs. In these cases, the surgery should be performed under local anesthesia on puppies when they are under five days old.

Maintaining Dew Claws

Maintaining your dog’s dew claws is no different from taking care of his other nails. For most pups, regular trims are necessary, although extremely active canines may wear down their nails and dew claws naturally without the need for clipping or grinding. It should be noted that because dew claws don’t come into as much contact with the ground, they tend to get overgrown more quickly and may need to be trimmed sooner than the rest.

How to Treat Dew Claw Injuries

Just as is the case with your dog’s other nails, injuries can happen to her dew claws. They can be broken, split, ingrown, infected or even pulled off entirely. If any of these things occurs, you should take the dog to your vet immediately for treatment. This will help to prevent a potentially serious, painful infection.

Closely examine your dog’s feet, and you will probably now have a new appreciation for his dew claws. Contrary to popular belief, these digits, particularly the front ones, perform very important functions that help to enhance your pet’s quality of life and ability to move and function optimally. In fact, dew claws are just another amazing, fascinating facet of your pup that make her an amazing friend and loyal companion. Unless you and your vet see a good reason for surgery, there is no reason to put your fur baby through the trauma and anxiety of a needless dew claw removal operation.