Dewclaws are vestigial digits or “thumbs” located on the inner side of a dog’s front legs, and sometimes on their rear legs. While they don’t serve a significant functional purpose in modern dogs, they can occasionally be a source of concern or attention. Here’s what you need to know about dog dewclaws:
- Purpose and Function: Dewclaws are believed to be evolutionary remnants of digits that dogs’ ancestors used for grasping or climbing. In some breeds, dewclaws may still provide a minimal level of functionality, such as helping dogs grip objects or navigate rough terrain.
- Presence and Location: Not all dogs have dewclaws, and their presence and number can vary among breeds. Some dogs have dewclaws on both their front and rear legs, while others may only have them on their front legs. Dewclaws are typically located higher up on the leg, above the rest of the toes.
- Trimming: Dewclaws, especially on the front legs, can grow too long and may require regular trimming to prevent them from becoming overgrown and potentially causing discomfort or injury. You can trim dewclaws using dog nail clippers, but it’s essential to be cautious not to cut into the quick, which can cause bleeding and pain.
- Injury Risk: Dewclaws, being located higher up on the leg, are more exposed and vulnerable to injury. Dogs can catch them on objects, tear them, or even break them during physical activities or accidents. Injured dewclaws can be painful and may require veterinary attention.
- Dewclaw Removal: In some cases, breeders or veterinarians may choose to remove dewclaws shortly after a puppy is born. This practice is more common in certain breeds where dewclaws are considered non-functional and potentially prone to injury. Dewclaw removal is typically done when the puppy is very young, as the procedure is less invasive, and the healing process is faster.
- Breed Variations: Some dog breeds, like the Great Pyrenees or Saint Bernard, have double dewclaws on their rear legs. These double dewclaws can be functional and help with stability in rough terrain, but they should also be trimmed and monitored for injuries.
- Regular Checkups: It’s good practice to regularly inspect your dog’s dewclaws for signs of injury or overgrowth. If you notice any redness, swelling, or signs of pain around the dewclaw, consult your veterinarian.
While dewclaws may not serve a primary purpose for most dogs today, they should not be ignored. Regular maintenance and monitoring can help prevent injuries and discomfort. If you have concerns about your dog’s dewclaws or are considering dewclaw removal, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian to make informed decisions for your pet’s well-being.