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All About Your Dog’s Dewclaws


Dewclaws, also known as a dog’s thumb, refers to a vestigial digit found on the foot of most mammals, reptiles, and birds. It normally grows high on the animal’s leg in digitigrade species (digitigrade refers to an animal that walks on its toes, not touching the ground with its heels, like a dog, cat, or rodent). Dewclaws are most commonly known in canines, and these are often removed in puppies. There are some debates, however, on whether the removal of dewclaws is necessary.

Understanding the Basics

· Dewclaws in Dogs. Almost all dogs have dewclaws on the inside part of their front legs, and sometimes, also on their hind legs. Unlike front dewclaws, rear dewclaws usually have little bone and muscle structure. There are times that some pooches even possess more than one dewclaw on the same paw. At least one of these dewclaws is normally poorly connected to the leg, and is often removed surgically.

· “Double-dewclawed”. If a dog has additional dewclaws aside from the usual one that’s normally found on each front leg, the dog is then regarded as “double-dewclawed”.

· Does it have a meaningful function? There are some arguments as to whether a dewclaw aids dogs in gaining traction when they run since, in some breeds, the dewclaw makes contact while they’re running and the dewclaw nail wears down in the same way that their other toenails do, due to contact with the ground. Nevertheless, in some breeds, the dewclaws never touch the ground, and in this case, the nail of the dewclaw doesn’t wear away. In order to keep the dewclaw nails to a safe length, owners must trim them down regularly.

· Are dewclaws lifeless appendages? No, dewclaws are surely not dead. As a matter of fact, these digits are used in lightly gripping bones and other objects that pooches hold with their paws. But in some breeds, dewclaws may not seem to be joined to their legs at all, except by just a flap of skin. In this case, these dogs have dewclaws that aren’t useful for gripping since their claws can be easily turned or folded.

· Should it be surgically removed? Because dewclaws are weak digits which are barely attached to a dog’s leg, some people argue that it should be removed.  For them, the dewclaws can rip off the pooch’s leg or easily catch on something hazardous, and then break; causing extreme pain and putting the animal at risk of infection. Nevertheless, because there are those who also believe that the pain of eliminating a dewclaw is already far greater than any other possible risk, many countries have made dewclaw removal illegal. There is, however, an exemption for hunting breeds which sometimes tear their dewclaws while running over grown vegetation.

More often than not, dewclaws are left intact nowadays. However, it’s important to inspect these “extra toes” regularly and keep the nails clipped short to avoid painful overgrowth, since they don’t wear down by walking like your dog’s regular toenails do. In fact, if left un-clipped, dewclaw nails tend to grow in a curve, embedding themselves into the dewclaw pad.

Does your dog have dewclaws? Are they just in the front or on all four of his legs? What special care do you give these extra toenails?

29 Responses to All About Your Dog’s Dewclaws
  1. Lexi
    May 7, 2014 | 3:33 am

    My new rescue is a sweet poodle mix pup who is less than 20 pounds at the moment. He has no front dew claws, but he has double back dewclaws! Is this a genetic fluke? The first dew claw is fully developed, and directly opposite is a smaller dew claw, not fully “unfurled”. He is 6months and I am anxious to see if that extra dew claws develop properly. Thanks for any information!

  2. […] all dogs have back dew claws to start with. Some info here All About Your Dog’s Dewclaws | The Dogington Post __________________ Denise, Rolf, Chico & Amber My blog – Solway […]

  3. Shelley
    December 21, 2013 | 10:52 pm

    My puppy’s fron left dewclaw is so small I can’t see it properly. He is in no pain but I’m so scared it will grow into his paw. The right dewclaw is normal I can see it clearly to trim it. Is it normal for dewclaws to be like this?

  4. Angela
    December 18, 2013 | 12:01 am

    Dropped my Aussie CAttle dog off this morning to get her front dew claws removed. She’s 4 and a half and has had multiple incidents with one or the other of her dew claws in the past years. Usually the whole claw lifts and the vet or myself could quickly wrench the nail out and it would heal and grow back with only a little discomfort and some antibiotics, but today it split all the way down into 3 sections and required anaesthetic to remove the nail. Since this is clearly an ongoing problem for her I made the decision to have both the dew claws removed to prevent further occurances. Feeling guilty but I think I have made the right decision.

    • tina
      May 16, 2014 | 1:15 am

      My little mixed breed is always tearing his dewclaws. As soon as one is healing nicely the other one goes. I can’t keep them short enough without cutting into the part of the nail you shouldn’t cut. It is very painful for him each time it happens. It is also painful having the vet trim it under the skin where it grows from. It takes antibiotics & anti inflamatory meds and makes him sad. I have NEVER had our animals dewclaws removed and didn’t even know it was possible to do. But this pooch really needs it done. Three times a year or more vet visits for this problem & seeing him in pain repeatedly has made me feel for this particular dog it is necessary to remove. The problem is he came from a rescue organization that makes people sign a paper stating no declawing of dogs or cats or they can take the animal back. Which is too bad because it seems cruel not to do it at this point.

      • michele
        July 8, 2014 | 11:57 pm

        If you have paperwork from the vet showing the past injuries to the dewclaws, most rescue organizations will go ahead and let you get them removed.

  5. Linda Trunell
    December 6, 2013 | 11:34 pm

    The Lundehund (also known as the Norwegian Puffin Dog)has 6 toes on each foot – see

  6. Split front dew claw.
    November 18, 2013 | 2:31 pm

    [...] trimmed on a monthly basis and this probably wont ever happen again. They are actually are useful All About Your Dog’s Dewclaws | The Dogington Post Depending where you live it sounds like they can save your dog in certain circumstances. Dew [...]

  7. Friday Fact | MyPositiveDogTrainingBlog
    November 1, 2013 | 10:57 am

    [...] Dewclaws, also known as a dog’s thumb, refers to a vestigial digit found on the foot of most mammals, reptiles, and birds. It normally grows high on the animal’s leg in digitigrade species (digitigrade refers to an animal that walks on its toes, not touching the ground with its heels, like a dog, cat, or rodent). Dewclaws are most commonly known in canines, and these are often removed in puppies. There are some debates, however, on whether the removal of dewclaws is necessary. Read more here: [...]

    • Linda Trunell
      November 1, 2013 | 11:03 pm

      I referenced your post on my blog and also linked to a video showing dogs using their dew claws to grip when climbing out of icy waters. Very interesting!

  8. Amanda
    October 31, 2013 | 3:28 am

    Both my beagles use their dew claws like thumbs to hold things. Just need to trim the nails once a month along with the other nails.

  9. Maureen Creason
    October 31, 2013 | 12:29 am

    I rescued an amazing & wonderfully loving dog from Boxer Rescue in LA who had her dewclaws removed before I got her, I assume from her previous owner. She was loving and precious with people but unfortunately overly aggressive with other dogs, her entire life. I never doubted the removal of her dewclaws as a bad thing. She certainly never seemed to miss the appendages.

  10. Richard Lawrence
    October 30, 2013 | 12:50 pm

    If God didn’t mean dogs to have dewclaws he wouldn’t have given made them as part of their body. A bit like an appendix in a human. We can live without them, but they must have been there for some reason in the first place. I am quite happy to clip them on my dogs when they get too long.

  11. Jennifer Inch
    October 12, 2013 | 9:24 am

    We are now on our second dog with hind dewclaws. We had the hind dewclaws surgically removed during the neuter on the first dog, at the vet’s recommendation.
    The current dog with them will get to keep them.
    Apart from the perceived ‘risk’ of injury, I expect a lot of removals are due to the fact that they tend to be floppy a a little creepy – a ‘toe’ attached without a real bone? Ewww. Lol. So Tigger had his removed, but Daisy will keep hers.

  12. Lynda Thompson
    September 6, 2013 | 8:54 am

    I have a Greek rescue who looks to be mostly Greek Shepherd, he has double hind dew claws complete with bone so they are very firmly attached. I can think of no good reason whatsoever to have them removed, I believe this is akin to docking which I also don’t believe, in 99% of cases is necessary.
    The main reason given for cutting off the dew claws is that they will catch and “tear off”. Really? I have had dogs all my life, all have had dew claws, albeit one, all four or even double as with one of my current dogs, not once have they ever damaged one, caught one or “torn off” one. I agree with ChibiOkamiko, keeping the nails trimmed on them is just a normal part of the grooming routine.

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    August 30, 2013 | 5:17 am

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  14. Sonya
    August 12, 2013 | 8:53 pm

    I have 2 dogs with dew claws front and back. One is a Great Pyr who has 2 extras on each back foot and another is a mix that has them in the back as well as the front.

    • Patrick
      November 30, 2013 | 7:58 pm

      The Great Pyrenees MUST have double dew claws on each back leg. DO NOT remove them. It’s the only breed that requires doubles on each hind leg. They are also stronger than random dews on other breeds. Leave them be.

      • tt
        February 23, 2014 | 10:50 am

        Actually, Beaucerons also require double dewclaws as well, not just Great Pyrs!

  15. Damien Cole
    August 12, 2013 | 6:34 pm

    My 3 great pyrenees have them with double claws..but i will not remove them. I rather wrestle 3 100 pound dogs every three weeks to trim them instead!

    • Patrick
      November 30, 2013 | 7:56 pm

      Love it!

  16. Jeri Bell
    May 23, 2013 | 8:12 pm

    Our husky/lab mix was born with double dewclaws on both her hind legs. We had them removed at the same time we had her spayed. We could just see her snagging them on something and ripping them off. They were so loosely attached they flopped when she ran or walked, however it was major surgery to remove them as they were attached to an undeveloped toe under the skin which also had to be removed. 4 stitches on the back of each leg. I did some research and as I understand Great Pyrenees are nearly always born with double dew claws on the hind legs but it is rare on this breed.

  17. Alyse Tarrant
    January 22, 2013 | 12:35 pm

    We had my dogs dewclaws removed when he was about 6 months old. He was going to be under anesthesia for another proceedure and had continued to catch his dewclaws on blankets and pillows etc. So, since he was already going to be out, we decided to get his dewclaws removed. NOW, I WISH WE WOULDNT HAVE. When they removed the claw on his right front paw they went too deep and left him with nerve damage and a never ending LIMP. It doesnt seam to be in pain when you touch it and it did heel well, however whenever we take him somewhere people always say hes hurt or ask why hes limping? Talked to a couole different vets and they say the limp couldnt possibly be from the proceedure however, he never limped before and hasnt stopped since we took him home……..

  18. Rina_chan21
    January 22, 2013 | 10:43 am

    Our Golden Retriever has dewclaws on his front paws, we always trim them while we trim the rest. We adopted a Golden Retriever mix recently and while her dewclaws on her front paws are tiny just like our other dog’s, the ones on the back have a dewclaw pad that’s almost as big as one of her toes and they don’t seem to be articulated. I thought these would bug her when we put boots on in the winter but it seems fine, I’m glad we didn’t have them removed!

  19. ChibiOkamiko
    January 22, 2013 | 10:24 am

    I have never removed my dog’s dewclaws and never had an issue with them. Keeping claws trimmed is part of the maintenance grooming I have to do (seems like that’s part of the “well duh” of pet ownership). And as for them getting caught on vegetation, I live on five acres of woods and have never had any dewclaw injuries either. If a dog of mine did have an issue with getting them injured, that’s when I would consider surgical removal.

  20. bindifry
    January 22, 2013 | 9:12 am

    thank you! my older dog has that issue of it curling & embedding it into her leg. she spends time trying to clip it. its really sharp so i’ve been cutting off the tip regularly. i was wondering about this issue :-)

  21. kris z
    January 22, 2013 | 9:01 am

    all of my dogs have had their dew claws removed. one dog had one of the dew claws grow back.. it is a bit twisty but not an issue. i would always want them to be removed.

    • Patrick
      November 30, 2013 | 7:55 pm

      My Great Pyrenees will never have her double dewclaws removed. It is the breed standard (double on both legs) and they serve a practicle purpose in the snow. They’re also not as flimsy as dewclaws that show up on other breeds. The only breed I know of that requires them as a show strandard is the Great Pyrenees.

      • Gindy51
        January 28, 2014 | 11:28 am

        Beaucerons do too as do many herding breeds.

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