When you start to think about it, your dog’s dewclaws are pretty interesting! The dewclaw is that extra fifth digit on your dog’s front feet that sits a little higher up the paw. When you start to pay attention, you might notice that some dogs have them, some don’t, and some might have doubles or ones on the rear paws as well.
So, what’s the story with dewclaws on dogs? Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital has the answers to all your burning questions.
The Anatomy of Dewclaws on Dogs
Your dog’s paw is the same anatomically as your hand (or foot). If you look closely, you will notice that your pet walks on the equivalent of your ring, middle, pointer, and pinky fingers. The majority of weight is bared on the pointer and middle fingers.
Most dogs also have the equivalent of our thumb, which does not bear weight. Even if your dog does not have a visible appendage where the thumb ought to be, often on closer inspection you will be able to identify a scar where one once was.
If your pet has their dewclaws, you can also investigate a little further. If you gently grab the dewclaw and wiggle, you will notice that the dewclaw is attached to bone. Most dewclaws are attached to the rest of the paw, much like your thumb is attached to your hand. Some dewclaws are unattached by bone, though, particularly double dewclaws or those found on the rear paws.
Beauty or Function?
For a long time, dewclaws were assumed to be vestigial and useless. Many breeders removed them at birth to prevent potential injury to them and for cosmetic appearances.
As we learn more, though, we are finding that dewclaws are far from useless. As we have studied athletic dogs like those who compete in agility or are working animals, we have begun to notice that those dewclaws do serve purpose and are important for protecting paws.
Attached front dewclaws in dogs:
- Provide an extra point of contact at high speeds and sharp turns
- Increase traction on slippery surfaces
- Help to stabilize the wrist joint
- Aid in holding items like bones
- Can help a dog who needs to climb or pull up such as after falling through ice
Detached or rear dewclaws seem to be less useful. Many times these are removed to prevent injury, however the necessity of this is debatable.
Of course if a dewclaw becomes injured, infected, or develops a problem like cancer, it may be the best course to remove it. Dogs tend to function just fine without their dewclaws, so do not be concerned if you notice your pet doesn’t have them.
Because dewclaws get less wear than the other toes, it is important to keep them trimmed as part of normal grooming. In particular double dewclaws are prone to becoming overgrown and digging into the tissues around them.
Your pup’s paws are important, and dewclaws on dogs serve a purpose. If you have questions about how to care for your pet’s dewclaws or whether your pet’s should be removed, please contact us. We are here to help.