A dog's paw being wrapped in gauze

Many pups come with the advertisement that their “tails and dewclaws” have been “done”, meaning that the breeder has had their dewclaws removed and tails surgically docked. To many perspective pet owners, this sounds like an important thing. After all, why would you not want your breeder to provide an extra to you?

Upon further thought, though, you may start to wonder why you wouldn’t want your new pet to have all of its body parts. At Springbrook Animal Care Center we think it’s important for pet owners to understand what dewclaws are and why pets have them. Keep reading to learn more.

Is the Dewclaw Just a Dud?

Not everyone has paid close enough attention to know if their pet has dewclaws or not. Most dogs and cats are born with a single dewclaw on the inside of the front paws. This is anatomically the equivalent of our thumbs. 

There are, however, variations on the dewclaw as well. Some pets do not have dewclaws (this is usually due to them having been removed). Others have double dewclaws (breeds like the Great Pyrenees are known for this) and/or dewclaws on the back paws. Most dewclaws are attached with bone to the paw just like any other finger. Others are only attached by skin and soft tissue. 

Dewclaws, despite how innocuous they may appear, do seem to serve some purpose for our pets, though. While most animals function just fine if they have been removed, we do know that dewclaws:

  • Provide extra traction at high speeds
  • Offer stability on slippery surfaces
  • Support the carpal (wrist) joint
  • Aid in holding objects (think of a dog chewing on a bone)
  • Can help if a dog needs to climb or pull itself up (such as after falling through ice)

Though they are small and don’t make contact with the ground much the the time, dewclaws can be very useful. 

Doing Your Dog’s Dewclaws Proud

As a pet owner, appreciating the dewclaw is the first step towards taking good care of them. If your furry friend has already had the dewclaws removed, it is certainly no reason to fret. If you are considering a new pet, though, keep in mind their utility. 

Good grooming is important for many reasons, but dewclaw care is definitely one of them. Because dewclaws are not typically in contact with the ground, they do tend to get overgrown without regular trims. They are also often disguised in fur, making them less noticeable when long. Regular nail trims are important.

It is also important to take a peek at your pet’s dewclaws and other nails on a routine basis. Not only can they become overgrown into the skin or get caught on objects, but we can see things like broken nails, infected or inflamed nail beds, and even cancer of the bone, nail, or skin. If your pet’s nail(s) look abnormal or seem painful, give us a call right away. 

There are instances in which a dewclaw should be surgically removed, however it is really not necessary to remove them preemptively.  The dewclaw is an often under-rated but potentially valuable little appendage, and we are all for keeping them when practical.