Front dewclaws are common on the majority of dogs. However, only some dog breeds have dew claws on their hind legs. Today, most vets or breeders will have dewclaws removed from a puppy when they are very young because they don’t really serve a good purpose for most domestic dogs.
Keep reading to learn everything you ever wanted to know about dewclaws!
What is a Dew Claw on a Dog?
Dew claws can be found on the inside of the front legs and back legs or paw area of a dog.
Dew claws are a type of nail or claw that protrude on the back or side of your dog’s leg near their paw and usually above it.
Dewclaws are essentially an extra toe that is usually found on the front paws of certain animals, including dogs, and sometimes upon the rear legs. Some call a dewclaw the fifth toe.
These extra claws can usually be fairly easily removed if they become a problem for your dog. Some breeds have naturally occurring dew claws that require a surgical procedure for removal.
You could say a dewclaw is a semi-functional digit on the inside of a dog’s leg that kind of resembles a human thumb, hence they are often called the dog’s thumbs.
Dewclaws are usually located up on the leg, above the paw, where there may or may not normally be a nail or claw.
This is an extra toenail that does not touch the ground. Dogs with dewclaws will also sometimes have double dewclaws.
What is the Purpose of a Dog’s Dew Claw?
Dew claws are not used for walking and really don’t have much of a function in the dog’s life. They can’t be used to scratch its back or anything fun like that! Well, maybe they can!
For a modern-day house pet, dewclaws don’t really have a good purpose.
Benefits of Dewclaws
Dew claws may help dogs grip and climb slippery surfaces like rocks, logs, and other types of terrain.
While dewclaws don’t do much for day-to-day activities for most breeds, it is said they can be helpful when it comes to hunting prey or escaping predators in the wild.
However, some people say dew claws can help a dog climb a tree, run faster, or better navigate rough terrain!
Do Dogs Need Their Dew Claws?
No, pet dogs get along just fine without dewclaws but having said that most experts agree that leaving front dewclaws in place is perfectly fine.
If a dewclaw becomes damaged or infected ask your vet about removing it.
Types of Dew Claws
Did you know that many vets remove dewclaws from puppies in their first week or two of life? So you may have a dog that had a dew claw when it was very young but was removed.
The three most common types of dewclaws include the long or rear dewclaw, the middle toe, and the front dewclaw. Each type serves a specific purpose depending on where it is located.
Why Do Some Dog Breeds Have Dew Claws While Others Don’t?
Dew claws are a feature of certain dog breeds that some people find adorable and others find useless. Remember that any dog breed can have dewclaws. But why do some dogs have dewclaws and others don’t?
Most experts agree that the reason is that many purebred dogs come from crossbreeds originally used for work such as herding or hunting.
Those types of activities require specific physical characteristics in the breed which can include having dew claws on their back feet to help them grip while they’re working.
However, many other breeds do not need these extra toes so they are bred out over time by people who choose to make a more aesthetically pleasing dog breed instead.
How to Tell if Your Dog has Dew Claws?
Just look! If your dog has dewclaws they can be easily found above the foot/paw, kind of on the side or back or their leg. It will look like an extra claw that does not touch the ground.
Dog Breeds that Have Dew Claws
As stated above, most all dog breeds have dewclaws on the front legs but here are some breeds that tend to have them on both legs.
- Australian Cattle Dog
- American Eskimo Dog
- American Foxhound
- Australian Kelpie
- Alaskan Malamute
- Anatolian Shepherd
- Australian Shepherd
- Bearded Collie
- Belgian Laekenois Sheepdog (Groendael)
- Berger Picard
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Bullmastiff (Bull Terrier)
- Cane Corso Mastiff
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Estrela Mountain Dogs
- German Shepherds
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Golden Retrievers
- Great Pyrenees
- Havanese dogs
- Icelandic Sheepdogs
- Jack Russell Terriers
- Labrador Retriever
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Norwegian Lundehund
- Pyrenean Shepherd
- Poodle Breeds
- Saint Bernard
- Spanish Mastiff
How to Care for Your Dog’s Dewclaws
The most important way to care for your dog’s dewclaws is to keep an eye on them. While dewclaw injuries happen in rare cases it is possible. Look for any redness or if they just don’t look right.
You may also need to trim them on occasion. Ask your vet for guidance before doing any trimming.
Dew claws can be surgically removed, but this is generally unnecessary and it should only be done if there is a problem with them such as frequent infections or if they cause pain for your dog.
Negatives of Dew Claws on a Dog
Dewclaws may cause problems for your pup when they get older so some vets suggest removing them when your dog is very young.
Dew claws can get caught on things and sometimes even tear causing a painful injury.
A damaged dew claw could cause infection where their claw grows out from their leg or paw pad, arthritis, or even cancer.
How to Tell if Your Dog’s Dew Claw is Infected?
If you see any signs of damage or something that does not look right call your veterinarian right away.
You may see your dog licking their dew claw excessively as an indicator of something wrong. It is also possible you could smell an odor or see seepage from an infected dew claw.
Should Dewclaws Be Removed?
If your dog has a dew claw and it does not cause them any problems there may be no good reason to have it removed. Sometimes they may need trimming by your vet.
Just keep your eye on it and if you have any concerns call your vet and ask them for guidance.
Can Dewclaws Be Removed?
Yes, a dewclaw is usually easy to remove by your veterinarian. Don’t attempt it yourself. Some dewclaw removals will require surgery.
Is a Broken Dewclaw an Emergency?
It depends. A broken dewclaw is not necessarily an emergency situation but it will be very painful for your dog so you should have your vet look at it right away.
Related Dewclaw Questions
Why is it Called a Dewclaw?
Great question! The problem is there is no definitive answer to what the word dewclaw really means.
Some say it was derived from the thought that the ‘dewclaw’ (being above the dog’s paw and off the ground) scrapes the ‘dew’ off of wet grass.
There are other opinions but no one really knows. The usage of the word does date back many hundreds of years though.
What is a Double Dewclaw?
Some dog breeds, such as Anatolian Shepherds, are actually born with double dewclaws. Pretty simple, instead of just one dewclaw in one spot they have two!
Is Dewclaw Spelled as One Word or Two?
Most of the time you will see dewclaw spelled as one word but there are people who regularly spell it as two words. Dew claw. We use it in both forms in this article just to pique your interest in the question and see if you were paying attention! Ha!
Merriam-Webster dictionary shows dewclaw as one word and defines dewclaw as “a vestigial digit not reaching to the ground on the foot of a mammal.”
What if My Dog Doesn’t Have Any Dew Claws?
Chances are good that the breeder or vet that cared for your dog when it was young had them removed.
Are Dew Claws a Birth Defect?
No, dew claws on a dog are not a birth defect they are naturally occurring.
Are Dewclaws Used When a Dog Runs?
There was actually a study by Johns Hopkins University utilizing slow-motion photography that showed a dog’s dewclaws may actually touch the ground while running at high speeds and making sharp turns.
The study concluded that it is possible the dewclaws helped stabilize the dog’s feet and give it extra traction while running and that dewclaws are actually an asset for a working dog.
Do Any Dog Breed Standards Require Dewclaws?
Yes, there is a range of breed standards concerning dewclaws.
For instance, the Pyrenean Shepherd requires a rear dewclaw but at the same time, there are breed standards that require the removal of the dewclaw if being entered in an American Kennel Club (AKC) competition.
What are Vestigial Structures?
Dewclaws are vestigial structures! Vestigial structures are basically parts of the anatomy of a living organism (animal) that have lost some or all of its original purpose and function over time.
Do Cats Have Dewclaws?
Why yes, cats do have dewclaws on their front feet.
Dewclaws are the vestigial remnants of ‘fingers’ (or some say a toe or thumb) on a dog’s foot. They may be present in some breeds, but they aren’t always evident and are not considered functional by most dog experts.
Having said that, some people insist that dewclaws also provide stability and grip when climbing or running up hills thus helping dogs with their balance.
Some breeds have dew claws that people say can be used in hunting. Normally, dewclaws should not touch or contact anything when your pet walks around.
If your dog has dewclaws, you may need to trim them from time to time if they get too long so they don’t get caught on things like carpets and fabrics while they are walking around.
As caring pet owners, if you have any concerns about your dog’s dew claws contact your vet immediately.