The 5 Things You Shouldnโ€™t Ignore about Dog DewClaws


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Popularly known as the thumbs of dogs, dewclaws are the vestigial digits that are found on the feet of most birds, mammals, and reptiles. Unlike the rest of the dog toes, the dewclaw is found up on the leg of your four-legged friend. The dewclaw may look like an extra digit, but it is actually useful to dogs. They use their dewclaws to provide more traction and stop the legs from twisting or getting injured when they are making sudden turns while sprinting. Dogs use their dewclaws to grasp onto objects so that they can gnaw them to their heart's content. They also use their dewclaws to reach difficult-to-reach spots when they need to get rid of an itch. Here are 5 things you shouldn't ignore when it comes to a dog's dewclaws.

Long Nail

For a majority of dogs, the dewclaw is located higher than the rest of the toes, which means that the nail doesn't get worn out as the rest of the toenails. This will allow the nail to grow unhindered if the length of the nail isn't checked; there is a possibility that the nail might get embedded in the paw pad. Always trim the nail of the dewclaw to stop it from happening.

Swollen Look

If the dewclaw looks bigger than usual, you should take a look at it. As dogs are active animals, there is always a chance of their dewclaw getting injured when they are running about. On top of that, the dewclaw may not be properly attached to the leg of the dog, which will make it weaker than normal. Take your dog to the vet if it looks swollen.

Looks Out of Place (Dislocated)

There are chances of the dewclaw getting dislocated as the nail can get stuck onto a surface due to its location. This will cause severe discomfort, and the dog may stop you from touching the dewclaw. If the dewclaw looks like it is out of place from the leg of the dog, it probably got dislocated.

Bloody Surrounding

If there is blood surrounding the dewclaw, you need to get it checked immediately. The dewclaw tends to be loosely attached to the leg which makes it easy for dogs to hurt it. If the dewclaw gets cut, it's possible for it to get infected, which can spread throughout the body if left unchecked.

Abnormal Color

Dogs love digging up sand and making holes in the ground. At times, your dog may get over-excited, and it can hurt the nail of its dewclaw. This can be due to the ground being harder than usual or if there is a stone that the dog digs up by mistake. The nail can get damaged due to the impact which will result in discoloration. Check with the vet to see what you should do to treat it.

The dewclaw is small and can go unnoticed by the owner as it is easy to overlook. Remember that even the smallest things matter, so always keep an eye on how the dewclaw looks so that your dog can live a life that is pain-free.

Understanding Dewclaw Removal

Dewclaw removal is a common practice among breeders and pet owners, particularly for puppies. This unnecessary procedure is often done to prevent future dewclaw injuries, but it's essential to understand that dewclaws serve a purpose. In some dog breeds, dewclaws help with stability and grip, especially when dogs climb trees or navigate rough terrain.

Rear Dewclaws and Double Dewclaws

Some dogs have rear dewclaws, which are located on the rear legs. In certain breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, you might even find double dewclaws on the rear feet. These dewclaws can sometimes be prone to injuries if not properly cared for. Checking the rear dewclaws regularly is crucial to prevent any potential issues.

Dewclaw Injuries and Prevention

Dewclaw injuries can be quite common, especially in active dogs. The dewclaw can get caught on various surfaces, leading to dislocation or other injuries. To prevent such injuries, it's advisable to keep the dewclaw nails trimmed and monitor for any signs of damage or swelling. In some cases, dewclaws might need to be removed surgically if they cause recurrent problems, but this should always be a last resort and done under veterinary medicine guidelines.

Breed Standards and Dewclaws

Different dog breeds have different standards regarding dewclaws. For example, in the show ring, certain breeds, like the Great Pyrenees, are required to have dewclaws, while others might not. Understanding your dog's breed standards can help you make informed decisions about dewclaw care. Most dogs have dewclaws on their front paws, and some breeds have them on their back legs as well. It's essential to follow breed standards and consult with breeders and veterinarians to ensure proper care.

The Function of Dewclaws

Dewclaws are not just extra toes; they play a role in a dog's overall health and mobility. Dogs use their dewclaws to hold bones and other objects, providing them with a better grip. This function is similar to a human thumb. Additionally, dewclaws can help dogs maintain better contact with the ground, especially during high-speed maneuvers. Many dogs benefit from having their dewclaws, as it helps them prevent injuries by providing additional support.

Veterinary Care for Dewclaws

Regular veterinary care is essential to keep your dog's dewclaws healthy. If you notice any abnormalities, such as swelling, discoloration, or bleeding around the dewclaw area, it's crucial to seek veterinary advice promptly. In some cases, a local anesthetic might be required for treatment, especially if the dewclaw needs to be removed surgically. Always ensure that your dog's dewclaws are part of their routine health check-ups to prevent any serious issues.

Dewclaws might be small, but they play a significant role in your dog's life. Proper care and regular monitoring can prevent many potential problems related to dewclaws. Understanding the function and importance of dewclaws, as well as knowing when to seek veterinary help, can ensure that your dog remains healthy and pain-free. Whether it's the front dewclaws or the rear ones, each dewclaw needs attention and care to prevent injuries and ensure your dog's well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should dog dewclaws be removed?

The decision to remove a dog's dewclaws is ultimately up to the owner and veterinarian. Dewclaws are the small, extra toes on the inside of a dog's front legs (and sometimes hind legs) that do not touch the ground. Some owners choose to have their dog's dewclaws removed when the dog is a puppy, while others choose to leave them intact. There are a few reasons why an owner might choose to have their dog's dewclaws removed. Some dogs can catch their dewclaws on objects, which can cause pain, injury, and infection. This is more common in certain breeds of dogs, such as those that hunt in dense brush or rough terrain. Some owners choose to remove their dog's dewclaws for aesthetic reasons, especially if the dewclaws are loosely attached or do not serve a functional purpose. In some breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees or the Briard, dewclaw removal is part of the breed standard. However, it is generally recognized that front dewclaws can serve important functions, such as providing additional grip, stability, and balance during certain activities. Therefore, some dog owners and experts believe that dewclaws should not be removed unless there is a specific medical reason to do so, such as the dewclaw causing a chronic injury or infection. Ultimately, the decision to remove a dog's dewclaws should be made in consultation with a veterinarian, taking into consideration the individual dog's breed, lifestyle, and health needs.

What is the purpose of a dog's dewclaw?

A dog's dewclaw is a vestigial digit located on the inside of the front or hind legs, just above the paw. While the dewclaw does not typically touch the ground when a dog walks or runs, it still serves some important purposes. Dogs use their dewclaws to gain extra traction when running, turning, and climbing. The dewclaws help them maintain their grip on uneven or slippery surfaces. The dewclaw can also serve as a balancing digit, especially during activities that require sharp turns or quick changes in direction. In some breeds, the dewclaw is functional and can be used to grasp objects such as toys, bones, or prey. The dewclaw also plays a role in supporting the carpal joint, which is the joint in the front legs that is equivalent to the human wrist. While the dewclaw may not be essential for all dogs, it can be an important and functional part of the limb anatomy. For this reason, some owners and breeders choose to leave the dewclaws intact unless there is a specific medical reason to remove them.

What happens if you cut a dog's dewclaw?

If a dog's dewclaw is cut, it can cause pain and bleeding and potentially lead to an infection. The dewclaw is connected to the dog's leg by a small bone and a band of tissue called the dewclaw ligament. If the dewclaw is cut too short, it can damage the ligament or bone, which can be very painful for the dog. In some cases, if the dewclaw is damaged or infected, a veterinarian may recommend removing the dewclaw surgically. This is typically done under anesthesia and may involve removing the entire dewclaw or just a portion of it. After the surgery, the dog will need to be monitored for signs of pain or infection and will need to follow a post-operative care plan provided by the veterinarian.

How late can you remove dewclaws?

The optimal time to remove dewclaws in dogs varies depending on the breed and the individual dog. In general, it is recommended to remove dewclaws when puppies are very young, typically between 3-5 days old. At this age, the dewclaws are not yet firmly attached to the leg, and the procedure is relatively quick and easy. However, in some cases, dewclaws may be removed later in a dog's life. The older a dog is, the more complex and risky the procedure becomes, as the dewclaw will be more firmly attached to the leg, and there may be a greater risk of bleeding and infection. Some veterinarians may choose to perform the procedure on older dogs if there is a medical reason to do so, such as a chronic infection or injury.

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