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Dewclaws are the dog equivalent of a thumb. Many people debate the usefulness of the dewclaw and opt to have them removed when their dog is spayed or neutered and many people who adopted never get the opportunity to decide because their new family member has already had the operation.
The reasons for removing a dewclaw are numerous. Some include:
- Overgrown nails – The location of the dewclaw is high on the foot, above the other toes and paws and is often forgotten or missed during nail care.
- Infection – The dewclaw can grow close to the skin and cause infections for your dog.
- Injury – In worst case scenarios, the dewclaw can be ripped off by accident during a fight, running, or even playing time, which can be painful as well as bloody and traumatizing to your dog.
The dewclaw may not even be well attached to your dog’s leg and sort of dangles from the wrist. Dogs with these type of dewclaws are at an even greater risk of having them accidentally ripped off.
Other people opt to keep their dog looking just as nature intended them. Sometimes, this is for breed conformation shows as some breed standards require the dewclaw to stay attached and other times, people opt to keep the dewclaws because they are believed to help with locomotion as well as holding items, such as bones or chew toys, down.
The most compelling case for keeping the dewclaw is the supposed function of the toe and nail. A dog’s foot is long. In fact, a dog is always standing on tiptoe, and the foot extends up the leg to meet the dewclaw. When your dog is in motion, especially when he’s running at high speeds, the entire foot will fall to the ground in foot strikes. When this happens, the dewclaw touches the ground and helps stabilize your dog’s foot and prevents his legs from twisting. Without the dewclaw and over your dog’s lifetime, twisting of his legs might lead to elbow and joint arthritis and cause unnecessary pain for your dog.
If given a choice, it’s hard to decide what is best for your dog and you may have to consider your individual dog’s needs on a case-by-case basis. For example, when I adopted Sam he still had his dewclaws, which were firmed attached. Sam loves running and has a powerful physique. He is a little prone to developing arthritis thanks to his American Bulldog genes.
Everything considered I decided to keep his dewclaws when I had him neutered. However, if your dog is not a dog known for his power of locomotion and his dewclaws are small and loose, you may want to do preventative surgery. The choice is up to you, but you should consider the long-term health and well-being of your dog before making any decisions and consult with your vet for further guidance.
How is the dew claw used by the dog?