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What Are Dog Dewclaws? Exploring Your Pet's Unique Paw Feature

August 11, 2023

Have you ever noticed an extra toe on your dog's paw? That's likely their dewclaw! Dewclaws are the small, often non-weight-bearing toes on the inside of a dog's paw. While not all dogs have dewclaws, they are a unique feature that can serve a variety of purposes. Let's dive into the world of dog dewclaws, from anatomy to care and everything in between.

dog dewclaw

Key Takeaways:

  • Dewclaws are small, often non-weight-bearing toes on the inside of a dog's paw.
  • Not all dogs have dewclaws, but they can serve a variety of purposes.

Understanding Dewclaw Anatomy and Function

Before discussing the purpose of dewclaws, it is important to understand their anatomy and function.

Dewclaws are essentially extra digits located on the inner side of a dog's paw, above the paw pad. They may be found on the front or hind legs, or both. Dewclaws may vary in size and shape depending on the breed of the dog, but they typically resemble a small claw or nail.

Although dewclaws are not used as frequently as the other claws on a dog's paw, they do serve a purpose. Dewclaws can help dogs maintain balance and stability, especially during activities such as running or jumping. They may also aid in gripping objects, such as toys or bones.

Examining Dewclaw Anatomy

The structure of a dewclaw is similar to the other claws on a dog's paw, but there are some important differences. Dewclaws are attached to the leg by a small piece of bone and have their own tendons and nerves. Depending on the breed of the dog, dewclaws may also have a pad and fur.

Although some dogs are born with dewclaws on their hind legs, it is more common for them to only have dewclaws on their front legs. In some breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, double dewclaws (two dewclaws on the same leg) are common and may serve a greater purpose for the breed's specific functions.

Overall, the anatomy of dewclaws reflects their function as a small but important part of a dog's paw structure.

The Purpose of Dewclaws in Dogs

Dewclaws may seem like a small and insignificant feature, but they actually play an important role in a dog's paw structure. The dewclaw, often found higher up on the paw than the other toes, serves several purposes that help dogs in their daily activities.

GrippingThe dewclaw helps dogs grip and hold onto objects, allowing them to better manipulate items with their paws.
BalanceThe dewclaw provides additional support and stability to a dog's paw, particularly during movement over rough or uneven terrain.
StabilityDewclaws contribute to a dog's overall balance and stability, helping them to maintain an upright posture and avoid falls or injuries.

Some dog breeds have dewclaws that are more developed and functional than others. For instance, many working and sporting dog breeds have dewclaws that are fully formed and regularly used in their duties, while some toy breeds may have dewclaws that are less prominent and have little function. However, regardless of breed or level of development, all dewclaws require proper care and attention to ensure they stay healthy and functional.

The Importance of Dewclaw Care

Dewclaws are an important part of your dog's paw structure, and it's essential that you take proper care of them. Neglecting dewclaw care can lead to a variety of health issues, including infection, ingrown nails, and even more severe injuries. Here are some tips to help you maintain your dog's dewclaws:

  • Regular Cleaning: Make sure to clean your dog's dewclaws regularly to remove any dirt or debris that can accumulate between the nail and the skin. Use a damp washcloth or cotton ball to gently wipe the area, being careful not to apply too much pressure.
  • Trimming: Keep your dog's dewclaws trimmed to prevent them from becoming too long and causing discomfort or pain. Use a pair of sharp, clean nail clippers designed specifically for dogs, and be careful not to cut the quick (the blood vessel that runs through the nail).
  • Monitoring: Check your dog's dewclaws regularly for any signs of injury or infection. Look for redness, swelling, discharge, or a foul odor, and contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms.

By following these steps, you can help ensure that your dog's dewclaws remain healthy and pain-free. Remember, proper dewclaw care is an important aspect of responsible pet ownership, so take the time to give your dog's paws the attention they deserve.

Common Dewclaw Injuries and Problems

Dog dewclaws can become a source of pain and discomfort when injured or infected. Here are some of the most common dewclaw injuries and problems:

Torn or broken dewclawsBleeding, limping, swelling, and painFirst aid, bandaging, and vet treatment if severe
Ingrown nailsLimping, licking, and inflammation around the dewclawVet trimming or surgery if severe
InfectionRedness, swelling, pus, and foul odor around the dewclawAntibiotics, cleaning, and vet treatment if severe

It's important to address these injuries and problems promptly to prevent them from worsening or causing further issues. Keep an eye on your dog's dewclaws and seek veterinary care if you notice any signs of pain, discomfort, or infection.

Dewclaw Removal: Pros and Cons

Dewclaw removal is a hotly debated topic among dog owners and veterinarians, with proponents and opponents on both sides. Some argue that removing dewclaws can prevent injuries and improve a dog's appearance, while others believe that dewclaws serve an important purpose and should not be removed unless absolutely necessary.

Pros of Dewclaw Removal

One potential benefit of dewclaw removal is reducing the risk of injury. Dewclaws can get caught on objects or snagged during play, leading to painful injuries or even tearing off completely. By removing dewclaws, some argue that dogs are less likely to experience these traumatic injuries.

Another argument for dewclaw removal is cosmetic. Some dog breeds are traditionally bred without dewclaws, and removing them can improve the appearance of dogs that are shown or used for breeding. In these cases, dewclaws may be seen as an unnecessary or undesirable feature.

Cons of Dewclaw Removal

On the other hand, many veterinarians and animal welfare experts caution against dewclaw removal. Dewclaws are considered an important part of a dog's anatomy, providing balance and stability during movement. Removing them can affect a dog's gait and potentially lead to long-term health problems.

In addition, dewclaws have nerve endings and blood vessels, making the removal process painful and potentially risky. Dogs may experience complications such as infection, excessive bleeding, or scarring. And, as with any surgical procedure, there is always a risk of anesthesia-related complications.

"Dewclaw removal is a complex issue with no easy answers. It's important for dog owners to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits before making a decision."

Ultimately, whether or not to remove a dog's dewclaws is a personal decision that should be made in consultation with a veterinarian. It's important to weigh the potential pros and cons and consider the individual needs and health of the dog in question before deciding on a course of action.

Dewclaw Surgery: When Is It Necessary?

Dewclaw removal is a highly debated topic in the dog owner community. Some argue that it is unnecessary and cruel, while others believe that it can prevent future injuries and problems. But when is dewclaw surgery truly necessary?

In general, dewclaw surgery is only recommended when there is a medical need. This includes cases where the dewclaw is severely injured or infected, causing pain and discomfort for the dog. In some rare cases, dogs may be born with extra dewclaws that are not attached to any bone or tendon and can cause issues as they grow.

However, many veterinarians caution against elective dewclaw removal as there is a risk of complications and the surgery can be painful and traumatic for the dog. Some dogs may also experience long-term negative effects, such as changes in gait and balance.

If you are considering dewclaw surgery for your dog, it is important to consult with a trusted veterinarian and carefully weigh the potential risks and benefits. In most cases, with proper care and monitoring, dewclaws do not pose a significant risk to a dog's health or well-being.

Dewclaw Trimming: How to Safely Maintain Your Dog's Dewclaws

Regular dewclaw trimming is an important aspect of pet care that can help prevent discomfort and injury. Here are some step-by-step instructions on how to safely trim your dog's dewclaws:

  1. Choose a quiet, well-lit area where you can comfortably handle your dog's paw.
  2. Gently hold your dog's foot and extend the dewclaw away from the paw.
  3. Use a sharp, clean nail trimmer to cut the dewclaw, being sure to avoid the quick, which is the pink area inside the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves.
  4. If you accidentally cut the quick, apply some styptic powder or cornstarch to stop the bleeding.
  5. Repeat the process for each dewclaw, and be sure to reward your dog with a treat or praise for their cooperative behavior.

It's important to note that not all dogs have dewclaws on all four paws, and some breeds may have double dewclaws on specific paws. If you're unsure about how to trim your dog's dewclaws, consult with your veterinarian for guidance.

Remember to always use proper tool sterilization techniques and make sure to clean your dog's feet before trimming to prevent any infections. In addition, keep an eye out for signs of discomfort or infection and seek veterinary care if necessary.

a dogs dewclaw

Dewclaw Regrowth: Is It Possible?

If your dog has had their dewclaw removed or trimmed, you may be wondering if it's possible for the dewclaw to grow back. The short answer is no, once a dewclaw has been removed, it will not grow back. This is because dewclaws are not attached to any bones or tendons, and their removal does not affect the dog's mobility or ability to perform normal activities.

However, if your dog's dewclaw was only trimmed, it is possible for the nail to grow back. In this case, it's important to continue to monitor the dewclaw and keep it trimmed to prevent it from becoming overgrown or causing discomfort to your pet.

It's important to note that dewclaw removal or trimming should only be performed by a qualified veterinarian, as improper procedures can lead to complications or injury. If you're considering dewclaw removal for your dog, be sure to discuss the potential risks and benefits with your vet, and never attempt to remove a dewclaw at home.

Tips for Preventing Dewclaw Injuries

Dewclaws can be prone to injury, but there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of harm to your furry friend. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid rough play: strenuous activities like jumping and running can put undue pressure on your dog’s dewclaws and lead to injuries such as tears or fractures.
  • Provide soft surfaces: Hard surfaces, such as concrete or gravel, are more likely to cause damage to the dewclaws. Make sure your dog has a soft surface to walk, run and play on.
  • Trim the dewclaws regularly: Long dewclaws are more prone to snagging and getting caught in objects. Make sure to regularly trim your dog’s dewclaws to keep them short and prevent discomfort.
  • Check and clean the dewclaws regularly: Regularly inspect the dewclaws for any signs of injury, infection, or overgrowth. Clean them every so often to prevent infection and eliminate odor.
  • Protect the dewclaws: When your dog is walking in an unfamiliar terrain or playing in areas with sharp objects like broken glass, consider using a paw shield to protect the dewclaws from harm.

By following these simple tips, you can minimize the risk of dewclaw injuries and ensure that your furry friend stays happy and healthy.

Exploring Dog Breeds With or Without Dewclaws

Dewclaws are a unique feature found on the paws of many dog breeds. While some breeds have dewclaws on all four paws, others may only have them on their front or hind paws. Here are some examples of dog breeds with or without dewclaws:

Breeds with Dewclaws on All Four PawsBreeds with Dewclaws on Front Paws OnlyBreeds without Dewclaws
Great PyreneesBoxerDoberman Pinscher
BriardBernese Mountain DogGerman Shepherd
BeauceronHovawartLabrador Retriever

It's worth noting that some breeds may have their dewclaws removed for certain activities, such as hunting or agility training, to prevent injury or improve performance. However, this practice is controversial and should only be done under the guidance of a veterinarian.


In conclusion, dog dewclaws are a unique feature of your pet's paw structure that play an important role in gripping, balance, and stability. It is crucial to provide proper care for your dog's dewclaws, including regular cleaning, trimming, and monitoring for any signs of injury or infection. While some dog owners choose to have their pet's dewclaws removed, it is important to weigh the potential benefits and risks before making such a decision. By following the tips and advice provided in this article, you can take steps to prevent dewclaw injuries and keep your furry friend healthy and happy. Remember, understanding and caring for your dog's dewclaws is an important part of being a responsible pet owner.


Q: What are dog dewclaws?

A: Dog dewclaws are unique features found on the paws of certain dog breeds. They are small, non-functional digits that are located higher up on the inside of the leg, above the paw.

Q: What is the anatomy and function of dewclaws?

A: Dewclaws are attached by a small bone and can have a nail. While they may not serve a specific purpose for every dog, in some breeds they can provide added grip, balance, and stability.

Q: What is the purpose of dewclaws in dogs?

A: Dewclaws in dogs have been known to help with gripping surfaces, providing traction, and aiding in balance during certain activities like running or climbing.

Q: Why is dewclaw care important?

A: Proper dewclaw care is essential to maintain their health and prevent potential issues such as injury or infection. Regular cleaning, trimming, and monitoring are key aspects of dewclaw care.

Q: What are common dewclaw injuries and problems?

A: Common dewclaw injuries and problems include torn or broken dewclaws, ingrown nails, and infection. These issues can cause pain and discomfort for your dog.

Q: What are the pros and cons of dewclaw removal?

A: Dewclaw removal is a debated topic among dog owners. Some argue that it can prevent potential injuries, while others believe it is an unnecessary and potentially painful procedure.

Q: When is dewclaw surgery necessary?

A: Dewclaw surgery may be necessary in certain situations such as severe injury, infection, or the presence of genetic abnormalities that cause discomfort or pose health risks.

Q: How can I safely trim my dog's dewclaws?

A: Trimming your dog's dewclaws at home can help prevent overgrowth and discomfort. It is important to follow step-by-step instructions and use proper tools to avoid injury.

Q: Can dewclaws regrow after being removed or trimmed?

A: Dewclaws do not typically regrow after being removed or trimmed. Once they are removed, they are permanently gone, and trimming helps prevent excessive growth but does not promote regrowth.

Q: How can I prevent dewclaw injuries in my dog?

A: Minimizing rough play, providing appropriate surfaces for exercise, and being mindful of your dog's activities can help reduce the risk of dewclaw injuries.

Q: Which dog breeds have or don't have dewclaws?

A: Certain dog breeds naturally have dewclaws, such as Great Pyrenees and Saint Bernards, while others, like Dobermans and Boxers, are commonly bred without dewclaws.

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