What is a dog’s dew claw for?
Dew claws are digits on dogs’ paws, usually found higher up than their other toes. Dogs use dew claws for extra grip when running or turning quickly.
They can also use their dew claws to get a stronger grip on things like bones, toys, or chews.
Dew claws will need the same maintenance as other toes and nails. But, in some areas, it is common to remove dew claws from very young puppies.
What is a Dog’s Dew Claw For?
The purpose of a dew claw on modern dogs is a little controversial.
Some organisations like the AKC state that for most dogs, dew claws serve “little to no purpose”.
However, others believe that dew claws are vital for dogs in working roles, to stabilise them when running, jumping, and turning.
Dew claws may also be useful for dogs working in cold environments, helping them to pull themselves out of ice, and so on.
Looking at Muscles and Tendons
Some people or organizations believe that dew claws have no real purpose for modern family dogs.
But, others suggest that the existence of muscles and tendons connected to the dew claw shows it must still serve a purpose.
Some dogs’ dew claws are only attached by a very small bit of skin, leaving the claw to hang loose by their paw.
But, other dogs’ dew claws are fully attached, and moveable.
Where is a Dog’s Dew Claw?
Some dogs just have dew claws on their front two paws. Others have them on their front and rear paws.
If your dog didn’t have their dew claws removed as a puppy, you will find them on the belly-facing side of their paws, further up their foot from the other toes.
When they are standing, their dew claws won’t touch the ground.
Be gentle with your dog’s paws if you are going to take a look at his dew claws.
What Does a Dew Claw Look Like?
Now you know where to find your dog’s dew claws, you’ll need to know what you’re looking for!
Dog dew claws look similar to all of their other toes. It’s a small toe on the side of their foot, with a pad and a little nail.
It will be more prominent on some dogs than others.
You should be able to see it clearly when your dog is standing, unless they have had their dew claws removed as a very young puppy.
Do All Dogs Have Dew Claws?
All dogs are born with dew claws on their front legs. In fact one study suggests that almost all wild carnivores are born with them on their front paws.
Some dogs actually have dew claws on their front and back paws.
And, some dogs can get two dew claws on each of their rear legs.
The prominence of dew claws varies between dogs, as does the level of attachment.
In some dogs, the dew claws are fully attached like all their other toes. But, for others, they may only be attached by a small piece of skin, making them more prone to injury.
This is the most common reason that a lot of people choose to get their dog’s dew claws removed.
Should Dogs’ Dew Claws be Removed?
This is another quite controversial topic with strong opinions at either side of the debate.
In America it is quite common for puppies to have their dew claws removed in the first few days after they’re born.
Some people choose to remove their dogs’ dew claws to minimise the risk of them becoming injured or infected.
However, others choose to do it for esthetic reasons, such as to give their dogs’ legs a straighter appearance.
If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of removing your dog’s dew claws, you should speak to your vet.
But, be aware that the procedure gets more complex and potentially more painful the older your dog is.
Should You Trim Dew Claws?
Dew claws usually don’t touch the ground unless your dog is running or jumping. So, they won’t be naturally ground down like your dog’s other claws.
This means you may need to trim them more regularly than your dog’s other nails.
But, you’ll still need to be careful when trimming your dog’s dew claw, as cutting the quick of the nail can be painful and cause lots of bleeding.
If you’re worried about trimming your dog’s nails yourself, you may want to take them to a groomer.
Take a look at this guide to find useful tools for trimming your dog’s nails at home.
Dew Claw Injuries
Some people choose to remove their dogs’ dew claw to prevent any injuries.
There’s a chance that your dog’s dew claw could get caught and injured when they are running and playing outside or in the house.
This could be very painful for your dog and usually requires a trip to the emergency vet.
If your dog hurts his dew claw, he may limp and avoid running or jumping.
Take a closer look at your dog’s paw if you notice this behavior, and schedule a veterinary appointment to rule out injuries to the dew claw, or any other part of the foot.
What Is A Dog’s Dew Claw For? A Summary
Although some organisations and people believe dew claws have no purpose for most modern dogs, others believe that dew claws are functional for dogs when running, jumping, or even holding items between their paws.
Your dog may have had his dew claws removed as a puppy. But, if not, make sure you trim your dog’s dew claw nail just like his other nails.
Does your dog have dew claws on all four legs? Let us know in the comments box down below!
References and Resources
- Mills, K. (et al), ‘A Review of Medically Unnecessary Surgeries in Dogs and Cats’, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (2016)
- Buckland, E. L. (et a), ‘A Survey of Stakeholders’ Opinions on the Priority Issues Affecting the Welfare of Companion Dogs in Great Britain’, Animal Welfare (2013)
- Zink, C. & Schlehr, M. ‘Working Dog Structure: Evaluation and Relationship to Function’, Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2020)
- ‘Issue Analysis: Dispelling the Myths of Cropped Ears, Docked Tails, Dewclaws, and Debarking’, American Kennel Club (2013)
- ‘Long Claws’, The Kennel Club