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We don’t call them fingers or toes, but if you take a look at your dog’s feet you’ll find that on their back legs they usually have four “toes”  and on their front feet they most often have five “fingers”.  Some dogs have an extra nail on the upper, inner part of their front feet and that is called a dewclaw. If you actually stopped what you were doing to look at your dog’s paws, counted their “toes” or “fingers” and came up with a different number, that’s ok! Some dogs will have dewclaws on their back legs as well. Pet care is important to us. Here are a few facts about dewclaws:

What Is A Dewclaw?

In comparison to a human’s hands and feet, a dewclaw is kinda like the thumb on the front leg of a dog and the big toe on the back leg.

What Does A Dewclaw Do Exactly?

The next time your dog takes off on a full sprint, watch how their dewclaws actually come in contact with the ground.  Dewclaws come in handy in a number of different scenarios. Dewclaws provide traction when running, especially at high speeds. Some dogs even use their dewclaws to climb trees! Dewclaws are also used to hold on to objects like toys and treats to be able to chew on them.

Last summer I was boating with a friend with our dogs and we pulled up to 12 Mile Island here in Louisville, Kentucky to hike across the island. The dogs were off leash in front of us (we were the only people on the island) running and playing and as we neared the other side of the island, my dog Biscuit fell right off the side of a 40 foot cliff straight to the beach below. The vegetation grew in a way that looked like there was more room to walk when there was not. Biscuit wasn’t injured (thankfully) but I sat on the side of the cliff trying to calm her and waited while my friend ran back across the island. He had to get his boat, travel around the island and get her.  The whole time, poor Biscuit tried to climb up the side of that cliff to me, as if she was worried more about me that I was about her. The only injury that she sustained was a torn dewclaw that she was using to gain traction to try to climb straight up the face of the cliff.

Should You Remove Your Dog’s Dewclaw?

Studies show that front dewclaws should not be removed unless there is a really good reason to do so, like an injury to the dewclaw, a cancerous tumor, etc.  These types of problems rarely happen, however, and most veterinarians agree that removing healthy front dewclaws really make no sense. Some dog owners choose to have their dogs dewclaws removed to “improve” their appearance in the show ring.

Taking Care Of Your Dog’s Dewclaws

Dewclaws are really no different than your dog’s other nails when it comes to taking care of them. Really active dogs may wear down their nails, including their dewclaws, to the point where nail trims aren’t even a necessity. For instance,  my boxer Maddie actually “grooms” her own nails by biting them down.  But for most pets who aren’t very active, their nails need regular trims.  Nails that are overgrown can actually be painful for dogs. Dewclaws may need to be trimmed more often since they are not in contact with the ground as frequently as the other nails.

If you have questions about your dog’s dewclaws please make sure that you contact your veterinarian for a professional consultation. If you need a professional pet sitter or dog walker please give us a call at 502-802-5052, check out our services or email us at info@pawspetcareathome.com.

By Beth Buster, Chief Cuddle Officer at Paws Pet Care