Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who
partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Dewclaw in Dog's Front Leg

Dewclaw in Dog’s Front Leg


What Are Dog Dewclaws?

The dewclaw is simply the dog’s thumb which can be commonly found high up the
leg and typically doesn’t make contact with the ground. Dewclaws are commonly
found as a protrusion on the inside of the dog’s front legs but can also be
present in the rear legs as well. In rare cases, you may see double dewclaws
on the same paw (see picture below). In this case, the dog is known as double-
dewclawed. Often, one of these extra dewclaws is poorly connected and needs to
be removed surgically, but in some cases they are quite sturdy and even part
of the breed standard (think Great Pyrenees).

Do All Dogs Have Dewclaws?

Depending on the breed of dog you get, he may or may not have dewclaws.

Why Are Dewclaws Removed?

You may have seen ads of breeders selling dogs stating that the “dewclaws have
been removed,” or you may have heard your vet mention it. Some breeders remove
them when the puppies are very young, so upon purchasing the pup, they have
been already removed and you may never be aware of their past presence.
Rottweiler puppies are often sold with dewclaws removed.

What Is the Purpose of a Dewclaw?

So are dewclaws useless appendages or do they have some use? The topic of
whether dogs should keep their dewclaws or if they are better off removed
remains for the most part a subject of controversy. We’ll see both sides of
the argument.

D is for dewclaw.

D is for dewclaw.

Amos T Fairchild

Three Reasons Why Dewclaws Are Removed

First and foremost, the decision to remove dewclaws must be done very early.
If you’re getting your puppy at 8 weeks it’s a no-brainer since the breeder
will have likely already taken care of it since dewclaw removal is done when
the pup is less than 5 days old.

1. They May Embed

One of the main issues with dewclaws is the fact that in most dogs they never
touch the ground. This means that, unlike the other nails on the toes that
make contact with the ground, the dewclaw nails never wear down. This means
the owner must trim the nail on a routine basis to keep them at a safe length.
Failure to do so may result in the dewclaw growing long and curved and
possibly embedding in the dog’s dewclaw pad.

2. They Are Weak

Another reason why several people suggest to remove the dewclaws is because
they are believed to be a weak digit that is barely attached and can easily
catch on something and cause pain, and possibly infections. Dewclaws are often
removed in hunting and working breeds as a precaution to prevent injuries. The
belief is that the dewclaws are much easier to remove when the pup is a few
days old rather than older.

3. To Adhere to Breed Standards

And finally, dewclaws may be removed because the breed standard states so. You
may see breed standards calling for dewclaw removal even in dogs no longer
used for work. In this case, it’s more to keep a certain look and maintain a

Double dewclaws in a dog

Double dewclaws in a dog


How Dewclaws Are Removed

Dewclaws are removed when the puppy is only days old, often at the same time
the tails are docked. Generally, this occurs between the ages of 3 and 5 days
old and is done without anesthetic. If dewclaw removal is not done at this
age, it becomes more complicated to remove them as the pup grows. The next
chance is perhaps when the pup goes under to be spayed or neutered months
later. The procedure involves removing the digit including skin, bone and
nail, with surgical scissors. The whole procedure takes about 15 to 30 minutes
per pup.

Three Reasons Why Dewclaws are Kept

Interestingly, each dewclaw is attached to five tendons, which are further
attached to a muscle, according to veterinarian and rehabilitation specialist
of performance-related injuries Dr. Christine Zink. This seems to suggest that
dewclaws much have some sort of functionality. Let’s look at some reasons why
dog owners have decided to keep their dog’s dewclaws as nature made them.

1. Dewclaws Prevent Torque

If your dog runs in the sport of agility or if he is a working dog, you may
want to give dewclaws a second thought. Dewclaws help support Rover’s lower
legs, and when he makes those tight turns, it’s thanks to his dewclaws that
torque is prevented. Indeed, when cantering or galloping and making a swift
turn, those dewclaws touch the ground and prevent the leg from twisting and
getting other injuries further explains Christine Zink.

2. They Aid Grasping

You won’t see Rover engaging in useless thumb twiddling or sending text
messages, but rest assured that those thumbs have some purposes. You may
notice how your dog uses his dewclaws to aid him in grasping objects such as
toys, bones and sticks as he chews on them. You may also see Rover use his
dewclaws to scratch a sudden itch or remove some foreign body stuck in his
teeth. Not to mention the use of such extra appendages in climbing and
engaging in several sport activities.

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3. Declaw Removal Is Sometimes Illegal

In some countries, removing the dewclaws is illegal. The belief is that
they’re painful to remove and that they are removed mostly for cosmetic
reasons rather than anything else. This is a good reason why so many dogs
still have their dewclaws in countries such as Australia.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
veterinarian immediately.

© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli


Andrew on July 11, 2020:

Hi Adrienne

My Rottweiler never had his dew claws removed as a puppy , a decision that I
now regret daily . He is now nearly 3 years old and has managed to bend them
sideways more than 3 times already causing him a lot of pain & forcing me a
very expensive trip to the Vet $200 for medication. My last Rottweiler that I
owned over 20 years ago had his dew claws removed & tail docked as a puppy I
never had any trouble with my last dog & he never had to go through any pain
or discomfort By being forced to keep them just because some animal
liberationist wanted to force there opinions on the majority of the population
just to appease there own conscience. My dog has had to endure this now over 3
times so next week I will be taking him to my

Vet to do what should have been when he was a puppy , have his dew claws
removed. Anybody that thinks they are saving their animal a lot of pain should
rethink things ,in fact I now think my dog has gone through far more pain than
having them removed as a pup in the first place

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 04, 2020:

Hi Brenden,

Your choice should be made on various factors. For example, do you have
serious plans for his agility in the future? any plans to change sport in the
future (like Treibball, flyball?) Do you have to do any other procedures so
you can combine them with this procedure? Like a dental cleaning, spay/neuter?
Your best bet is to discuss with your vet.

Brenden on May 01, 2018:

Hi Adrienne

I have a BC who is doing agility. As he is still learning, he knocks into bar
constantly resulting in swelling of his dewclaw. I’m contemplating to remove
it to prevent injury but I’m not sure whether should I proceed as there’s
conflicting views.

Any advise is appreciated

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 22, 2015:

Hello Heldi, no need to apologize, I couldn’t even tell English is not your
mother language! There are some dogs who have dewclaws in such a way as making
them more prone to injury. There was this dog in agility that when we were
teaching him to jump an obstacle, his protruding dewclaws were touching the
obstacle and causing them the bleed. The issue some countries have where this
practice is banned is when they’re removed for cosmetic reasons.

Heldi on September 22, 2015:

When my dog was neutered vet also removed dewclaws from his rear legs. I
suggested it because once when he was playing and running with other dogs, he
accidentally stumbled with one of the dewclaws from rear leg on bench. It was
painful so to avoid any future accidents I decided it is better to remove it.
I see it like this, when dogs are running they are much more careful and know
where their front legs will end up, while the rear legs just follow the body
and they can really hurt those dewclaws that are sticking out. I hope you get
the picture, English is not my mother tongue, so I apologize 🙂

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 05, 2013:

Thanks for stopping by MJennifer! I am also a big proponent of not removing
healthy body parts and indeed have written many hubs against docking tails and
cropping ears. The dewclaws have been fortunately been understood better these
years, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Marcy J. Miller from Arizona on May 05, 2013:

This was fascinating, Adrienne! When I was young, it was the conventional
wisdom that dewclaws should always, unquestioningly, be removed. It was a
welcome surprise to me a few years ago when my vet said that’s no longer
routinely done unless the claws are floppy and prone to getting snagged. I’m
not a big proponent of removing healthy body parts unless there’s a specific,
valid reason to do so (such as spay and neuter). Interesting!

Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on February 15, 2013:

You are right, it is a controversial subject. Just don’t like to see them

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 05, 2013:

I know it’s a tough topic isn’t it? There seems to be different views on this,
thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Michelle Liew from Singapore on February 05, 2013:

Whoa, a tough one to think about there. I would say it depends on whether the
dewclaw is hampering or assisting him. If it hampers and causes problems, as
it in some cases might, remove it…..if it doesn’t and in fact helps, let it