Should You Or Should You Not Remove Dew Claws?

Tenor's front dew claws.Here’s what you need to know about your dog’s dew claws, including when (or if) you should have them removed, and recommendations from other dog owners.

A dew claw is similar to a thumb — complete with a toenail — but it grows a bit higher up on the paw than the rest of the toenails on that paw and it never comes in contact with the ground.

If your dog has dew claws (most dogs do), then you’ll want to pay extra attention to the dewclaws.

This is especially important during the puppy’s first 6 months of life, because you need to make sure that they’re growing properly and not getting in the way during your dog’s regular activities.

 

Does Your Dog Have Dewclaws In Front? Back? Or Both?

Tenor's rear dew claws. These are his back legs lying one on top of the other and pushing against the casters of our office chair.The majority of dogs have dew claws on their front paws.

Some dogs also have dew claws on their back paws. (Ours does.)

Dew claws on the back paws is fairly rare for dogs in general, but somewhat common in certain breeds, including Great Pyrenees. Our Great Pyrenees/Black Lab mix has dew claws on both, his front and back paws, though he doesn’t have the “double dew claws” (two claws stemming from one single area) on his hind paws as is typically standard for the breed.

 

Why Dew Claws Might Need To Be Removed

Rest assured that most dogs with dewclaws do just fine without having to remove the dewclaws.

But sometimes the dew claws are not “properly attached”. They may also “dangle” or “hang”, or just get in the way during the normal course of playing and walking.

Not to mention the fact that dogs with dew claws who also like to dig a lot, will sometimes irritate the dew claw, or even break the dew claw bone (not all dew claws have bones). This could usually happens when reaching through a chain link fence or something similar.

If the dew claws on your dog’s front or rear paws seem to easily get caught on things, then they could easily rip off — which would be very painful for the dog. In this case, you should talk with your vet about whether or not to have the dewclaw(s) removed.

 

How & When To Remove Dew Claws

Most dog owners who opt to have their dog’s dewclaws removed have it done at the same time as the dog’s spay or neuter surgery. That way, there is only one time going under the anesthesia, only one period of time for recovery, only one visit to the vet (and only one office charge).

Dewclaw removal involves removing the entire toe, not just the claw, and the cost may increase if the toe is firmly attached. — About.com

When done at the same time as the spay/neuter, some dog owners have indicated that the recuperation period for the dewclaw removal seems to take longer and be more stressful for the dog than the spay/neuter surgery part of the surgery.

For the most part, dogs seem oblivious to the stitches that result from the spay/neuter, but they can’t seem to stop licking at the bandages which must remain on their paws for weeks from the dew claw removal.

Many breeders choose to remove dewclaws on puppies in the first week of life, because soon after birth the dewclaws are more like fingernails than appendages. At that young age, dew claws can be removed relatively easily and no stitches are required.

 

Our Decision Regarding Tenor’s Rear Dew Claws

With our Great Pyrenees dog, it appeared early on that his rear dew claws were sticking out too far and could get caught on things.

The vet said that each of Tenor’s dewclaws is basically formed as an “extra toe”, and it would be fairly major surgery to remove the entire toe. (Think of it as amputating a thumb.) We were encouraged to keep an eye on them for a few months, then make a decision regarding the future of Tenor’s dew claws when it came time for his neutering.

At 6 months of age, when when we made the appointment for Tenor’s neutering, we realized that he hadn’t had any problems with the dew claws catching on anything, so we decided to leave them intact. The vet assured us that he’d be just fine.

One thing to note…
Since we chose to leave Tenor’s dewclaws intact, the vet said that we’d have to pay extra attention to keeping the toenails on those dewclaws trimmed. Primarily because:

  • They are higher up on his paw so they won’t get any wear in the normal course of walking.
  • If they are ever allowed to get long, the quick will grow proportionately, making it more and more difficult to keep that toenail short.

Tenor's left rear paw - notice the dew claw. Tenor's right rear paw - notice the dew claw.

More Information About Dew Claws

Here’s an excellent photo summary describing how to trim your dog’s toenails (especially when they’re black, and it’s hard to see the “quick”), which type of nail trimmer is best, and some advice about dew claws.

Here’s the perspective of the show dog community regarding dew claws.

Check out these tips for taking care of and treating a dog’s torn toenail.

Dog breeds that commonly have dew claws, or even double dew claws.

 

The faster the breed, the more important the dewclaw. It can actually contact the ground and help with traction when a zooming dog is “cornering”. You probably won’t see this in a lumbering Newf, but you may in a Border Collie doing agility. Dogs also use their dewclaws as “thumbs”. My dog uses his to stabilize a bone for chewing. And studies have shown that removal of the dewclaw (particularly the attached “non-floppy” kind) can lead to increased incidence of arthritis in the carpus (wrist) because the dewclaw helps with stabilization of that joint. –¬†Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips for Dogs

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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  • manda

    i have a year and a half old male chihuahua should i get his dew claws removed im having second thoughts cause he has bone in his =[

    • Kelly

      If it doesn’t bother him, don’t do it. My two mutts are very small like a chihuahua & our vet has assured us there is no need to remove it as it has not caused any problem.

  • Massiel

    Hi,

    I just got a 3 month old Westie Terrier puppy 4 days ago and have been trying to house break her. She refuses to go outside, even hold it in during our entire walk. She sniffs and circles but doesn’t go.

    When I take her upstairs I can’t even put her in the crate cause she goes in the crate.

    I can’t put her down cause she goes on the floor.

    If I catch her sniffing and circling in the hous I take her back outside and still she doesn’t go.

    I don’t know what to do.

    • Frank

      When u notice the dog releiving itself in the house imediatly pick and take it outside. It may not go at first but will eventually. When it does reward it with a treat to let it know they did good. It worked for me

    • Vid_04

      Maybe she was trained before to go on a training pad?

    • Pat

      I have a 6 month old Blk lab mix,mostly lab. We got her at 2 months old, she was doing the same thing as your dog. It takes alot of time, & patience!!! Going in the crate, going on the floor, etc. I read that they can not fully control their bladders, til around 6 months. . Its much better to have a smaller crate. That way they know if they go in the crate, they have to lay in it. If the crates too big, they can go & get away from it. Just give it some time, & also I found out,that it is really important to get a good cleaner for the floor or carpet, to remove the odor. If they can smell where they went before, they will keep going in that same spot.Walmart has a really good cleaner you can use. Bissell-Pet Stain& Odor remover/w/ enzyme cleaning action. It does work, & gets rid of the urine smell. We reward out dog, everytime she goes outside, & we make sure we say the same thing everytime, she goes, like Good Girl, you pottied outside, heres a treat. It will pay off in time if you are consistent.We thought our dog was un-trainable, & I was to the point, I thought it wasn’t ever going to work, but it eventually gets better w/ time.She goes outside now, about 95% of the time, now. Good Luck!

    • Ruby

      Also, be careful not to “reverse train” her.
      If you stop the walk after she goes to the bathroom, she’ll learn to hold it to get more time outside.
      We had to be really patient with our rescue. Over a year old, and he wasn’t house trained when he came to live with us.
      We had to put puppy pads EVERYWHERE!

      Anyway, after much deodorizing and positive reinforcement outside, he got the hang of it. Just claim the house as your space and you’ll be fine.

      Oh! The turning point though, was that I caught him peeing on the carpet. While he was still going, I picked him up, and RAN to the backyard with him.
      (still peeing – gross but effective)
      After he finished outside, I praised him like a king.

      Startled the crap out of him, I can tell you! Haha!
      He’s never peed in the house since. Only on walks, (when I give him permission to – it IS a walk, not a ‘let’s mark my territory festival’) and in the backyard. :)

      Good luck! :)

  • Chris

    I don’t think there is one specific answer to cover all situations. It really depends on the circumstance. I have a Pom/Poo who constantly has trouble with one of his dew claws getting ripped or snagged, and I do keep after his nails. I think in his case it appears as though that particular claw isn’t fully attached to begin with; boy does it bleed like crazy when it’s torn. I will definitely be getting that dew claw removed, for his comfort and to avoid infection.

  • Angie Vesely

    I had a huskey that was very mellow. One day he tore his dew claw on something. It was very painful for him, and painful for my wallet. I had a $400 vet bill from the situation. It can happen to any dog, but the odds are rare. I would never remove them in any of my other dogs. If they don’t bother the dog, leave em. And that was very true about the wild wolf thing.

  • Margaretwelsh195

    I have a 11 year old yorkshire terrier who has just had his back leg dew claws removed yesterday and i have been told by the vet’s nurse to remove the bandages today does anyone think that this is a bit soon.

  • Jodi Helm-Tucker

    My German Shepard mix had 8 pups last night, half of them have dewclaws, I know that it is best to remove them in the first week of life, just wondering other peoples opinions and knowledge with the breed if you think we should go ahead with dewclaw removal. Bitch is german shepard mix and stud was white german shepard.

  • Michele

    We have an 5 month old English setter puppy that we purchased from a breeder. It is standard practice for them to have dewclaws removed when they are young, and if you can manage to have it done when they are spayed, I heartily encourage it, especially for hunting breeds. We plan on hunting with our dog, and running through thick brush and uneven terrain is a great way for a dewclaw to get ripped off or damaged. It is NOT worth the risk, personally. Even if you don’t plan on hunting with your hunting breed – any breed that was bred to hunt or dig will always be prone to injuring this part of their body. Get it taken care of during the spay or neuter, and you won’t have to deal with it again.

    • joelle

      I suggest NOT removing them if there is muscle and tendon attached for the simple fact that these structures help support the ankles, if removed the muscle and tendon atrophy causing issues in later years, if they’re flopping around or sticking out then by all means have them removed. Two of my three dogs have no dews and they have frequent ankle pain, the one with his dews has no issues. All three are bully dogs. Two Pits and one Boxer

  • Xtinalucia

    my 9 month old s. husky has dew claws. They never get in the way.

  • Rmtk

    we just posted a video on YouTube about how dogs use their dew claws http://youtu.be/r4XflsMEk-k

    • joelle

      Very useful information, thanks for posting, now that my dogs are older they are suffering from the dew claw removal due to the fact that the muscle and tendon has atrophied and no longer supports the ankles and arthritis has set in. My 11 y/o Boxer has a lot of pain now

  • dean fandrich

    The nail broke off the dew claw. Will it just grow another nail? Or should the claw be removed? Will just heal up and be ok as is?

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Hi dean – The nail will grow back. Should heal just fine.

      • Angelique52

        What about when the nail is cracked in half? My 7 yr old Husky was playing with my other dog and got his dew nail caught on the retractable leash. The nail is cracked all the way up. I’ve cleansed it, applied antibiotic ointment and have kept it covered. He was due for his grooming and the groomers say they thought we should take him to the vet. While I had it bandaged at home he walked fine and slept, ate well.
        Do you think we need to take to the vet? or can I keep it bandaged and clean til it grows? It’s not easy when you have pets and have lost your job…. But if he need to go to the vet believe me…..one way or the other he will go. But I’m just wondering if this is something I can care for at home. Thank you in advance for your advise.

        • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

          Angelique52, you should definitely go to the vet for this one. (Now you have a 2nd opinion – first one was from the groomers :-D). If it’s “cracked all the way up” I don’t think you could possibly care for this at home. I know *I* wouldn’t be able to. There’s too much at risk with a deep fracture like that.

          • Angelique52

            Thank you so much! to the vet we go!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1463042473 Heather Lancaster Screws

    Not true, you need to leave them on if it’s a breed standard ie: Great Pyrenees.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1463042473 Heather Lancaster Screws

    My best and only advice is to DO YOUR RESEARCH on your breed of choice. Don’t believe everything you read. Go to the breed club website, read the breed requirements, visit with your trusted vet.
    I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve read that are so far off the charts its disgusting and people are actually considering the advice.
    You obviously have internet service, RESEARCH PEOPLE before you screw up your dogs!

  • bishoi

    my husky lost on of his claws in his back right leg andhe is in pain it happened two days ago is it a problem

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      bishoi – yes, if your dog is in pain… then it’s a problem. Take your dog to the vet emergency ASAP. At least call them and ask their opinion. They are open evenings and weekends.

  • http://www.facebook.com/foxyloulou Lou Fox

    My dog has just had her dew claw removed and I was wondering how long I should keep her in before taking her on walks again? Thanks in advance

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Personally, I would probably wait about 2 weeks before taking her on long walks – just to be extra cautious. She should be able to walk on it fine after about a week.

  • http://www.facebook.com/puppyprincesspjs Pamela Sigsworth

    thank you for the tidbit about faster breeds, that was my dicision maker, i was unaware of that they are used by some breeds

  • Liz

    Hi Lynette: I have a vivacious 4yr old Boston T. We are on & off with recovery to her dew’s as she is an athlete dog with her ball. OK to remove by Vet at 4?

  • AdollarForMyView

    Hi; our Ac bash dog ( 18 months old )had an ingrown nail on her dew claw and it did bother her so we had it removed by a vet. How long should I leave the bandages on her? I also have to take the stitches out so do I have to bandage her after?

  • Bonegirl06

    What about for beagles, who spend an inordinate amount of time rummaging through the brush? My beagle has front and rear dewclaws and he just ripped one off. I’m afraid to hunt him because of them.

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      My opinion is if you’re going to remove a dog’s dewclaw(s) it should be done early as a young puppy. If not, then — like the rest of us — you just take your chances and hope that your dog doesn’t get a dewclaw caught on anything. If it does, the vet is there to help. Personally, I don’t have any experience with hunting dogs and dewclaws, but if you do a search online, you’ll find some good opinions from others about hunting dogs and dew claws.

  • Brenda Thompson

    Thank you for this article! We have adopted a little mutt from a rescue. She is only 5 pounds, has poodle hair and some kind of terrier/chihuahua mix. She has a crazy double dew claw on her back legs… one of the double nails has grown into a perfect little one inch spiral. So tight and so much so that I couldn’t even begin to clip it back or grind it! It certainly dangles and has gotten caught on a few things. Luckily she yelped for help when caught in an afghan blanket so that’s since been put away! I’m not looking forward to her recovery but I’ll feel better knowing they are gone. Poor baby will have to wear “the cone of shame” I’m sure while it heals. But I am thinking it’s all for the best. Thank you!!

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Brenda – glad you found the info helpful :-D Hugs to your little pup.

  • Jamie

    You can do it yourself for free, it is not difficult when done at 1-3 days old. There are videos on YouTube that show how to do it yourself.