If you’ve ever looked at the legs of your dog and wondered, “What are those mysterious little nails above their paws?” then, well, give yourself a pat on the back for being an extremely attentive pet owner. Still, it’s time to get some answers about why those weird vestigial toes are even there in the first place.
Most dogs have dewclaws on their front legs, but some breeds may have back dewclaws or even double dewclaws.
A double dewclaw is a second set of claws that are attached to the inside of the dog’s ankle, which is why it can be difficult to see both sets of claws when you look at your pup’s rear feet.
Like thumbs (and unlike toes), they’re an extra appendage that helps an animal grasp things with more precision and control—which is why dogs use them when they’re running through tall grass or walking on slippery ground like snow or mud.
Dewclaws don’t hinder a dog’s ability to run or play; in fact, studies show that dogs who had their back left leg removed (to remove the knee joint) did just as well at agility training as those who didn’t have their knees replaced!
What Are Dewclaws?
Dewclaws are vestigial digits found on the inside of a dog’s front leg. They are not considered a true digit, like human thumbs or toes, but rather they are more like a finger. They are not thumbs because they don’t have any opposable joints that give them the ability to grasp objects with precision and power similar to human hands. Also, unlike human fingers (and thumbs), dewclaws aren’t used for walking or running.
A dewclaw is located close to where your dog’s paw would end if he didn’t have it—usually just above his wrist joint—and it has its own set of bones and muscles that make up this small appendage. Some dogs do not have dewclaws at all; others will have one on each side of their paws!
Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws?
The dewclaw is a vestigial toe bone in dogs, which means it’s not used for walking anymore. They are not used for gripping either, but they do provide a place for the dog to grip when they are scratching.
Because they aren’t used for walking or gripping, many people wonder why dogs have them at all. Well, like many other physical traits in dogs (like floppy ears and tail curls), these vestigial toes help the animal with its most basic needs: climbing and digging holes in the ground!
Which Dog Breeds Have Dewclaws?
Most dogs have dewclaws. This is because they are a vestigial trait, meaning it’s an unnecessary part of the anatomy that gets left behind through evolution. Dogs that have dewclaws typically tend to be used for working purposes like hunting or herding. The following breeds often have:
- Australian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Cairn Terrier
- German Shepherd
- Icelandic sheepdog
Should Dewclaws be Removed?
It’s not necessary to remove them, but if they’re causing a problem for your dog, you can have them removed.
Breeders sometimes remove rear dewclaws from puppies before they leave the breeder’s home. You should also get your dog’s rear dewclaws removed if your veterinarian recommends it.
When thinking about having a dewclaw removed from your canine companion, it’s important to remember that this is an elective procedure (not medically necessary). It may be beneficial in some cases, but there are many other options open to pet owners who wish their dogs did not have these extra digits on their paws!
Treating Claw Injuries
If your dog’s dewclaw gets injured, you’ll need to know how to treat an injury at home. If the injury is particularly severe and requires a trip to the vet, it can be helpful for you to know how to treat this wound at home first so that you can administer first aid until you get there.
For example, if your dog has torn off her own dewclaw in an accident or because of another health issue like diabetes or hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), it will be important for you not only to clean out any debris from around the wound but also apply antibiotic ointment on top of it while keeping bandages clean and fresh until your pet receives further treatment from their veterinarian.
Trimming your dog’s claw isn’t difficult, but you will need some tools to do it. If you don’t have a nail trimmer, use a pair of sharp scissors or a small, sharp knife. You’ll also need an appropriate amount of light so that you can see what you’re doing and make sure the job is done well.
Dogs don’t enjoy having their paws touched or trimmed at all—just like humans! So if your dog doesn’t like being handled by strangers when they’re young, chances are good that he won’t be too receptive to this process either. In order to get him used to paw handling as much as possible before trimming (or any other time), try practicing on his feet when he’s relaxed and calm. If he seems genuinely distressed by it, stop immediately—no matter how much work remains for later—and try again another day when he’s more receptive.
Once you’ve gotten through those first few sessions with success (or at least without major incident), start slowly trimming off the excess fur around his paws one nail at a time until only half an inch or so remains above each claw tip. Remember: dogs’ claws aren’t meant for walking on concrete surfaces; they’re designed primarily for digging in soft dirt and sand!