Dogs and Dewclaws

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Some dogs have an extra digit — called dewclaws — on the inside of their leg. But since dewclaws don’t come in direct contact with surfaces, the nail can quickly overgrow. What should dog owners know about dew claws? I talked with Charlotte-based veterinarian Joy Fine to find out some answers.

“In some breeds, dewclaws are loosely attached to the leg and it will sometimes catch and tear. And for these two reasons, some people choose to have dewclaws removed,” says Joy. Dewclaws are generally detached when a puppy is just a few days old, and can be done in a veterinarian’s office without general anesthesia.

When removing declaws from dogs over the age of six months, the surgery requires general anesthesia, sutures and bandages. “The older a dog is, the more challenging the dewclaw removal and recovery will be,” says Joy. “It’s much easier for the dog if you have the dewclaws removed when the cartilage is soft and not fully developed, ideally two days after birth.”

However, it’s good to keep in mind that many dogs have dewclaws without any problems (including one of my dogs — Moose, my Shepherd/Lab/Rottweiler mutt is eight years old and still has his dewclaws). 
As long as the dewclaws are trimmed in regular intervals, it’s not always necessary to have them removed.

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In fact, some dogs breeds are actually bred for their dewclaws, like the Great White Pyrenees. Says Joy, “These dogs are prized for the double dewclaw on their hindlimb.”

Check out more Nat Geo DOGS posts on your dog’s health, from heartworm prevention to skin and coat supplements.

Photo Credits: Jodi Kendall