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Dewclaw – what is it and where does it come from?


Every dog ​​owner knows that their pet is closely related to wolves, although in the case of some breeds (especially miniature or brachycephalic breeds) this seems downright impossible. Therefore, some individuals may still experience the so-called atavisms, i.e. features that were typical of dog ancestors, but are now very rare. One of them is that the dog has dewclaws. It is an extra toe (sometimes even two) located on the hind legs. Why is this so special? Why does a dog need such a claw and should it be removed?

Dog’s dewclaw

The standard anatomical structure of dogs assumes the presence of five toes in each forelimb and four in the hind limbs. However, in some individuals the so-called dewclaws, i.e. additional fingers (or their fragment constituting the claw itself) located on the medial sides of the limbs. These are sometimes called spurs. They may be full-sized fingers that have phalanges and are attached to the bone, but there are also not uncommon cases where the claw is simply attached loosely to the skin itself. Such an additional toe may be present on both paws or only on one, and sometimes it may be double. Where do they come from? Dewclaws, as the name suggests, are something completely typical of wolves and other canine ancestors. In their case, they function as additional support when climbing and moving over difficult terrain. However, a modern dog moves differently – it runs more than it wades through the forest. According to researchers, it was the change in the lifestyle of dogs that, over time, in the course of evolution, meant that nature reduced the need to have five fingers in the hind paws in favor of four, which enable more efficient running.

Too much

Do I need to remove my dog’s dewclaw?

Some might think that since dogs don’t need dewclaws, it might be best to remove them preventively. However, removing a dog’s dewclaw does not make much sense if the claw does not interfere with everyday functioning. Especially since such a procedure causes great discomfort to the dog in the first days after the surgery and requires care and commitment from the caregiver for everything to heal properly. However, if your pet suffers from frequent injuries to this extra toe, it may be worth amputating it, of course in consultation with your veterinarian. A dog’s dewclaw that has been broken multiple times or regular tearing of its tissues is definitely more troublesome and painful for the animal than having it finally removed.

Trimming a dog's claws

Torn dewclaw

What to do if your dog’s dewclaw is torn? As with any claw, there is usually a lot of bleeding. In such a situation, it would be best to protect such a claw with gauze and a bandage, and then take the pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible. He will be able to assess the scale of the injury and will take appropriate steps to reduce pain and the risk of infection. If this happens only once, it is not usually an indication for complete removal of the dewclaw.

Dewclaws in purebred dogs

In the case of purebred dogs, dewclaws can be a big cosmetic problem. There are only a few breeds in which the presence of dewclaws is most desirable and appreciated. These include breeds such as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, the French Bauceron Sheepdog, the Briard, the Icelandic Spitz and the Catalan Sheepdog. In their case, dewclaws are welcome because they aid in moving over difficult terrain, which is what these breeds were originally created for. In St. Bernards, Shih Tzus, and primitive breeds such as Siberian Huskies, having dewclaws is tolerated by breeders and happens quite often, although it does not occur in every individual. However, in most show dogs, having dewclaws is considered a defect and in such cases breeders often decide to remove them. This is usually a procedure performed within a few days after the dog’s birth, under local anesthesia. However, if the animal is not intended for breeding, it is not necessary to do so. This is only a cosmetic defect that, in most cases, does not pose any problem in the dog’s everyday life.

Pyrenees mountain dog

you have to see “10 most popular dog breeds in Poland”.

How to care for dewclaws?

If your dog has one or more dewclaws, you need to pay special attention to trimming them regularly. They are located high above the ground, so they do not wear off naturally. This is why trimming your dog’s dewclaws is so important. Without proper care, they may overgrow and, in extreme cases, even pierce the skin, causing pain and inflammation. Additionally, long dewclaws tend to get caught on various objects, such as fabrics at home or bushes and twigs while walking, and therefore break or tear more easily. However, in everyday life, the presence of dewclaws in a dog does not cause any major problems and should not worry anyone.

Also check out the article “How many knees does a dog have? The structure of the dog’s skeleton and the most common problems of the musculoskeletal system.

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