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Reasons Why Dewclaws are Removed in Dogs

Updated on August 1, 2009

In Some dog breeds dewclaw removal is a standard

A dog's dewclaw is a digit of a dog's foot found higher up than the other digits. It presents as a normal pad equipped with nails found in the inside of the dog's front legs and sometimes, in the dog's rear legs as well. It is the equivalent of a human's thumb. Unlike a dog's other digits which direct make contact with the ground, a dog's dewclaw is unable to touch the ground. This often causes the nail to be trimmed down because it does not wear down as the other nails.

Dewclaw Functionality

There is still some controversy on the topic of removing dewclaws surgically in dogs. Dewclaws appears to have a few functions. In some dogs the dewclaws touch the ground and may increase traction as the dog runs. In others, the dewclaws may work as a tool to help the dog grip bones, sticks or other items that can be held with the paws. Many dogs use their dewclaws efficiently to clean their eyelids, or take care of a facial itch. Some find them useful when engaging grasping the sleeve in Shutzhund training.

Reasons For Dewclaw Removal

The main reason for why dewclaws are removed surgically is because of their potential to get caught on something and ultimately ripping apart or breaking apart. This can cause pain and possibly infection. A common scenario may be a dog getting its dewclaw caught in a carpet. Dewclaw removal is often required for some dog breeds in order to comply with breed standards.

While some breeders, owners and veterinarians believe that dewclaw surgery is necessary in some dogs, on the other hand there are those that believe the surgery to be painful and not worth it.

Dewclawing dogs is nowadays banned in some countries because it is believed to be unnecessary and painful. There are some exceptions as hunting dogs because of their work in the field making them particularly prone to getting their dewclaws injured. Unlike tail docking and ear cropping which is really not necessary other than for cosmetic appeal, dewclawing sometimes has a valid medical reason.

How Dewclaws are Removed

The dewclaw removal is done when the puppy is three to five days old. This is the same age at which some dog breeds are also docked. The dewclaw removal surgery is often done without any anesthetic. Some veterinarians may use local anesthesia or sedation. The same surgery generally becomes more complicated as the dog grows requiring general anesthesia. Owners may elect to have the surgery done while their dog is being spayed or neutered. Many times it is simply done by the breeder when the pup is days old. Recovery may be troublesome if the dog tends to lick the area, however generally dogs recover quickly and uneventfully, especially when very young.


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