Have you ever noticed the small tag-along toenails attached to your dog’s leg higher up on the paw? Most dogs typically have some form of dewclaws. They may seem like a nuisance and you’re probably constantly worried about them causing pain to your dog. Why are they there? What purpose do dewclaws serve? Let’s dig deeper to discover the secret truths about dog dewclaws.

The Truths About Dog Dewclaws You Need to Know

What are Dewclaws?

By now you’re aware that dewclaws are the odd extra toenails on the back of your dog’s front, maybe even back paws. They’re a leftover feature from an evolutionary ancestor called the Miacis. Long ago, the dewclaws on this ancestor were used to climb trees. Now, dogs just may use them as thumbs while others don’t use them at all.

Do All Dogs Have Dewclaws?

Though the trait dates to their common ancestors, not all dogs have dewclaws. Most dogs that have them only have them on their front paws. It’s rare that a dog will have them on both their back and front paws, but certain breeds like Great Danes do.

How Do a Dog’s Dewclaws Serve Him Today?

The purpose of the dewclaws in the Miacis was to aid in gripping while climbing. Today, it may seem like dewclaws are dead limbs just tagging along, but they aren’t. Some dogs have trained themselves to use their dewclaws as thumbs. They use them to grip bones while they’re chewing. Certain breeds’ dewclaws aid in traction while they’re running; some even use their dewclaws to clean their teeth. 

How Do You Care for Your Dog’s Dewclaws?

The truth about your dog’s dewclaws is that you don’t have to care for them. These extra limbs are held flush against your dog’s paws which keep them out of the way for the most part. However, if your dog has trained himself to use his dewclaws as a valuable appendage*, you’ll need to trim the nails occasionally to keep them from snagging on things. If you completely ignore these dewclaw nails, they could wrap around and dig a whole in your dog’s leg.

Should You Have Your Dog’s Dewclaws Removed?

The trend today is to leave a dog’s dewclaws intact. If the dewclaws are tightly attached to the legs, they can enhance your dog’s agility when running. However, if you notice a dewclaw is loose or just flopping around, it may be helpful to have it removed. As a preventative measure, some vets may recommend removal of a dog’s dewclaws right after birth or during neutering or spaying.  

Over to You…

Whether your dog has dewclaws or not, he’ll be fine. As long as you keep his dewclaw nails short*, you should be able to prevent any issues for your furry friend. Does your dog have dewclaws or have you elected to have them removed?

Dog Days & Cat Naps provides a host of pet care services including pet sitting, private boarding, and dog walking in the Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine, and Gainesville, Florida areas. Our staff include first-aid pet-certified pet sitters.

If your pet needs care while you are at work or traveling, please contact the experts in pet care in Northeast Florida since 2000, Dog Days & Cat Naps, at 904-241-7387. To learn daily pet care tips and receive information about any promotions we are running, “Like” our Facebook page.  

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