Have you ever wondered why your dog has dew claws? You don’t see Rover using them. They never touch the ground unless the dog is lying down. So why are they there?
There really is not any clear-cut answer except that dew claws are most likely the remnants of the first toes of the ancestors of dogs. One theory is that the ancestors had five toes. As dogs became specialized runners, their legs lengthened and their feet narrowed from five to four toes through the process of evolution.
Most dogs have dew claws on the inside of the front legs. Some dogs have dew claws on their rear legs, but these are definitely less common. In some cases, dogs can have more than one dew claw on the same foot. These dogs are known to be “double dew clawed.”
Dew claws are not dead appendages. Some dogs actually use them to lightly grip toys, sticks and/or bones they are chewing on.
Dew claws found on the front legs of dogs are usually more firmly attached than are dew claws found on the rear legs. Rear dew claws in most dog breeds tend to have very little bone or muscle structure. The fact that the rear dew claw is nothing more than a free floating bone and a claw loosely connected to the foot by a small flap of skin gives it the appearance of a loose appendage.
Dew claws that do not appear to be connected to the leg are not as useful as ones that are more firmly connected. Thus, dogs that have loose dew claws may not have the gripping benefits that dogs with connected dew claws have.
Dogs that have dew claws should be watched carefully. Most dew claws don’t wear down on their own because they do not come in contact with the abrasive ground. That means that dew claws may need to be trimmed more frequently than the dog’s other nails.
There is a huge debate over whether or not dew claws should be removed. Some argue that dew claws that are loose are more subject to injury. Thus to avoid injury, they say remove them. Others argue that the dew claws don’t need to be removed because the chance of injury is minimal and that removal process is an unnecessary source of pain and stress on the dog.
Many of the registered kennel clubs that once required dew claw removal for certain breeds in the past are regrouping and eliminating that rule from their guidelines due to the controversy that surrounds the subject.
Since there is no right or wrong answer, you need to look at your dog’s dew claws to analyze whether or not they could be easily injured. Much depends on the lifestyle, amount and type of exercise your dog does.
If you decide to have your dog’s dew claws removed, you can schedule it to be done at the same time you have the dog spayed or neutered.