Why are Dogs Dew Claws Removed? Discover the Surprising Reasons!

Dogs’ dew claws are removed for safety reasons and to prevent potential injuries. The procedure is often done early in a puppy’s life to ensure minimal pain and complications.

Introducing a new furry friend to your family is an exciting experience, but it also comes with important decisions, including whether or not to remove their dew claws. Dew claws are the small, often non-functional, extra claws located on the inner side of a dog’s front and sometimes hind paws.

While some breeds have them naturally, many dog owners opt to have them removed for various reasons. This article will explore why dogs’ dew claws are often removed, the procedure itself, and the potential benefits and drawbacks. So, if you’re considering getting a new puppy or simply want to learn more about this common practice, read on to make a well-informed decision for your canine companion.

1. Understanding Dew Claws In Dogs

Dew claws, also known as “spurs,” are the extra claws found on the inside part of a dog’s leg, above the paw. Unlike the other claws on a dog’s paws, dew claws don’t come into contact with the ground when the dog is walking or running. They are attached to the leg by a small piece of bone and are usually found on the front legs, although some dogs may also have them on their hind legs.

Definition And Purpose Of Dew Claws

Dew claws serve different functions depending on the breed and individual dog. In most cases, they are considered to have evolutionary significance, with some theories suggesting that they were once used for climbing trees or gripping prey. However, in today’s domesticated dogs, dew claws have a more limited purpose.

The primary function of dew claws is to provide dogs with additional support and stability. They act as “thumbs” or “fifth toes,” enabling dogs to have a better grip on bones or toys while playing or chewing. Additionally, dew claws can help dogs maintain balance while running or making sudden turns.

It’s important to note that not all dogs have dew claws, as they can vary depending on breed and individual genetics. For example, certain breeds like the Great Pyrenees and Saint Bernard are more likely to have dew claws than others. Some dogs may even have double dew claws, which are additional claws attached alongside the usual dew claw.

Types Of Dew Claws In Dogs

Dew claws in dogs can be classified into two main types:

  1. Attached Dew Claws: These are dew claws that are firmly attached to the dog’s leg by bone and flesh. They have a stable and secure connection to the leg, making them less prone to injury or complications.
  2. Loose Dew Claws: Loose dew claws, as the name suggests, are not securely attached to the leg and can move around. They are only connected by skin and muscle, which makes them more susceptible to injuries such as tearing or getting caught on objects. Owners of dogs with loose dew claws should take extra precautions to avoid potential problems.

It’s important for dog owners to regularly check their pet’s dew claws for any signs of injury or abnormalities. Keeping the dew claws trimmed and inspecting them for overgrowth or damage can help prevent potential issues.

1.1 What Are Dew Claws And Where Are They Located?

Before understanding why dogs’ dew claws are often removed, it is important to know what dew claws are and where they are located on a dog’s body. Dew claws are essentially the equivalent of thumbs or extra toes on a dog’s paws, located higher up on the leg. These structures are usually attached by flimsy tendons and are not used for weight-bearing or walking purposes. Unlike the other toes on a dog’s paw, dew claws are not in contact with the ground when the dog is walking or running.

Anatomical Description Of Dew Claws

The dew claw is generally described as a smaller, “fifth” digit located higher up on a dog’s leg. It resembles a thumb and is found on the inner side of the front legs, closer to the paw. In some cases, dogs may also have dew claws on their hind legs, although this is less common. The size and shape of dew claws can vary depending on the breed and individual dog.

Typical Placement On Different Dog Breeds

The placement of dew claws can vary among different dog breeds. While some breeds have dew claws on their front legs only, others may have them on both the front and hind legs. Here are a few examples of typical dew claw placement on specific breeds:

Breed Front Dew Claws Hind Dew Claws
Labrador Retriever No No
Great Pyrenees Yes Yes
Border Collie Yes No
German Shepherd Yes Yes

Please note that the presence or absence of dew claws can also vary within individual dogs of the same breed. While some may have fully formed dew claws, others may have partially formed or even no dew claws at all.

1.2 The Evolutionary Significance Of Dew Claws

The role of dew claws in canines has puzzled scientists and dog owners alike for years. These seemingly insignificant appendages, located on the inner side of a dog’s leg, have sparked curiosity about their original purpose and whether they serve any evolutionary significance today. In this section, we will explore the historical perspective and theories surrounding the function of dew claws in dogs.

Historical Perspective On Dew Claws In Canines

To understand the evolutionary significance of dew claws, it is essential to look back at the history of canines. Dogs share a common ancestor with wolves, and dew claws can be observed in both species. In ancient times, when dogs were wild and lived in more rugged environments, dew claws likely played a crucial role in their survival.

During this era, dogs relied on their speed, agility, and sharp senses to hunt and navigate their surroundings. The dew claws provided extra grip and stability when climbing rocky terrains, aiding in their pursuit of prey. Additionally, these appendages served as anchors, preventing injuries when the dogs made quick directional changes or sudden stops during their chase.

Theories On Their Original Function

Numerous theories have emerged to explain the original function of dew claws in dogs. One theory suggests that they were once digits capable of grasping objects, similar to a thumb, which would have been useful when holding down prey or objects of interest.

Another theory proposes that dew claws were used for communication purposes. Much like how dogs use their paws to signal or express themselves today, these retractable appendages could have played a role in canine social interactions, such as signaling dominance or submission within a pack.

Despite the multitude of theories, it is important to note that the exact purpose of dew claws in ancient dogs remains speculative. As dogs gradually evolved and domestication took place, the need for dew claws as functional digits diminished. However, dew claws have not completely disappeared in modern dog breeds, suggesting they still hold some relevance.

While the primary purpose of dew claws may have evolved, some dog breeds still benefit from their presence. For instance, working dogs involved in activities like herding, tracking, or search and rescue may utilize their dew claws for added stability and traction in challenging terrains.

2. Reasons For Dew Claw Removal In Dogs

When it comes to discussing dew claw removal in dogs, there are various reasons that can prompt a decision to remove these small, seemingly insignificant appendages. While some people argue that dew claw removal is unnecessary and even cruel, others have valid justifications for opting for this procedure. In this section, we will explore the common justifications for removing dew claws, including medical and practical reasons.

Common Justifications For Removing Dew Claws

Dog owners and breeders often cite several common justifications for removing dew claws. These reasons are rooted in concerns over injury, discomfort, and potential complications stemming from the presence of these appendages.

Below are some of the common justifications:

  1. Preventing Accidental Injury: Dew claws are located higher on a dog’s leg, making them more susceptible to accidental damage. Since these claws are less developed and do not make contact with the ground, they may catch on objects or get snagged, resulting in painful injuries.
  2. Reducing the Risk of Infection: Dew claws, especially in active and adventurous dogs, can easily get dirt and debris lodged in them, making them vulnerable to infection. By removing the dew claws, the possibility of foreign substances getting trapped and leading to infection is significantly reduced.
  3. Preventing Self-Injury: Dogs are natural explorers, and their curiosity often leads them to investigate their surroundings with enthusiasm. However, in doing so, they can inadvertently injure themselves by catching their dew claws on objects or surfaces. This can cause painful tears or fractures, sometimes requiring expensive veterinary care.
  4. Reducing the Risk of Complications: In certain dog breeds, particularly those prone to dew claw-related complications, removing the dew claws can be a preventative measure. Dogs with loosely attached dew claws are more likely to experience tearing or snagging, which could result in complications such as infection, lameness, or deformities.

Medical And Practical Reasons

When considering dew claw removal, there are both medical and practical reasons that contribute to the decision-making process.

Medical reasons for dew claw removal may include:

  • Prevention of injuries and subsequent infections
  • Risk reduction for complications
  • Enhancement of overall dog health and well-being

Practical reasons for dew claw removal may include:

  • Fulfilling breed standards: Certain breed standards dictate that dew claws should be removed to maintain conformity within the breed. This is often seen in dog breeds that historically had dew claw removal as a common practice.
  • Reducing grooming efforts: Dew claws can be difficult to clean, especially for dogs with long hair. By removing them, grooming becomes easier and less time-consuming for both the dog and their owner.

2.1 Preventing Dew Claw Injuries In Active Dogs

Dogs are known for their high energy and love for activity. However, their active lifestyle can sometimes lead to accidents and injuries, particularly when it comes to their dew claws. These small, fifth toes located higher up on the inside of the dog’s leg can become vulnerable to snagging, tearing, or even breaking off.

Dew Claw Snagging And Ripping

One of the main reasons why dog owners choose to remove dew claws is the risk of snagging and ripping. Dogs with longer dew claws or those who frequently engage in activities such as running through dense underbrush, hiking, or participating in agility sports are more prone to this type of injury. These claws can get caught in branches, twigs, or other objects, causing the claw to rip or tear.

In some cases, dogs may experience intense pain when their dew claws snag on an object, leading to distress and potential panic. Quick action is required in such situations to prevent further injury and alleviate the dog’s suffering.

Risks And Consequences Of Injuries

The risks and consequences associated with dew claw injuries can be both immediate and long-term. Immediate risks include bleeding, open wounds, and infection. Because dew claws are higher up on the leg, the injury may have direct access to blood vessels, making bleeding more profuse than with other claws. This can increase the likelihood of infection, which can have severe implications for the dog’s health and well-being.

In the long term, a dog that has experienced a dew claw injury may develop complications such as chronic pain or discomfort, altered gait or movement patterns, and increased susceptibility to future injuries. Not only can these consequences impact the dog’s quality of life, but they may also require ongoing veterinary care, resulting in both emotional and financial strain for the owner.

While it is understandable that some dog owners opt to remove dew claws as a preventive measure, it is essential to weigh the potential benefits against the risks and consequences. Discussing with a veterinarian can help determine the best course of action for your active dog.

2.2 Dew Claw Maintenance Challenges

2.2 Dew Claw Maintenance Challenges

Dew claw maintenance can pose several challenges for dog owners. From grooming difficulties and issues to potential infections and hygiene concerns, it is important to be aware of the obstacles when it comes to caring for your furry friend’s dew claws.

Grooming Difficulties And Issues

Caring for a dog’s dew claws can be tricky, primarily due to their location. Unlike the other claws, which are in contact with the ground and naturally wear down with daily activities, dew claws are positioned higher up on the legs. As a result, they often grow longer and can become problematic if not properly maintained.

  • Grooming the dew claws can be challenging since they are typically shorter and harder to reach than the other claws. This can make it difficult to trim them effectively.
  • Dew claws that are left to grow unchecked can become excessively long. This can lead to several complications, such as the claws becoming ingrown or curling back into the paw pad. These issues can cause discomfort and pain for your pooch.
  • In some cases, dew claws that are not properly groomed can catch on objects or get snagged on fabrics, causing them to tear or rip. This can be painful for the dog and may require veterinary attention.

Potential Infections And Hygiene Concerns

In addition to grooming difficulties, neglecting dew claw maintenance can increase the risk of infections and hygiene-related problems. Here’s why:

Infections Hygiene Concerns
Infections can occur if debris, dirt, or foreign objects get trapped between the dew claw and the paw pad. These particles can irritate the area and create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, potentially leading to infections. Poorly maintained dew claws can accumulate dirt, grime, and bacteria. This can result in unpleasant odors and increased hygiene concerns. Regular cleaning and grooming of the dew claws can help prevent these issues.
Infected dew claws can become swollen, inflamed, and painful for the dog. In severe cases, these infections can require medical intervention, including antibiotics or even surgical treatment. Keeping the dew claws clean and well-maintained is crucial for your dog’s overall health and hygiene. It helps prevent bacteria from spreading and reduces the risk of skin-related problems.

By understanding the dew claw maintenance challenges, you can ensure that your canine companion receives the care they need. Regular grooming and cleanliness not only promote your dog’s comfort but also prevent potential infections and other hygiene concerns. Remember to consult with your veterinarian for guidance on best practices for dew claw maintenance.

3. Debates And Controversies Surrounding Dew Claw Removal

Dew claw removal is a topic that sparks debates and controversies among dog owners, veterinarians, and animal rights activists. There are strong arguments both for and against this procedure, with supporters claiming it serves practical purposes while opponents emphasize ethical considerations and animal rights. Furthermore, varying opinions from veterinarians and experts further contribute to the ongoing discussions surrounding dew claw removal.

Ethical Considerations And Animal Rights

When discussing the subject of dew claw removal, it is crucial to consider the ethical implications and animal rights. On one hand, proponents argue that removing dew claws reduces the risk of injuries and infection for working and active dogs. They believe it is a preventive measure that promotes the overall health and well-being of the dog. However, opponents argue that removing dew claws is an unnecessary and painful procedure, as these claws serve a purpose in a dog’s natural movement and balance.

Animal rights activists advocate for the preservation of a dog’s natural state and believe that surgical alterations should be limited to medically necessary procedures only. They argue that dew claw removal is purely cosmetic and poses potential risks and complications, including pain, bleeding, and infection. Their main concern lies in the ethical treatment of animals, ensuring they are not subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering.

Varying Opinions From Veterinarians And Experts

Veterinarians and experts in the field hold varying opinions when it comes to dew claw removal. While some vets perform the procedure routinely, others are firmly against it and discourage dog owners from opting for this surgery. The division of opinions stems from differing views on the necessity and potential risks of the procedure.

Veterinarians who support dew claw removal often argue that it can prevent future complications and reduce the chances of injuries, particularly in working or sporting dogs that engage in rigorous activities. They may recommend removing dew claws to mitigate the risk of these claws getting caught or torn. However, there are veterinarians who prioritize the preservation of a dog’s natural state and consider dew claw removal as an unnecessary intervention.

With no consensus among experts, dog owners are left to make their own decisions, weighing the pros and cons of dew claw removal and considering both practical as well as ethical aspects.

3.1 Arguments Against Dew Claw Removal

Natural Function And Purpose Of Dew Claws

Dew claws are the additional toes located on the inner side of a dog’s front or hind legs. While some argue that these extra digits serve no purpose, there is evidence to suggest that they indeed have a natural function. In fact, dew claws are believed to have evolved to assist dogs in their physical activities, particularly in their movement and balance.

One of the main arguments against dew claw removal is that these structures play a role in a dog’s ability to grip and hold objects. A dog’s front dew claws, for instance, can help them firmly grasp bones or chew toys. This can be especially useful for dogs who engage in activities that require a strong grip, such as hunting or agility training.

Another important purpose of dew claws lies in the extra stability they provide for dogs during high-speed turns or sudden changes in direction. These small digits act as mini brakes, helping dogs maintain balance and preventing potential injuries. Additionally, dew claws can be used by dogs to assert dominance or communicate with others within their social groups, further highlighting their natural function.

Potential Negative Consequences For Dogs

While dew claws serve important functions, there are arguments against removing them as well. The procedure of dew claw removal, also known as onychectomy, involves a surgical intervention that can have potential negative consequences for dogs.

One of the main concerns is that the removal of dew claws can lead to pain and discomfort for the dog. The procedure involves cutting into the dog’s skin and removing the entire digit, which can cause pain during and after the surgery. In addition to immediate discomfort, dogs may also experience long-term discomfort if the surgery is not performed correctly or if complications arise.

There is also the risk of complications during the healing process. Dogs who undergo dew claw removal are susceptible to post-surgical infections, as the surgical site is exposed to bacteria and other pathogens. These infections can be painful and may require additional veterinary care and treatment.

Another argument against dew claw removal is that it can affect a dog’s natural mobility and balance. With the loss of their dew claws, dogs may experience changes in their gait, which can lead to imbalances in their musculoskeletal system. This can increase the risk of injuries during physical activities and compromise a dog’s overall physical well-being.

3.2 Arguments For Dew Claw Removal

While the debate around dew claw removal in dogs remains contentious, there are several arguments that proponents of this procedure put forth. In this section, we will explore two main arguments: prevalent cultural and breed standards, and convenience and cosmetic purposes.

Prevalent Cultural And Breed Standards

One of the primary arguments for dew claw removal is the influence of prevalent cultural and breed standards. Many dog owners desire their pets to conform to certain appearance standards set by breed clubs, kennel associations, and even society at large. These standards often dictate that certain breeds should not have visible dew claws.

Dew claws that are long or hang loosely can be seen as undesirable or even aesthetically displeasing by some dog owners. They may feel that removing the dew claws helps achieve the desired look for their dog, making them more in line with the breed’s ideal standards.

In addition, certain breeds have higher instances of dew claw injuries due to their anatomy or physical activity levels. As a result, breed clubs and associations may advocate for dew claw removal as a preventive measure to avoid potential injuries or discomfort to the dog in the future.

The argument here is that by removing the dew claws, dog owners can adhere to cultural and breed standards, potentially enhancing the aesthetics of their pets and reducing the risk of future injuries.

Convenience And Cosmetic Purposes

Another argument put forth by advocates of dew claw removal is the convenience and cosmetic benefits it offers. Dew claws, especially if they are not properly trimmed and maintained, can have the tendency to get entangled in objects or snag on surfaces. This can cause pain and discomfort to the dog, as well as potential complications such as torn nails or injuries.

By removing the dew claws, dog owners eliminate the risk of such incidents and minimize the need for frequent nail trimming and maintenance. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who may not have the time, resources, or expertise to regularly care for their dog’s dew claws.

Furthermore, the removal of dew claws can contribute to a neater appearance. Some dog owners prefer the clean and streamlined look achieved by removing the extra digits, and may argue that it complements the overall aesthetics of their canine companions.

The convenience and cosmetic purposes argument centers around the idea that dew claw removal can simplify grooming routines and help achieve a desired appearance for the dog.

4. Alternatives To Dew Claw Removal

Non-invasive Options For Managing Dew Claws

When it comes to the topic of dew claw removal in dogs, it is important to consider alternative options that can help manage and maintain these unique appendages. While dew claw removal is a common practice, it is not the only solution. There are several non-invasive alternatives that can be explored to ensure both the dog’s well-being and the owner’s peace of mind.

Encouraging Responsible Ownership

In addition to non-invasive options, responsible ownership plays a vital role in managing dew claws. By understanding the importance of dew claws and the potential issues associated with their removal, dog owners can make informed decisions regarding their pets’ well-being. Responsible ownership goes beyond just the physical care of a pet; it involves educating oneself about alternatives, considering the long-term implications, and making the best choices for the dog’s overall health.

Non-invasive Options

When it comes to managing dew claws, there are several non-invasive options that can be pursued. These alternatives prioritize the dog’s well-being without resorting to the removal of their dew claws. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Nail Trimming: Regular nail trimming can help keep the dew claws at a manageable length. Regular nail maintenance not only prevents the dew claws from becoming overgrown but also minimizes the risk of them getting caught or snagged on objects.
  • Pad Protection: Utilizing paw-friendly boots or socks can provide extra protection for the dew claws. These accessories act as a barrier against rough surfaces, preventing injuries or abrasions.
  • Behavioral Training: Implementing proper behavioral training can help dogs avoid situations that may put their dew claws at risk. Teaching dogs to be aware of their surroundings and promoting cautious behaviors can reduce the chances of accidental injuries.
  • Monitoring: Regularly inspecting the dew claws for any signs of injury or infection is crucial. By keeping an eye on their condition, owners can promptly address any issues that may arise.


In conclusion, seeking alternatives to dew claw removal can be a responsible approach to ensure your dog’s well-being. Non-invasive options such as nail trimming, pad protection, behavioral training, and monitoring can help manage and maintain the dew claws without resorting to surgical removal. Remember, responsible ownership is essential for making informed decisions that prioritize the long-term health and happiness of your furry companion.

4.1 Trimming And Maintaining Dew Claws

The dew claws of dogs are often a topic of debate among pet owners and veterinarians. While some dogs naturally have dew claws, which are located on the inner side of their wrists, others have them removed as puppies for various reasons. In this section, we will discuss the importance of trimming and maintaining dew claws for dogs.

Proper Ways To Trim Dew Claws

When it comes to trimming dew claws, it is important to use proper techniques to prevent any discomfort or injury to your furry friend. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Ensure that you have a good pair of dog nail clippers that are appropriate for the size of your dog. Using human nail clippers or dull tools can cause pain and injury.
  2. Hold your dog’s paw gently but firmly to avoid any sudden movements.
  3. Inspect the dew claw carefully, looking for any signs of overgrowth, splitting, or ingrown nails.
  4. Trim the dew claw gradually and in small increments to avoid cutting the quick, which is the sensitive blood vessel inside. If you are unsure about the proper length, it is best to consult with a professional groomer or veterinarian.
  5. Use a file or grinder to smooth any rough edges after trimming. This helps prevent snagging and potential injuries.

Remember, always reward your dog with treats and praise after each successful trimming session to create a positive association.

Regular Maintenance And Inspection

In addition to proper trimming, regular maintenance and inspection of your dog’s dew claws are essential for their overall health and well-being. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Inspect your dog’s dew claws regularly for any signs of overgrowth, injury, or infection. Look out for redness, swelling, discharge, or unusual odor.
  • Clean the area around the dew claws gently with a clean, damp cloth to remove any dirt or debris that may have accumulated.
  • Keep the dew claws dry to prevent moisture-related issues such as bacterial or fungal infections.
  • If you notice any abnormalities or concerns during the inspection, it is important to seek guidance from a veterinarian. They can provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment if necessary.

By incorporating regular maintenance and inspection into your dog’s grooming routine, you can prevent potential problems and ensure their dew claws remain in optimal condition.

4.2 Providing Protective Measures For Dew Claws

In order to keep your dog’s dew claws safe and secure, it is essential to take proactive measures that provide protection during various activities. Whether you have an active and adventurous dog or a more laid-back companion, ensuring their dew claws are safeguarded can prevent injuries and discomfort. This section will discuss two effective methods for protecting dew claws: using boots and wraps as precautions.

Protecting Dew Claws During Activities

When your dog engages in outdoor activities such as hiking, running, or playing in rough terrain, their dew claws become vulnerable to injuries. Rocks, thorns, sharp branches, and other hazards can easily catch and tear the delicate dew claws. To protect them, consider using boots or wraps specifically designed for paw protection.

Boots: Dog boots not only shield your dog’s dew claws but also provide overall foot protection from various elements. Boots come in different sizes and designs, making it essential to choose one that fits properly and allows for natural movement. Measure your dog’s paws carefully to ensure a secure fit, preventing the boots from slipping off or feeling too tight.

Wraps: Wraps, such as adhesive bandages or vet tape, can also be utilized to cover the dew claws and provide an extra layer of protection. When using wraps, it is crucial to apply them correctly to avoid restricting blood circulation. Consult your veterinarian for guidance on the appropriate method of wrapping your dog’s dew claws.

Using Boots And Wraps As Precautions

When it comes to safeguarding your dog’s dew claws, using a combination of boots and wraps can provide enhanced protection. Here are some key benefits of these precautionary measures:

  1. Preventing injuries: Boots and wraps act as barriers, shielding dew claws from potential hazards, and significantly reducing the risk of injuries. This is particularly important for dogs that engage in activities with rough surfaces or sharp objects.
  2. Reducing discomfort: If your dog has existing dew claw injuries or irritations, boots and wraps can help alleviate discomfort by providing a cushioned layer between the affected area and external sources of irritation.
  3. Promoting faster healing: When a dew claw injury occurs, the use of boots and wraps prevents further damage and allows the injured area to heal more efficiently. By keeping the injured dew claw secure and protected, the recovery process can be expedited.

Whether your dog is an avid explorer or enjoys a leisurely stroll, taking preventative measures to protect their dew claws is crucial. Consider investing in appropriate boots or wraps that fit your dog comfortably to ensure their dew claws remain safe from potential injuries. These simple yet effective precautions can provide peace of mind knowing that your furry friend’s paws are well-protected during their adventures.


The decision to remove a dog’s dew claws is often a controversial one. While some argue for the prevention of potential injuries and infections, others believe in preserving this unique feature. Ultimately, it is crucial for dog owners to consider their pet’s individual needs and consult with a veterinarian before making a decision.

By weighing the pros and cons, one can ensure the well-being of their furry companion.

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