Dewclaws on Dogs – Keep or Remove Them?

removed dew claw

See that extra nail on each of your dog’s front paws?

That is the dewclaw.

Some dog owners choose to have these nails removed, while others decide to keep them.

You’ll need to get the facts before making a final decision.

What Exactly is a Dewclaw?

A dewclaw is the fifth toenail on a dog’s front paws. You can think of it as a canine’s thumb, though it’s not exactly the same. There are also some dogs that have one or two of these claws on their back paws, though it isn’t very common.

In rare cases, a dog might even have what is known as double dewclaws. This is when there are two of these nails on each of the front or rear paws. 

It is important to keep in mind that these claws occur naturally and are not abnormal in any way. While not all dogs have the same number of dewclaws, most of them do have them to some extent.

ingrown dewclaw
In-grown dewclaw

Main Purposes/Benefits of Dewclaws

There are numerous purposes that dewclaws serve, including:

  1. They help to prevent unnecessary rotation of the wrist joint in certain situations. These claws give your dog additional traction so that they don’t slide around on very smooth surfaces. This is one of the biggest benefits for those who enter their dogs in competitions with other canines. Their dewclaws help them navigate obstacles, which is a common part of these competitions.
  2. Many dogs also use their dewclaws to get leverage when holding onto things they want to chew. It helps them get a firmer grip, which means that chewing and/or eating is much easier.
  3. Dewclaws give dogs the ability to climb rough and unstable terrain without much difficulty. This is something that can be very useful if you go hiking with your dog.

Reasons to Have Dewclaws Removed

You’ll find that there are also some reasons to consider having your dog’s dewclaws removed. Not all of these reasons will be equally relevant to all dog owners, but they are still important to consider.

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1. Ingrown Nails

Dogs that still have their dewclaws are at risk of developing ingrown nails, which can be fairly painful. It can also increase the chances of the nail bed becoming infected.

2. Injury

It is not entirely uncommon for dewclaws to be completely ripped off when a dog sustains an injury of some kind. This can also cause the dog to experience a tremendous amount of pain. It might require you to visit your local veterinarian as well. This can also lead to infection, which may or may not be serious. Lots of breeders of hunting breeds puppies cut their dewclaws at the age of week to exclude injuries in the forest during hunting season.

3. No Need for Trimming

When you get your dog’s dew claws removed, you won’t have to worry about trimming or clipping them. This is something that a lot of dog owners forget to do, which can cause problems. Having them removed will save you time and effort while benefiting your pet.

4. Improved Appearance

Some dog owners get their pet’s dewclaws removed for aesthetic reasons. This is particularly common with those who enter their dogs into shows.

5. It Can be Done Quickly

Assuming that no complications arise, dewclaw removal can be done within just a minute or two. While the dog might feel a mild degree of discomfort, it is nothing for owners to worry about. But still this is surgery and you have to be 100% sure that your pet needs it.

Maintaining Dewclaws

If you decide to keep your dog’s dewclaws, you will need to make a point of trimming them when necessary. Allowing these nails to grow out can increase the chances of injury and infection. When you begin to notice these claws start to get very long, you will need to trim them down immediately. This will greatly reduce the risk of injury, which can be quite painful for your pet.

Cost of Dewclaw Removal

The surgical procedure that is required to remove dewclaws on a dog doesn’t usually cost a lot. There are numerous factors that can affect the total cost, including how firmly attached the nail is to the dog’s paw. You can expect to pay more if there are any complications. 

Some veterinarians charge extra for using anesthesia. Your vet should be able to give you a fairly accurate quote so you’ll know how much it is going to cost.


  • Dewclaws are a natural part of a dog’s anatomy.
  • Regular maintenance is crucial if you decide to keep your dog’s dewclaws.
  • It is important to check these claws on your dog on a regular basis.
  • You should immediately go to your veterinarian in the event of a dewclaw injury.
  • Removal can be a good decision in the event of a serious injury to one of these claws.
  • It may be advisable to get abnormally formed dewclaws removed.
  • Speak with your veterinarian before making a final decision. 
  • Think twice about dewclaw removal unless it is medically necessary.
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