Should Dew Claws Be Removed From Dogs

When you’re playing with your dog and they’re healthy and okay, I’m sure the last thing on your mind is what is a dew claw? But the world isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

You see those little thumbs your dog has higher up on their legs? Those are dew claws, and there's quite a discussion about whether they should stay or go. Often termed the canine equivalent of a thumb—though not as opposable—dew claws are located higher on the leg, with front dew claws being common and rear ones appearing less frequently. 

Should Dew Claws Be Removed From Dogs

While some pet owners never encounter issues with these little digits, others find themselves facing tough decisions due to various complications that can arise, prompting a debate around the question: should dew claws be removed from dogs?

But first, let's learn, what is the purpose of a dew claw?

Understanding Dew Claws

Should Dew Claws Be Removed From Dogs - What are dew Claws

Dew claws are not just random vestigial parts; they serve specific purposes. So, what is the purpose of a dew claw? In the wild, dogs use their dew claws for extra grip when running on rough terrain, or to stabilize themselves as they hold onto objects during play or when climbing. 

The front dew claws are often more 'functional' compared to the rear ones and are attached by bones and muscles. Rear dew claws, when present, tend to be less functional and more loosely attached, which can sometimes lead to dew claw injury if they snag on something during vigorous activity. 

The functionality of dew claws can vary. In some breeds, like the Great Pyrenees, the dew claws are double, providing significant utility in snowy and uneven environments.

Should Dew Claws Be Removed From Dogs - the Great Pyrenees

However, in other dogs, especially those who lead a more domesticated lifestyle, dew claws might seem like mere evolutionary remnants. 

They can become problematic if they catch on carpets, furniture, or during play, leading to painful tears or other complications. This leads to the main question of the article: should dew claws be removed from dogs? To learn the answer to this question, we’ll explore reasons for and against dew claw removal.

Reasons for Dew Claw Removal

Now, let’s argue for reasons why dew claws should be removed from dogs:

Injury Prevention

Should Dew Claws Be Removed From Dogs - Dew Claw Injury Prevention

One of the most cited reasons for removing dew claws is to prevent potential dew claw injury. These claws can easily get caught in carpets, bushes, or clothing, leading to painful tears or other complications. Especially in active dogs, the risk of catching and tearing these loosely attached claws can be high.

Breeding Standards

Some breeders opt to remove dew claws to adhere to certain breed standards or aesthetics. In show dogs, the presence of dew claws might be seen as undesirable, influencing dew claw removal early in a puppy's life.

Reduced Complications

Veterinarians sometimes recommend the removal if the dew claws are poorly attached, as they may pose ongoing health issues. This preventative measure is considered to reduce the risk of severe dew claw injury that might require more complicated and expensive treatments later.

Reasons Against Dew Claw Removal

And now, reasons why dew claws should not be removed from dogs:

Natural Functionality

Should Dew Claws Be Removed From Dogs

In many dogs, particularly those bred for rugged activities, dew claws help with stability and traction when running or climbing on uneven surfaces.

Supporting Research

Studies have shown that dew claws can play a critical role in aiding certain motions. For example, during high-speed turns to catch prey or maneuver in rough terrain, these claws provide extra grip and stability.

Ethical Considerations

The movement against elective removal of body parts without a direct health benefit cites the importance of keeping a dog as anatomically intact as possible. Removing dew claws for cosmetic reasons is increasingly viewed as unnecessary and potentially cruel.

Veterinary Perspectives

Expert Opinions

Should Dew Claws Be Removed From Dogs

When asked, “Should dew claws be removed from dogs?” Many veterinarians share a cautious approach to dew claw removal, emphasizing it should not be a routine procedure for every dog. The consensus is that unless the dew claws pose an immediate risk of injury or are inherently causing the dog discomfort, they might best be left intact.

Consideration Factors

The age at which dew claws are removed can significantly affect the procedure's outcome. Vets often recommend removal be done when puppies are very young, typically when they are already undergoing other procedures such as spaying or neutering, to minimize the stress and risks associated with anesthesia.

Surgical Insights

Should Dew Claws Be Removed From Dogs

When removal is necessary, it's performed under anesthesia, and it involves the surgical removal of the entire toe to prevent regrowth or nail problems. Post-operative care is crucial to ensure proper healing and to prevent infection, with vets providing detailed instructions on how to care for the surgical site.

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