Removing a dog’s dew claws is a controversial procedure: some dog owners fear that the dew claws will catch on things and tear, causing the dog unnecessary pain. Other owners believe that removing dew claws is a painful procedure that can be avoided by keeping the dew claw nail clipped.

What are Dew Claws?

Dew claws are residual fifth digits, or thumbs, that can be seen on the inside of a dog’s legs. Most dew claws are only on the front legs, as the back leg “thumb” has almost completely disappeared. Some breeds, however, still have dew claws on both the back and front legs.

“Double dew claws” occur when the dog has a fifth and sixth digit on the legs. While unusual in most breeds, double dewclaws are quite common in others, such as Great Pyrenees and Beaucerons.

Do Dogs Need Dew Claws?

The debate about removing dew claws is, in part, a debate about the usefulness of dew claws. In some dogs the dew claws are controllable, and touch the ground when the dog runs. Some people hold that, in these cases, the dew claw provides extra traction and, therefore, should not be removed.

Why Consider Removing Dew Claws?

Deciding whether removing dew claws is necessary often depends on the dew claws themselves. If the extra digits are held close to the leg, keeping the dew claw trimmed will prevent it from catching on foreign objects.

Other dew claws, however, are long, loose, and floppy. The dog has no control over the digit, and the “thumb” may not be securely attached to the body. In these cases, removing dew claws may be necessary to prevent injury.

Removing Dew Claws

Removing dew claws is a surgical procedure that removes not only the claw, but the entire thumb. Surgical removal of dew claws can be taken care of when a puppy is spayed or neutered: taking care of both procedures at once reduces the overall cost and the risk of multiple anesthetic administration.

As removing dew claws means the entire toe is removed, the procedure’s cost often depends on how firmly the toe is attached to the rest of the body. If the dew claws are firmly attached, the veterinary bill will be correspondingly higher.

Dew Claws and Breeds

Before removing dew claws from a pure bred, check to see whether dew claws are considered to be part of the breed standard. In the case of some breeds, dew claws, or even double dew claws, are highly valued in the judging for dog competitions. Removing dew claws in such cases will interfere with showing your dog.

Is Removing Dew Claws Legal?

Another aspect to take into consideration before removing dew claws from a dog are local laws. Some countries have made removing dew claws illegal on the grounds that the procedure is unnecessary and painful. If removing dew claws is legal in your country, remember that the procedure is complicated and should only be performed by a qualified veterinarian.

Myth: Dew Claws and Snake Bites Folklore claims that dogs with intact dew claws are immune to snake bites. This belief is, of course, completely wrong. Removing dew claws may or may not be the best thing to do for your dog, but it certainly won’t make them more susceptible to snake bites!