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Dog's dewclaws: everything important at a glance

Wolf's claw in dogs


Dog's dewclaws is an additional toe on the hind legs of dogs. It is also called dewclaw and has no contact with the ground when running. 


A dewclaw has no practical use for dogs. Instead, its presence even brings disadvantages, as dogs can easily get caught and injured with it. In the following we will explain how dewclaw is constructed in dogs, when it should be surgically removed and how best to avoid injuries.

Function and structure of dog's dewclaw

While dogs generally have five toes on their front feet, their hind legs normally have only four toes. The wolf claw of dogs is an additional fifth toe on the hind leg. It is therefore comparable with the big toe in humans. 


In most cases dog's dewclaw contain one or more bones. They can be articulated or non-articulated.


If the latter is the case, the connection with the paw consists only of connective tissue. This makes the wolf claw very loose and particularly susceptible to injury. Wolf claws can also occur on one or both sides. In some cases, a sixth toe can also form in dogs in the form of a second dewclaw. 


Because dewclaws are too high up on the dog's metatarsus, they do not have contact with the ground when running and therefore do not wear out naturally. A practical function they do not possess therefore.

Only dogs have a dewclaw

The term dewclaws is actually somewhat misleading. Because wolves basically do not possess dewclaws. It occurs only with house dogs, whereby also here not all animals are affected.


Although theoretically all dogs can possess a dewclaw, it occurs particularly with large dog breeds

Especially widespread are dewclaws, especially with the following dogs:

In some dogs the dewclaw is also obligatory in the official breed standard. For example the Beauceron as well as the Briard, which according to FCI must have a double dewclaw.

Remove dewclaw from the dog

In Germany it is generally forbidden to amputate body parts of dogs for purely optical reasons. This applies not only to the docking of tail and ears, but also to the removal of dewclaws. 


The ban only does not apply if there are health reasons. For example, a dewclaw may be removed from a dog due to injury, if it generally entails an increased risk of injury to the dog and its environment or if the animal is used as a hunting dog.


The removal of a dewclaw must be carried out by a veterinarian. The veterinarian puts the dog under anaesthetic and then performs the surgical procedure. How complex the amputation of the dewclaws in the dog is, depends mainly on whether there is an articulated connection or the dewclaw is only connected to the rest of the barrel by connective tissue.

Dewclaws represent an additional injury risk for dogs

Unfortunately the dewclaws is not only without practical use for dogs. It also represents an additional risk of injury. Because it can quickly happen that the four-legged friend gets stuck on a piece of wood or a fence while playing or running around with the claw.


Avoiding injuries to wolf claws in dogs

The dog's dewclaws can break off or, in the worst case, even be completely ripped out, which is of course extremely painful and usually associated with heavy bleeding.


If your dog injures himself on his wolf claw, you should visit a veterinarian after appropriate initial treatment, so that he can treat the wound properly and avoid possible consequences such as inflammation or infection.

Avoiding injuries to dog's dewclaws 

In order to avoid injuries to your dog's  dewclaws, it is important that you regularly shorten it on your four-legged friend. In this way, you will ensure that your dog does not get caught so easily when playing with the claw.


By shortening the claw, you also prevent your dog's dewclaws from growing in. Because this is also extremely painful for your four-legged friend. Depending on the speed of growth, you should trim your dog's claws about every six to eight weeks.


To cut your dog's dewclaws, be sure to use special claw pliers and be careful not to cut too much, otherwise you will hit the blood vessels and nerves. If you don't think you can do the procedure yourself, you can also have your dog's dewclaws shortened at the vet.


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