A reader wonders whether to have them removed. Vet Tony Buckwell advises.
Dogs and dewclaws
Q: My dog still has his dewclaws, but I’ve been told that these are usually removed soon after birth. Is it too late to have them removed now? What would you advise?
A: It is legal to remove dewclaws from puppies whose eyes have not yet opened. This need not necessarily be carried out by a veterinary surgeon, but whoever carries it out must know what they are doing so it causes least pain and little harm. Many people, however, question the need to routinely remove dewclaws. Removal for purely cosmetic reasons seems to be far less common, so it’s not necessarily surprising to hear of your situation.
Full general anesthesia
Once a puppy’s eyes have opened, and in older dogs, dewclaw removal must be performed by a vet, carried out under full general anaesthesia and only be for medical, therapeutic reasons. Left intact, dewclaws, particularly those on the front feet, cause few problems. If you look at prints made in soft ground by a dog turning at speed, you might notice that your dog uses its dewclaw.
Unlike a dog’s other nails, those of the dewclaw don’t normally make contact with the ground so aren’t worn down in the same way. Consequently, dogs with dewclaws may need these nails to be trimmed. Some dewclaws, especially those that are rudimentary and unattached with little bone, can be more problematic and become caught, injured and so on. These might be better removed, especially if you intend working your dog through dense cover. If you are still in any doubt, discuss the situation with a vet and decide what might be the best course of action in terms of your dog’s overall welfare.