Dew Claws?

As you may have noticed, I have not said anything about removing the puppies dew claws. That is because we do not remove them. (Neither do we dock tails, because I am not big on amputation for cosmetic reasons.)

There are pros and cons to removing the dews, but in my opinion there are far more cons, and the pro’s are rather weak. I will start with the pros of removing the dew claws. It should be noted that our puppies have only the front dew claws.

Pros of removing the Dew Claws:

  1. Cosmetic- a dog with a thumb looks odd to some. (with your doodle it will most likely be hidden under a lot of fluff) Some breeds may not be shown with a dew claw.
  2. Maintenance- the dew claws need to be inspected, as do all the claws, and regularly trimmed if they aren’t wearing down with natural use. (Note: My dogs have all had dew claws, and they almost always wear down with use, the exception being winter when they are inside far more than we all wish thanks to the cold.) If the dew claws don’t wear down there is a possibility that they can grow in a circle and poke back into the dog’s leg, which is not good.
  3. They can get caught on things- Some say that the dew claw has a risk of getting caught on something and rip, which I suppose is possible. However, it doesn’t happen often, and it is treated as a normal injury. I have had 7 dogs with dew claws, who romped and played outside and in brush, and never once have I had a dew claw injury.

Cons of Removing the Dew Claws:

  1. Pain both at the time, and later: There is some evidence that shows that the amputation of the dew claw causes lasting pain and trouble in the wrist joint. I will attach an article by someone far more qualified than I.
  2. Amputation: Even though when puppies have them removed at day 3-5 when they don’t require anesthesia and it is just a snip, it is still a digit (think doggy thumb) attached by tendons, and if an amputation is unnecessary, why do it?
  3.  They are actually useful: God put them there for a reason. If you watch dogs with dew claws, you will notice that they use them frequently. When they have a toy or bone, you can see them gripping it with their dews. When you watch them run hard and play their dew claws will touch the ground. When they turn hard at a high speed the dew claw stabilizes the joint and keeps the leg from twisting, preventing injury. If you watch them climb a steep slope while hiking, they use the dew claws to dig in.

Removing the dew claws is controversial at least. I obviously side with those who think they should not be removed (unless it is abnormal and a hindrance). Please do your own research and come to your own conclusions. If you think they should be removed, then a great time to have it done is when you spay or neuter your dog at 6 months. That way they will not have to have 2 separate surgeries. If you have questions, please ask. I’d be happy to discuss. Also, please talk to your vet if you are concerned with the dew claws. He or she is far more qualified that I am as a breeder. 

Below is an article on the dew claws that is helpful:

Do the Dew(claws)? M. Christine Zink DVM, PhD, DACVSMR

I work exclusively with canine athletes, developing rehabilitation programs for injured dogs or dogs that required surgery as a result of performance-related injuries. I have seen many dogs now, especially field trial/hunt test and agility dogs, that have had chronic carpal arthritis, frequently so severe that they have to be retired or at least carefully managed for the rest of their careers. Of the over 30 dogs I have seen with carpal arthritis, only one has had dewclaws. If you look at an anatomy book (Miller’s Guide to the Anatomy of Dogs is an excellent one – see Figure 1 below) you will see that there are 2 major, functioning tendons attached to the dewclaw. Of course, at the other end of a tendon is a muscle, and that means that if you cut off the dew claws, there are major muscle bundles that will become atrophied from disuse. Those muscles indicate that the dewclaws have a function. That function is to prevent torque on the leg. Each time the foot lands on the ground, particularly when the dog is cantering or galloping (see Figure 2), the dewclaw is in touch with the ground. If the dog then needs to turn, the dewclaw digs into the ground to support the lower leg and prevent torque. If the dog doesn’t have a dewclaw, the leg twists. A lifetime of that and the result can be carpal arthritis, or perhaps injuries to other joints, such as the elbow, shoulder and toes. Remember: the dog is doing the activity regardless, and the pressures on the leg have to go somewhere. Perhaps you are thinking, “None of my dogs have ever had carpal pain or arthritis.” Well, we need to remember that dogs, by their very nature, do not tell us about mild to moderate pain. If a dog was to be asked by an emergency room nurse to give the level of his pain on a scale from 0 o 10, with 10 being the worst, their scale would be 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Most of our dogs, especially if they deal with pain that is of gradual onset, just deal with it and don’t complain unless it is excruciating. But when I palpate the carpal joints of older dogs without dewclaws, I frequently can elicit pain with relatively minimal manipulation. As to the possibility of injuries to dew claws. Most veterinarians will say that such injuries actually are not very common at all. And if they do occur, then they are dealt with like any other injury. In my opinion, it is far better to deal with an injury than to cut the dew claws off of all dogs “just in case.” Figure 1. Anatomical diagram viewing the medial side of a dog’s left front leg demonstrating the five tendons that attach to the dewclaw. –from Miller’s Guide to the Dissection of the Dog Figure 2. In this galloping dog, the dewclaw is in touch with the ground. If the dog then needs to turn to the right, the dewclaw digs into the ground to support the lower leg and prevent torque.

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