A dew claw is similar to the thumb on a human which grows further up on the dog’s paw, away from the other nails and rarely touches the ground when walking. However, sometimes it may seem to be hanging or dangling which can become more of a hazard to your dogs’ safety. In rare situations, some dogs may even have two dew claws on the same paw (double dew claws) which may be typical in certain breeds of dog such as the Great Pyrenees.
Most all dog breeds have the dew claw on the front paw which most often does not present a problem. Some puppies may be born with dew claws on the rear paws as well. Rear dew claws have little bone or muscle structure compared to front dew claws. These dew claws can seem to dangle from the skin and can be susceptible to catching on things and getting ripped off, causing your dog a great deal of pain. The majority of young puppies with rear dew claws have them removed when they are just a few days old, which is much safer and less painful.
Speak with your veterinarian if you feel that any or all of your dogs’ dew claws may present a hazard for your dog while walking and/or playing. If the dew claws are firmly attached, and kept trimmed, such as on the front paws, there is no need for removal. However, as with dangling or double dew claws, your veterinarian may give you the option of having them removed (if not done so as a young puppy).
If you feel it necessary to have one or more dew claws removed from your dog, it may be less invasive to have it done while your dog is also being spayed, neutered or having any other procedure that requires anesthesia. Removing a dew claw is a minor process (which you should never attempt yourself). The advantages to a multiple procedure are for cost purposes as well as the health of your dog and putting him/her under anesthesia various times.
Typically, depending on your dog’s age, there are no preoperative tests necessary for the removal of the dew claws. Tests may be performed in preparation of other procedures being done at the same time. The surgery itself involves removal of the skin, bone and digit, which is quickly cut off and the area sutured. The whole procedure takes about 15 to 30 minutes. A bandage may be placed over the surgery site and sutures will be removed within 3-5 days.
Once your dog is home and recovering, be sure to monitor the surgery site for redness, swelling and discharge. If you notice any abnormalities, contact your veterinarian immediately. Should your dog tend to irritate the area, it may be necessary to put on an Elizabethan collar to prevent any injuries during the healing process. Once the stitches are removed, your dog’s paws will be in normal healthy condition, only requiring the normal nail trimming and regular grooming care.