Overgrown Dew Claws in Dogs

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Dew claws are those little toes on the side of your dog’s paws.

They’re not as important for walking, but they’re still part of your dog’s anatomy and deserve to be cared for.

You may have heard them referred to as vestigial toes or dewclaws, but they’re not actually useless—in fact, they can be a source of pain and discomfort if they aren’t cared for properly.

If your dog’s dew claw is overgrown, you’re not alone.

This is a very common problem and one that can be easily treated if you follow through with the steps in this article.

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Overgrown Dew Claws in Dogs featured image

What are Dew Claws? 

Dog dew claws are a part of your dog’s anatomy that you might not have heard of before.

Don’t worry, when I first heard about them, I was just as stunned as you probably are right now.

They’re on the inside of the leg, next to their footpads, and they look like little nubs.

These dew claws are toes that are on the inside of the dog’s front legs, and they’re on both sides of the dog.

Some dogs have dew claws that grow a bit longer than other toes and may look like they have extra nails or knuckles.

Doggy says, read this too: How to Remove Sticky Bandage From My Dog? [Home Remedy]

Why is it Called a Dew Claw? 

Because of their location (on the side of the paw where the space between the toes and the ground is), dew claws are also dubbed as “false” claws, which is more accurate. 

Here’s a mind-blowing piece of information I came across when researching these interesting little doggy body parts: They’re called dew claws because they tend to brush dew away from the grass.

I like to think of them as a dog’s version of our thumbs.

Doggy says, you might be interested to read this too: Why did my dog’s nail turn black?

Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws? 

Dogs have dew claws, so they can gain more leverage when digging, running, or climbing.

A dog’s dew claw is a special toe that presses down on the pad of the foot and can help the dog redistribute its weight while running.

And depending on the breed of dog, this can help them climb trees better too.

For example, my dog used to love climbing up trees to disturb the birds, and her dew claws were of great help in keeping her attached to the trunk.

Which Dog Breeds Have Dew Claws? 

Every dog breed is born with front dewclaws.

I know, I know—who knew?

That said, there are only a handful of breeds with dew claws on their hind legs.

These include:

  • American Pitbull
  • Catalan Sheepdog
  • St. Bernard
  • Norwegian Lundehund
  • Pyrenean Mountain Dog
  • Anatolian Shepherd
  • Estrela Mountain Dog
  • Briard
  • Beauceron
  • Saint Miguel Cattle Dog
  • Icelandic Sheepdog
  • German Shepherd
  • English Bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman
  • Golden Retriever
  • Collie
  • Siberian Husky
  • Chihuahua

If you don’t see any dewclaws on your buddy that’s on the list, it’s highly likely because the breeder had them removed shortly after birth.

Do you know how to quiet dog nails on floors?

Common Dog Dew Claw Injuries

When I first learned about dew claws, I didn’t know that they cause some stress to our pets.

Here are some common injuries that could arise from dew claws:

Torn or Broken Dew Claws

When dew claws are broken, the dog’s quick (the tissue in the center of the nail which includes a blood vessel) is exposed. 

This results in bleeding, and usually occurs if the cuticle is trimmed too deeply into the nail, or the quick got torn due to your bud’s physical activities. 

The common treatments for this injury are bandages, pain relief medications, and antibiotics to prevent infections. 

Overgrown dewclaws 

Overgrown dew claws are the most common injury among dogs, mostly because of their length. 

When the toes of a pet are deformed or there is a misalignment with the nail, this can also lead to the nail becoming turned and twisted, which increases the risk of it becoming ingrown.

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Ingrown dew claws 

Ingrown dew claws occur most frequently in dogs with a lot of hair in the area where the claw is located (like a terrier).

Once the nails grow too long, they will eventually curl underneath and grow into the nail bed. 

Pain and swelling, and frequent infection of the skin characterize this condition.

The treatment consists of cutting the nail so that the nail that has grown into the skin can be removed, as well as taking meds! 

A good rule of thumb: I like to trim my dogs’ nails every week.

This prevents any ingrown dew claws from forming (and unwanted scratches when they get just a tiny bit too excited).

Infected dew claws 

Infections of the dew claw can develop as a result of trauma to the nail itself or as a result of a small cut or scrape on the skin.

It’s also likely to be infected because of the habit of chewing its paws, which can carry bacteria from your dog’s mouth to its nail bed.

When a pet has an infected dew claw, it may frequently lick or chew the affected foot, and you may detect blood, pus, or an unpleasant odor coming from the nail bed.

The affected area may experience pain, redness, and swelling.

Why Do Dewclaws Break or Split?

surgically removed dog dew claws

Dewclaws are very fragile and sensitive.

When a dog is still young, it might easily tear or split due to its vulnerability.

It’s also possible that they’ll split on their own when a dog gets bigger. 

Biting, scratching, and ripping out of the skin are the three behaviors that are most often responsible for the breaking of dew claw. 

Splitting can also occur in the dewclaw of your dog if he or she sprains a paw and then continues to place pressure on the paw rather than the dewclaw. 

When my dog had a split dew claw, I felt like I failed him. 

But as bad as it looked, it wasn’t really all that uncomfortable for the not-so-little guy (or so my vet says).

When this happens, you can trim the excess dew claw away or head to a vet for help.

How Do You Treat an Overgrown Dew Claw? 

I’ve dealt with my fair share of dew claw injuries as a former vet tech.

And while I am not a licensed vet, I do know some ways I helped my fur buddies deal with it IN A SNAP.

Hold your dog firmly

Hold your pet tight to prevent him from moving tremendously which might cause his claws to be wounded by the trimmer.

Check your dog’s quick (center of its nerves)

This is usually a gray or pink semi-circle area in the middle of your dog’s claw. Avoid it as it might lead to bleeding when clipped.

Use a dog nail trimmer

Use a dog nail trimmer, or dog nail grinder, to cut the nails of your dog. This will help you trim its nails easily.

Trim in small portions

To prevent your pet from being wounded by nail clippers, clip in small portions to make sure you are not touching its quick.

What to Do if a Dog Breaks a Nail 

If your dog breaks a nail, it’s important to stop the bleeding.

Your first step is to remove any pieces of the broken nail from the wound.

Any object that comes in contact with your dog’s blood can carry diseases, so make sure to use gloves during this process.

Dogs can have difficulty standing still for this step, so it is important to remain calm and encouraging.

Once you have removed all objects from the wound, apply pressure with a clean cloth or paper towel until you are able to take him or her to the veterinarian. 

How to Trim Dew Claws

According to an article by Walkerville Vet (2019), here are some steps you could follow to properly trim your pet’s dewclaws:

  1. Slide your fingers underneath the nail, if a dewclaw catches or hooks your finger, it has to be trimmed.
  2. Trim it only till your finger easily slips off it. If you cut too deeply, your dog will suffer discomfort and bleeding.
  3. Make a quick, accurate, and sure cut with good clippers.
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Is it OK to Remove Dewclaws? 

Yes, you can definitely remove dew claws.

They are by no means a necessity especially if your dogs are as domesticated as mine are.

These spoiled and lovable little pooches have very little need for their dew claws and may not even notice that they’re gone!

Hind Dewclaw Removal: Important Tips I Should Know When Trimming My Dog’s Dew Claw? 

Dew Claws Can Become Ingrown 

You should not let dewclaws overgrow and become ingrown as they might bring too much discomfort, pain, and even infections. 

Dew Claws May Be Sore 

You should be careful in trimming your dog’s dewclaw as you might hit his quick, which can lead to excessive bleeding. 

Use a Flashlight to See the Quick 

Before anything else, be sure to spot where the quick is to refrain from wounding your pet. It might be a gray or pink semi-circle in the middle of the claws of your pet. 

Have Styptic Powder Ready 

Styptic powder is an anti-hemorrhage agent that prevents light wounds from bleeding. Thus, this is important as you trim your pet’s dewclaw. 

File the Dew Claw

File your dog’s dew claws as well as all of his claws after clipping them to remove any sharp edges.

Work Slowly 

I know how easy it can be to panic. But don’t. Don’t rush trimming your pet’s dew claw to make sure that you are doing it properly.

Should You Cut a Dog’s Dew Claws? 

Like I said before, dew claws can be cut.

That said, you don’t want to go about it haphazardly lest it leads to an accident.

Your dog might be wounded once you trim its quick, or might lead to possible infections if not done properly.

This is precisely why I recommend you bring your fur baby to a seasoned professional to get it done. 

Should You Cut a Dog’s Dew Claws? 

General Cost to Treat Dewclaw Injuries

According to Hammond, DVM (2022), broken or torn dewclaws will most likely bleed excessively, requiring veterinary care. 

In addition to office and examination fees, expect to pay between $45 and $125 to be examined if your dog requires emergency care.

Costs will range between $100 and $300 after treating the broken dewclaw, bandaging it, and providing treatment.

How to Prevent Dog Dewclaw Injuries 

Here are some of the things I personally recommend you do to give your furry friend QUICK RELIEF.

  1. Keep your dog on a leash or inside until you are familiar with their habits, know your surroundings and understand where they are likely to run off too far.
  2. Learn how to trim dewclaws if yours is one of the many dogs who lost them early.
  3. Take extra precautions when walking on rough surfaces.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Dew Claw Removal

The main advantage of dewclaw removal is reducing your dog’s risk of dewclaw injuries.

There will be a minimized chance of having overgrown and ingrown nails, which can cause discomfort and pain to your pets. 

Severe infections on dew claws can also be reduced when it is removed.

The disadvantages of dew claw removal, on the other hand, are the risks that your pet can get through the anesthetic, and losing the other functions that dew laws can provide, although these functions might not be crucial to your pets. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens if the dew claw is too long?

If your dog’s dew claw is excessively long, it may injure its quick, or it may become curled underneath and grow into its nail bed, causing discomfort, swelling, and even infection. Thus, be mindful of the length of your bud’s dew claw to KEEP HIM SAFE! 

Will a dog’s dew claw heal on its own?

A dog’s dewclaw can heal on its own, but it won’t grow back. In most cases, it is surgically removed when it interferes with their daily activities, such as running and walking.  If you want your dog to keep their dew claws, protect them from harm during walks or playtime.

In Conclusion: Overgrown Dew Claws in Dogs

I hope this article has helped to clear some doubts and helped you in caring for your dog’s dew claws.

Follow the tips closely if you are trimming them to prevent any potential injuries, and you are all set!

Check out other dog care tips on our blog such as splayed feet in dogs, ingrown dog whiskers, should you put a puppy pad in a crate at night, and many more!

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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