Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of personalities and quirks. We love them for their loyalty, companionship, and unconditional love. But have you ever wondered about one of their physical features—dewclaws?

Dogs and cats have them. So do lions, raccoons, and pigs. They're the nails higher up on the leg, sometimes called "thumbnails." Dogs have them on the front and hind legs, but some may only have them on the front.

Certain breeds like the Beauceron and Great Pyrenees can have a double dewclaw. For American Kennel Club shows, these breeds must have the double dewclaw intact.

Dewclaws serve various purposes, from helping dogs keep their balance when running to providing extra grip when climbing. But do dewclaws have to be removed? And if so, why? Keep reading to find out more about this canine characteristic!

Manicure Anyone?

What are dewclaws?

Dewclaws are nails located higher up on a dog's leg, typically on the front legs. They might look like a thumb, which is why they're sometimes called "thumbnails." Since dewclaws are further away from the ground than the rest of a dog's nails, they don't usually touch the ground when the dog is walking.

Some dewclaws are more visible than others. They can be long, short, curved, or even double-jointed. And while dewclaws might look like they're just an extra nail, they're actually attached to the bone via ligaments and tendons. So, they're not just hanging out there—they're connected!

Why do dogs have dewclaws?

There are a few theories about why dewclaws exist. One is that they're vestigial—meaning, they're left over from evolution and do not serve much of a purpose now.. till dogs learn how to text. 😉

In other words, dewclaws might be a remnant of a time when dogs had more toes.

Whatever the reason for dewclaws, they do serve a purpose.

#1. They help with balance.

Dewclaws are located on the inside of a dog's leg, near the ankle. This gives them extra stability when they're running and turning. They act almost like a fifth wheel, giving dogs more balance and agility.

#2. They provide extra grip.

Dewclaws can also help dogs climb and grasp things. Think of them like a thumb—they give your pup a better grip, which can come in handy when scaling a fence or tree. If your dog is gnawing on their favorite chew toy, you might notice that they are using their dewclaws to better hold the toy.

#3. They help with hunting.

Dewclaws can also be helpful when dogs are out hunting. They can provide extra traction and grip when dogs are running and climbing. And some dogs use their dewclaws to grab prey.

#4 They can help with daily tasks

Dogs sometimes use the front dewclaw to assist in grooming, especially when cleaning their heads and faces.

Dog's paws analog film photo

Should dewclaws be removed?

Many people choose to have their dog's dewclaws removed, especially if the dewclaw is loose or dangling. When puppies are only a few days old, their dewclaws are usually removed by the breeder.

#1. They can get caught on things.

Since dewclaws don't touch the ground when a dog is walking, they can be sometimes more prone to injury. They can get caught on things like carpet, furniture, or even other dogs' nails. And if they get pulled hard enough, dewclaws can tear off completely. Ouch!

#2. They can grow into the skin.

If dewclaws aren't trimmed regularly, they can start to grow into the dog's skin. The result? Inflammation, infection, and even pain.

Front dewclaw removal is generally not recommended unless there's a medical reason for doing so—for example, if the dewclaw is already injured or causing problems.

So, should you have your dog's dewclaws removed? It's up to you! If you're concerned about dewclaw injuries or joint problems, talk to your vet about whether dewclaw removal is right for your pup.