Dew claws on dogs are located on the inside of each foreleg. They are the first of five digits that naturally occur on all canine breed forepaws. Some dogs have vestigial dewclaws on their hind legs as well, but these are not common nor an actual bony structure of the leg and foot. Often, breeders have the dew claws removed. This procedure is done very early in a puppy's life by a veterinarian. Some dogs may also injure their dew claws later in life and have to have them surgically removed.
Dew Claws on the Foreleg
Dogs have five digits on the foreleg that are numbered one through five medially to laterally, meaning inside to outside the leg. The first digit is the dewclaw and it is functional in all breeds. While it does not have major status in walking or daily use, the dew claw is supplied by muscles that rotate the digit and nerves.
Rear Dew Claws
While most rear dew claws are vestigial structure, meaning not serving a functional purpose, there are a couple of breeds for which rear dew claws are standard. Great Pyrenees dogs, large white dogs from mountainous regions, are commonly born with rear dew claws as are Briards. Double rear dew claws, called polydactylism, are not uncommon for either breed.
Dew Claw Removal
Like tail docking, have dew claw removal completed by an experienced veterinarian early in a puppy's life. Removing the dew claws at 3 to 5 days of age ensures a clean removal with little bleeding and lowered chance of complication and removal.
Dew Claw Injury
Dogs often catch an overgrown dew claw nail during play and tear part of the dew claw from the foot. This occurs both with dew claws on the front and rear legs. Have a dogs with a dew claw injury assessed by a veterinarian to decide is the claw requires surgical removal. These procedures often require anaesthesia and pain control.