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Dog Dewclaws and Fast-Growing Toenails

Posted on: May 3rd, 2011 by


Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page today.

The first question comes from Hadley who asks, “Why to dogs have dewclaws and is removal necessary?”

Dewclaws probably don’t really have a purpose anymore. It’s probably just left over as an evolutionary trait when there were five fingers. Some dogs are born without them and some dogs have them. There’s not really a problem with leaving them there. The biggest problem that I see is that because of their location they often don’t wear down appropriately and therefore need to be trimmed more frequently.

Occasionally I’ve seen them kind of get snagged on things, especially the really active dogs that are outside a lot. If your dog is an adult and it has a dewclaw I wouldn’t recommend removing them. If you have a litter of puppies who are days old, that’s when removal happens. If you’re planning on breeding dogs and want to prevent the dewclaws from occurring you would want to do this when they’re first born.

The next question comes from Chrissa. She asks, “My dog has eight black toenails and two white ones, and one of the white ones grows insanely fast. It’s always at least half an inch longer than the rest. Any idea why?”

I’m not sure. There’s a possibility that this could be an outside toe that’s not wearing down as quickly as the others. It probably doesn’t have anything to do with the color. Dogs sometimes have a combination of black and white nails. It’s possible that there was an injury at one point and that caused the nail to grow abnormally. It’s not likely to be related to a problem; it just probably means that you have to trim it a little more frequently.
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