Maybe you recently got a new pup and saw that it has a fifth toe; did you know that only specific breeds will have this feature on the rear feet? While not every dog will need dewclaws to be part of the breed standard, these will be highly beneficial for dogs who need extra traction on rough terrain. But if your dog has one of these, you’re probably wondering what other breeds of dogs have dewclaws on hind legs; below are the answers you’re looking for.
What is a Dewclaw?
Dewclaws are extra toes that are found on a dog’s front legs or back legs close to its wrist area and are non-weight-bearing. Both cats and dogs are generally born with two dewclaws on their front feet, but some will also be born with hind dewclaws. They essentially serve as a dog’s thumb and big toes of the dog world, corresponding to human thumbs.
Dog dewclaws help to stabilize the carpal joint by allowing the leg to touch the ground as your dog runs or gallops. It can also help to support their limb when the dog is chasing something and needs to make sharp turns; as such, dewclaws are helpful in dog sports or agility courses. However, these can be prone to injuries such as ingrown, overgrowth, torn, broken, or infected dewclaws; trimming your dog’s nails regularly can help you prevent these injuries.
Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws?
For most people, when they hear dewclaws, they’ll probably think about a floppy, useless part of the body that hangs over the hind limbs of a dog. However, single dewclaws serve as a fifth digit on your dog’s paws and can be located higher up their leg compared to the others. Dewclaws are attached to the bone of your dog’s front leg and serve a specific purpose.
When running, your dog’s front dewclaws will make contact with the ground; at high speeds, uneven terrain, or slippery surfaces, these can provide a better grip to stabilize the wrist. At the same time, dewclaws can also help to support the lead leg when it touches the ground during a canter or gallop. Their dewclaw will dig into the ground to strengthen the foundation of the limbs when your dog turns — this plays an important role for active dogs that compete in sports and agility.
Furthermore, dew claws can be used by dogs to complete tasks such as scratching, climbing, and cleaning their teeth, depending on the breed. They also serve minor functions such as getting to land after swimming and providing control and assistance while they’re grooming, especially when they’re cleaning their faces and heads. Dog owners may also notice their dog using it to grab hold of their favorite chew toy, where this extra finger can really shine.
Which Dogs Come with Dewclaws on Hind Legs?
The truth is, every dog is born with these additional toes, but the breeder or vet will usually snip them off while they’re still small puppies. Doing this can prevent injuries down the line, but we’ll discuss this in further detail below. However, many large dog breeds, as well as working dogs will tend to have their dewclaws intact on the front and/or rear legs, including the following:
- Great Pyrenees
- Icelandic Sheepdog
- Anatolian Shepherds
- Spanish Mastiff
- Saint Bernard
- German Shepherd
- Norwegian Lundehund
- Border Collies
- Australian Shepherds
- Pyrenean Shepherd
Keep in mind that according to the AKC breed standards, the Beauceron breed will need to have their double rear dewclaws present inside the show ring since these function as double dew claws. However, when it comes to the herding dog Bouvier des Flandres from Belgium, the dewclaws on their hind feet must be removed to meet the dog breed standard. You should also note that rear dewclaws will vary with every breed and not all dogs from a specific breed will have them.
Why Do Dogs Come with Double Dew Claws?
Double claws will also be common when it comes to large breeds, which have been used historically by farmers to herd sheep. Double hind dew claws are fully formed with a complete bone structure and are attached to the leg by muscles and nerves. The chances of getting functional double dewclaws depend on different factors in genetics, such as the LMBR1 Gene and recessive genes, associated genome parts, and limb development membrane proteins.
Why are Dewclaws Removed?
As a general rule, an extra digit will be left alone when it’s located with the front paws, but back dewclaws will most likely be removed if they are available. There’s no valid medical reason behind front dewclaw removal unless there’s a medical issue associated with the dog’s dew claws such as dewclaw injuries or a disease. Back dew claws are more likely to be removed since they don’t really have a purpose and will be more likely to get injured.
While the dewclaws up front are connected through the ligament and bone to the dog’s front paws and have distinct yet limited functionality, the back dewclaws have no purpose whatsoever. When they’re present, hind dewclaws are attached to nothing more than a flap of skin, without any other attachment to the bones or ligaments. Rear dewclaws will also appear in different forms, with the most common being a fleshy protrusion with a dog’s claw which can sometimes be a vestigial digit.
They are commonly removed from puppies at just a few days old by the breeder or a vet. When adult dogs get their dewclaws removed, they undergo a surgical procedure. This is why most puppies will have their dewclaws removed before reaching a certain age.
Should a dog suffer from a severe dewclaw injury or acquire a disease such as cancer on the small digits, then you may get veterinary advice to remove it which will use general anesthesia. It will also involve pain medications, activity restriction, bandage changes, as well as a cone after the operation. A show dog will typically have these removed since they will have an aesthetic impact on the pet’s overall appearance.
Why You Shouldn’t Remove Dewclaws
As mentioned above, experts agree that pet owners shouldn’t remove dewclaws from their dog’s legs unless there’s a medical reason for it. Removing healthy dewclaws from the inside of the leg as a preventative measure won’t make much sense since problems that require it to be removed happen infrequently. Complications like regrowth of the nail or infections can arise, so some breeders will perform the removal on puppies at a young age.
As such, it’s considered cruel to eliminate your dog’s dewclaws without any kind of acceptable medical explanation.
It doesn’t matter whether you have purebred dogs or domestic dogs, they will naturally have dewclaws at the front that serve different purposes and ones at the rear that have no use. Almost like a human hand, the front dewclaws are helpful and should be kept on your dog. On the other hand, the hind dewclaws can be removed from your puppies to prevent injury.
But no matter what you decide, be sure to get advice from your vet to ensure you’re making the right decision for you and your canine buddy.