How to Care for a Dog's Dewclaw

Your dog’s dewclaws sit along the inner sides of his paws, although they don’t come into contact with the ground when he walks. Some dogs have dewclaws on all paws, while others may have on just one or two -- or none at all. Generally, dewclaws require the same amount of care as the rest of his toes; however, in some cases, they need to be removed.

Dog paw and hand shaking
A closeup of a dog's paw.
credit: Julija Sapic/iStock/Getty Images

Trim Them

Have your veterinarian or groomer cut your pal’s dewclaws. This can be done during a routine manicure. Without regular trimming, dewclaw nails continue to grow, ultimately piercing the skin and causing irritation. Dewclaws may actually need to be trimmed more regularly than the rest of his nails: Regular walks and play sessions outdoors naturally file down your pooch’s nails, but since those dewclaws don’t hit the ground, they don’t get the natural manicure the other toenails get. Check your furry chum’s dewclaws regularly and get him in for a nail trim before they get too long or start curling under.

Clean Them

Your dog has a jam-packed day full of digging, prancing and playing around. During the course of his day, pesticides, pollen, mold, dirt and microscopic critters can all get stuck between your canine’s toes. Such irritating buildup can leave his feet itchy, making him nip and pick at his toes. It’s important to wash and rinse your mate’s paws regularly, especially if he spends a lot of time outdoors. Wipe between each toe with a wet cloth, including around his dewclaws. This helps remove any irritants that can trigger allergic breakouts. Plus it gets your pooch used to getting his feet touched, which will cause him to be less frightened when it comes time for a trim.

Remove Them

If your cuddly comrade has a deformed or loose dewclaw, or has multiple dewclaws on one leg, your vet may recommend removal. Or if your dog hunts with you or has some other specialized job, removal of dewclaws may be advised to minimize trauma that can occur from getting snagged. If you have dewclaws removed during the first week of a puppy’s life, your vet can simply use a local numbing agent and cut away the dewclaws with surgical scissors. If the surgery isn’t done in that time frame, wait until your pup is 12 weeks old. The procedure needs to be done under general anesthesia at this point, so your dog needs to be old enough to endure surgery.

Care for Post-Op Removal

Post-op treatment for dewclaw removal is different than day-to-day care of your dog's feet. Your hound will likely have a bandage on his paw or paws for several days. If he tries to remove his bandages, he'll need an Elizabethan collar so he can’t get to his tootsies. A bandage isn’t always necessary, but you still need to be on the lookout for excessive bleeding, redness or oozing. Don’t let him run, jump or play roughly for a few days, to give the wounds time to heal. You might have to give him antibiotics or pills for pain, and you may have to take him back a week later for suture removal, depending on his particular surgery requirements.