Jeanne, who asked the recent question about laser versus scalpel spays, sent an excellent follow-up question. The question was whether her dog’s dewclaws should be removed when she is spayed.
My answer is no.
Dewclaws are the anatomical equivalents of thumbs on the front feet and of big toes on the rear feet. Of course, dewclaws aren’t true thumbs or big toes. They are small and they don’t serve much purpose. They come in two forms. Most dogs have dewclaws that are articulated, or attached firmly to the legs by joints. Some dogs have unarticulated, floppy dewclaws that don’t have proper joints where they meet the legs.
Some people advocate dewclaw removal for cosmetic purposes. In my opinion that is not a valid reason to amputate a digit.
Other folks point out that dewclaws have nails that may grow into the pads, causing pain and infection. They also note that dewclaws (especially unarticulated dewclaws) are prone to injuries–for instance, they can snag on plant matter while playing fetch. They advocate routine dewclaw removal in order to prevent these injuries.
However, if you trim your dog’s nails routinely they won’t grow into the pads. And in over 10 years of active veterinary practice I have yet to see a dog seriously injure a dewclaw while playing or engaging in any other activity. (Dewclaw nails do tear more frequently than other nails. Torn nails are not serious injuries.)
Dewclaws are surprisingly difficult to remove. The articulated variety must be disarticulated. That process sounds nasty, and it is. All dewclaws have surprisingly robust blood supplies. Dewclaw surgery has significant potential to cause pain.
In short, I see no reason to perform a procedure such as dewclaw removal that carries minimal medical benefit to the patient. In this regard I place dewclaw removal in the same category as tail docking, ear cropping, and declawing.
Don’t do it.
Photo: double and even triple dewclaws are not uncommon. Double dewclaws are parts of some breeds’ standards. I don’t recommend removing any of them, although the nails on these dewclaws could use a trim. Source.