The pet parenting community is divided from working liability to aesthetic disturbance to necessary appendage – when it comes to dog dew claws. The situation is similar among vets – some recommend removal, and others are against it. The possibility of the dew claws growing back is also a concern.
So, do dew claws grow back? Dew claws do not grow back if they are properly removed. Namely, during surgical declawing, the veterinarian removes the entire nail bed, thus preventing future re-growth. However, if the surgery is not completed thoroughly or the dog accidentally rips off part of the nail, the dew claw will grow back.
If your dog has dew claws, it is advisable to consult with your vet and ask whether it is better to have them removed or not.
In this article, we will talk about dew claws in dogs. We will start by explaining what the dew claws are and their roles. Then we will go through the pros and cons of the dew claws and give some information on when they can grow back and when they cannot. We will also describe the dew clawing procedure in a few words. Let’s start.
What Are the Dew Claws?
Dew claw is the term used to describe the non-weight bearing toe in mammals. In dogs, that is the first digit of the front and rear leg. Compared to human anatomy, the dewclaw is the equivalent of the big toe and thumb.
The dew claws are similar to the other digit but not the same. Namely, the rest of the toes are made of three bones, while the dew claws have only two. Plus, the other digits touch the ground and bear weight, while the dew claws are situated higher on the paw and neither touch the ground nor bear weight.
The other anatomy parts of the dew claws are the same – they have their own blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and tendons. However, although mobile, the dew claws are not as mobile as the other digits.
Interestingly, in the front legs, the dew claws are closer to the other digits, while on the rear legs, they are much higher. Also, when the front legs have dew claws, they have one, while on the rear legs, the dew claws are often doubled – there are two dew claws on one leg.
In the past, it was considered that having dew claws indicates that the dog is not purebred, as the issue was more common among mutts. However, today we know that even purebred dogs have dew claws. For example, Saint Bernard Dogs often have double dew claws on the rear legs.
What Is the Purpose of The Dew Claws?
Dew claws may seem like unnecessary appendages, but they are not as useless as most pet owners often assume. To make things easy to understand, let’s review the roles of dew claws.
Purpose number 1: Better grip
It may not be directly striking, but when playing with balls or chewing on bones, dogs tend to use their dew claws to get a better grip on the object. Since the dew claws are less mobile than the rest of the digits, this is not easily visible.
Purpose number 2: Stabilization
Dogs can also use their dewclaws to stabilize their bodies when taking cuts and turns. Namely, in such situations, the dewclaws come in contact with the ground. This feature is much more accented and important in highly active dogs as well as in working and competing dogs.
Is Removing a Dew Claw Bad?
The dew claw removal is a hot topic, both in the veterinary and pet parenting community. Some consider the removal a necessary and even beneficial procedure, while others think it is an aesthetic and unnecessary one.
The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Namely, a dog prone to dew claw issues is better off without them, while a dog that is not bothered by their presence does not need to have them removed.
So, this poses another question – in which situations it is objective to have the dog’s dew claws removed. Let’s review the different scenarios and some explanations for each.
Scenario number 1: Nail trimming issues
Just like the normal digits, the dew claws have continuously growing nails. However, unlike the other nails on the other digits, the dew claws do not waste over time since they do not touch the ground and grind. This is not an issue if you can trim your dog’s nails regularly.
However, some dogs are more dramatic than others and hate nail trimmings. In fact, some dogs require mild sedation for routine nail trimming. In such cases, it is better to have the dew claws removed. The removal is permanent and will prevent overgrown nails and subsequent infections.
Scenario number 2: Hunting dogs
Hunting dogs are prone to accidents related to the dew claws. Namely, the dew claws are more likely to get stuck between branches or get otherwise damaged while hunting. This is not necessarily limited to hunting dogs but all active and working dogs.
Torn and damaged dew claws are painful. Plus, the dog’s nails tend to bleed a lot, and dealing with a torn dew claw can be stressful. It is also possible for the injured dew claw to get infected. Therefore, in hunting dogs, it is a custom to have the dew claws removed at an early age.
What Happens if A Dog Loses Its Dew Claw?
If a dog loses its dew claw in a traumatic manner (it gets torn or injured), you can expect your dog will be in a lot of pain. When it comes to pain, the dog’s dew claws are no different than our own nails.
Because of the extreme pain, a dog with an injured dew claw is likely to start limping or, in more severe cases, even act lethargic and refuse to eat. However, before these signs and symptoms, you can expect a lot of bleeding.
A torn nail is prone to profuse bleeding. For pet owners, this is the scariest part of the experience. However, the bleeding on its own is not as dangerous as it is messy. The good news is a dog cannot bleed out from a torn dew claw.
Will a Ripped-Out Dew Claw Grow Back?
Whether a ripped-out dew claw will grow back depends on how it was ripped or, better said, on the location of the ripping point. In most cases, it is only the visible part of the dew claw that gets ripped off. In such cases, the dew claw will grow back. Pain management and infection prevention are always recommended.
However, in more severe cases, the dew claw may get torn from its root. If both the nail and its bed (root) are ripped, the dew claw will not grow back. This is a far rarer situation. It is also much more painful and traumatic. In complicated cases, a dog with a ripped dew claw (and nail bed) may need to have the wound surgically closed.
Do Dew Claws Fall Off?
On its own, a dew claw will not fall off. Dew claws grow continuously and need to be trimmed or cut from time to time. Basically, they follow the same life cycle as all nails and cannot simply fall off.
However, if the nail bed is damaged, it may cause the nail to fall. If you have ever had a heavy object fall on your fingers, you know what we are talking about. The nail will get bruised and eventually detach and fall.
A similar concept is possible in dogs as well. If an injury occurs and the nail gets damaged, the bleeding underneath the nail bed will progress to inflammation and culminate in the nail falling off.
Once the injury heals, a new nail will grow. The process of growing a new nail is lengthy and may take up to several weeks. However, as long as the nail bed is not permanently damaged, the re-growth is bound to happen.
How Long Does It Take for A Dew Claw to Grow Back?
The nail growth pace in dogs depends on several factors, just like in humans. However, the typical time required for a torn dew claw to grow back is between two and three weeks.
Once again, this timeframe can be affected by factors like age, breed, lifestyle, and nutrition. More often than not, the new nail is the same as the old one. However, on rare occasions, it is possible for the new dew claw to grow differently and be distorted.
Will a Dew Claw Heal on Its Own?
Yes, in theory, a dew claw can heal on its own – there is nothing you can do to speed up the nail growing process. However, in practice, a dog with a torn dew claw needs appropriate treatment.
The treatment has two goals. First, manage the pain. As we have already mentioned, a torn or injured dew claw is a painful issue. When it comes to giving your dog pain meds, make sure you talk to the vet first. Many human anti-pain medications are dangerous for pets (they either trigger side effects or are directly toxic). Talk to your trusted veterinarian and get a prescription just to be on the safe side.
The second goal of the treatment is to prevent infections. The nail bed is deep under the skin, and a torn dew claw can is likely to get infected. This is because harmful bacteria are everywhere, and dogs are not particularly careful about where they are stepping. To prevent such infection, the dog will need to be put on antibiotics. Once again, you will need to have a vet prescribe a suitable antibiotic.
Finally, some torn nails may require wound management – cleaning with sterile saline and disinfectants. Once the wound is cleaned, it can be treated with topical antibiotics like creams and powders.
Summing Up: Do Dew Claws Grow Back?
All in all, the answer to this question is tricky. Namely, injured and traumatically torn dew claws grow back. However, surgically removed dew claws do not grow back.
The only situation in which it is possible for a surgically removed dew claw to grow back is if it was not removed adequately. Considering the routine nature of the procedure and its simplicity, this is not a common scenario.
If you have a dog with dew claws, it is advisable to talk to your trusted vet in terms of whether it is recommended to have them removed. The vet will thoroughly explain the pros and cons of the procedure and consider the dog’s individual factors.
Keep in mind that there is no universally accepted approach. Every situation is different, and dogs need an individually tailored management plan. Consult with the vet in order to make an educated decision.