Why Remove a Dog's Dewclaw?

8 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Adopting a New Puppy

In some breeds, dog dewclaws may be removed to give the leg a smoother look. The risk of dewclaw injury also may prompt dewclaw removal. Dewclaws are unnecessary toes on the backs of dogs' legs.

If you purchased a puppy from a reputable breeder, dewclaw removal may have been done when the dog was three to five days old. At this age, the dog doesn't even need to be anesthetized. This procedure is one that some breeders can do themselves, with no apparent ill effect to the puppies, who recover quickly from the amputation.

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While many people think that docking a dog's tail is not really necessary, and many more people think that docking a dog's ears is downright cruel and should be outlawed, there is a valid reason for removing the dewclaw: Dogs routinely suffer dewclaw injury. Dewclaws serve no purpose other than getting in the way — they snag on carpets, they get caught on toys or furniture, and so on. Better to have it removed cleanly than to have your dog accidentally rip a dewclaw off, causing him unnecessary pain and risking infection.

Some breeders don't automatically perform a dewclaw removal, and some dog owners prefer to leave it in place until the dog has a problem and needs to have it removed. Just remember, the procedure is considerably more complicated if you wait until your dog is older, when a veterinarian will have to perform the procedure under anesthesia. It will also require post-operative care and more expense for the dog owner.

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