How to Cut a Dog's Dew Claw

By Max. D Gray. Updated: July 20, 2017
How to Cut a Dog's Dew Claw

Many people like going for a manicure and/or pedicure. You can sit down, chat away with friends and enjoy being beautified by a professional. Unfortunately, not all dogs have the same approach to having their claws clipped. It can be a little stressful, the dogs not always appreciating how removing part of their anatomy is helpful. Because of this, you may question whether or not cutting the dew claw (or dewclaw) is necessary. If it's something better left alone, then maybe saving a little bit of grievance is a good idea. This is why oneHOWTO not only shows you how to cut a dog's dewclaw, but we'll help you decide the best course of action for your beloved pooch.

You'll need:
  • Special clippers or scissors to clip the dog's paws
  • Astringent dust
  • Clean bandages
Steps to follow:

What is a dewclaw?

The declaw is a digit on the side of a dog's paw which is disconnected from the others. It often hangs at the side limply and can bounce a little as the dog walks. If you are looking at your dog and wondering what we're talking about, you should know not all dogs have dew claws. They are thought to be a vestigial digit which means they are a leftover from a previous stage of evolution.

Dew claws are more common on the front paws than the back, but this many have them on both. Some may even have two dew claws on the one paw, making them double dewclawed. With breeding and cross breeding, different dewclaws act in different ways. Some will touch the ground as they walk, others will dangle in the air like keys from a belt.

You can tell how useful the dewclaw might be by how it behaves when you touch it. If it dangles limply, it is likely it has little tendon or bone attachment. However, many do. The Great Pyrenees in particular has the dewclaw attached to the bone. This can be used to grip bones when chewing or provide torsion control when running.


Should the dew claw be removed?

This is when this question gets a little complicated. If the dewclaw is removed in the Great Pyrenees, then it can cause permanent damage. In this case, absolutely not.

Yet many dogs do get their dewclaws declawed, usually only a couple of days after birth. The argument for dew claw removal is that, as they are vulnerable dangling at the side of the paw, they might get caught and tear. This can lead to infection and/or be quite traumatic for the dog. As a preventative measure, it makes a certain amount of sense.

However, there is a lot of argument stating that even if it looks useless, the dew claw might still serve a purpose. It also might be completely unnecessary. If a dog doesn't have their dew claws removed, most will live a full life without it ever bothering them. If something where to happen to it, vets have the right skills and treatment to heal it pretty quickly.

One favorite pastime is for dogs to give themselves a good scratch. Some believe the dew claw can help dogs get to those hard to reach places, like behind the ear. If that's the case, letting your dog keep it might mean it improves overall comfort levels.

How to Cut a Dog's Dew Claw - Step 2

Why cut the dew claw?

The answer to this question is the same answer to why cut any of a dog's claws? If they get too long they can scratch themselves with it, they can cause injury to their human friends (even unintentionally) and can cause property damage also. You can often tell when a dog wants to get their nails cut. They might scratch excessively or jump on you more than usual.

Not all dogs do need their nails trimmed or cut. This has to do with both breed and activity. If a dog runs often on hard surfaces or is inclined to scratch a lot, their nails will naturally be worn down. However, not all dogs (especially house pets) will do this and their nails grow unabated.

This is especially the case with dewclaws. As dew claws don't always touch the ground, even dogs who run on hard surfaces might not wear them down enough. Trimming the nails on the dewclaws will also reduce the risk of them getting caught on something. This can prevent both a painful experience for the dog and pricey veterinary bills.

How to Cut a Dog's Dew Claw - Step 3

How to trim dew claw nails

To start, you need to get your dog into position. Especially with larger or older dogs, the best way is to lay the dog on its side. Before you even bring out the nail clippers, play with the dog a little to make sure they are relaxed (not excited). Many dogs will have no problem getting their nails clipped. If your dog is a little nervous, they might need a little more reassurance to remain calm. It's best to get them used to it when they are young, so start clipping when you see their nails grow.

Other dogs may sit fine on your lap (especially lap dogs). Some bigger or more agitated dogs might need to be restrained and keeping them on their side is a good way to do this. You can rest your arm over their body, keeping them in a reassuring embrace while still under control.

Once your dog is comfortable, you can take out your clippers. It's a good idea to have them hidden but close by. There are two main types of nail trimmers for dog claws. The standard scissor type (which work a little like pruning shears) or the guillotine type. The guillotine type is recommended by many vets for smaller dogs with thinner nails.

To trim the dewclaw, hold the dogs paw between your thumb and forefinger. You will need to take a look at the nail itself, ideally with some light behind it. The color of a dog's nail depends on the fur and skin color around it. Darker nails are harder to cut because you need to find the "quick". This is the part of the nail which is still attached to the flesh. It contains blood vessels. If you cut it on the quick, the dog will likely bleed and it can cause serious pain.

How to Cut a Dog's Dew Claw - Step 4

Once the quick has been found (easier on lighter colored nails), then place the guillotine clippers over the dew claw about 2 mm away from the quick. For this type of clipper you only need to squeeze the handles and it will snap off. With the scissors clipper, you will have a similar motion, but you will come at it from the side.

If you do cut it too close to the quick, use an astringent powder and wrap the dew claw to cut off the haemorrhage. If you see the bleeding does not slow down immediately you should contact a veterinarian. They will be able to advise and can provide treatment. They will also be able to wash the area and prevent infection.

If there was no problem while cutting your dog's dew claws, then you should be golden. You can buff them a little with an Emory board, especially if the clip looks a little jagged. In most cases this won't be necessary as the dog will smooth them down naturally when running.

This is perhaps the most important thing to do with your dog after you have clipped its dewclaws - show them some love. Have a treat at the ready to reward them for letting you do the procedure. Play and tussle with them and take them out for some exercise to get used to their newly trimmed nails.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Cut a Dog's Dew Claw, we recommend you visit our Pets category.

  • It is important to clip your dog's dew claws, as they may cause your dog painful overgrowth due to the fact this nail isn't in contact with the floor like the rest of its nails.
  • It is also a good idea as some dew claws let to grow may ingrow and hurt your dog's dew claw pad.

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My yellow lab/St Bernard cross dew clew nail has grown into the pad can I just cut it off and remove it
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