How to Tell If Dew Claw Is Dislocated

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How to Tell If Dew Claw Is Dislocated

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Being a responsible dog owner means more than simply loving your pup. It is a serious commitment, especially when it comes to ensuring that the needs of your furbaby are met.

Besides providing your dog with food and shelter, you also need to take care of things like grooming and everything that can improve his health and well-being.

A responsible dog parent, for instance, should be able to notice whether his dog have declaws (and whether they are healthy) so that he can take care of them properly.

First Things First, What Are Dew Claws?

Dewclaws are simply short nails on the side of your dog’s foot. They are positioned higher up on the paw and don’t touch the ground. They are like the human thumb though they have a lot less purpose (compared to our thumbs).

Dewclaws were more useful for the ancient dogs but are far less helpful to our modern dogs. It is thought that the ancient dogs needed them to climb trees and hold their prey.

The majority of dog’s dewclaws are located on their front paws through some breeds exhibit dewclaws on their hind feet. There are breeds with double dewclaw (or an extra toe).

Learn more here:

15 Polydactyl Dog Breeds

Small Dog Breeds with Rear Dewclaws

Dew Claw Dislocation

Some people assume that dewclaws are vestigial and serve absolutely no purpose. However, this is not the case as these claws serve certain roles. For instance, when your pup wraps his paws around objects, it is these claws that offer him extra grip.

Besides, when your dog is running, the dewclaws act as a stabilizer. When he makes a sharp turn, for instance, the dewclaws splay out and help him spin. These claws also take off pressure from other dog’s toes during such turns.

So, without the claws, your dog can damage his toes or injure his wrist joints. This is also one of the reasons why the dewclaws sometimes get dislocated.

The claws are not only connected to your pup’s legs with muscles (and sometimes bones) but they are also more loosely attached compared to other nails. This means that they are more likely to get caught on things and get dislocated or torn off. 

How to Tell If Dew Claw Is Dislocated

So, how do you know that your dog’s dewclaw is dislocated?

Well, if the dewclaw looks like it is out of place from your pup’s leg, there are high chances that it is dislocated.

There are also a few signs to watch out for, including:

  • Limping/Reluctance to use One Paw: This is the first sign you are likely to see when your pup’s dew claw is injured or dislocated. If your dog is holding one paw in the air instead of using it to walk, probably something is wrong with it. Check the foot, the nails, and the dewclaw to confirm if it is dislocated, torn off, or injured.
  • Swollen Dew Claw Area or Paw: If your pup’s dewclaw looks swollen or bigger than usual, there are high chances that it is injured or not properly attached to your dog’s leg (dislocated).
  • Continuous Bleeding: Generally, bleeding isn’t a typical symptom of a dislocated dewclaw. However, there are some dog breeds that will bleed if they have dislocated, broken, or cracked nails. So, if you notice any form of bleeding on your dog’s paws, ensure that you inspect his dew claws as well for clues.
  • Biting or Licking the Foot: Licking is believed to be part of a dog’s nature. However, continuous licking of the paws or dewclaws should alert you that something is not right with that part of the leg.

What Should You Do When Your Dog’s Dew Claw Is Dislocated?

When you notice that your dog’s dewclaw is dislocated, the first thing you should think about is how you can reduce the risk of the dewclaw getting infected.

Apply a simple dressing on the affected area to reduce the risks of infections. We recommend using a sterile pad from your doggy first aid kit and a stretchy bandage wrap.

If the dog is persistently licking the dislocated dewclaw, discourage him immediately—if possible, get him to wear a cone. Remember that the mouth harbors a lot of bacteria, which can introduce infections where none existed.

If there is active bleeding, use styptic powder (or flour) to stem the bleeding ASAP. Cover the dewclaw with the powder or flour and gently apply pressure with a clean cloth until the bleeding stops.

But if there is no continuous bleeding, consider putting something like a sock on the dog’s foot so that the dewclaws are not further dislodged and cause recurrent bleeding.  

Finally, call your vet for more professional input. Provided that the dislocated dewclaw is not bleeding and you’ve managed to put something like a sock on the affected foot, your furbaby should be alright until your vet arrives.

CAUTION

Dislocated dew claw could lead to infections and other health issues due to its connection with the bone and/or leg muscles.

So, the sooner you call your vet or implement the above-mentioned suggestions to ease your pup’s discomfort and reduce his risk of the area getting infected, the sooner your canine friend will be back to his old self again.  

Preventing Dew Claw Dislocation and other Mishaps

The best strategy for preventing dew claw dislocations and other mishaps is to keep your pup’s nails short with regular trimming.

Although dewclaws don’t have a lot of functions on the modern dog, they can cause problems if they are not well-trimmed.

Consider keeping your dog’s dew claws trimmed with the rest of his nails, and you will always avert the trouble of dislocated or torn dewclaws.

While trimming your dog’s nails, ensure that you don’t cut the quick (or the blood vessel that runs through the dog’s nail).

We recommend using nail clippers with light as they can help you see the quick fast, especially when you are dealing with black nails.

If it is your first time trimming a dog’s nails, ask your vet or a local professional groomer for more tips on how to do it effectively and safely.

Your dog is most likely to injure his dewclaw when running or walking on hard, uneven surfaces (like gravel, cracked asphalt), carpet, or any other surface where his nails may become caught. If your pup is prone to dewclaw injury, invest in appropriate dog boots to protect his feet.

Should You Remove Dislocated Dew Claw?

The short answer is: it depends with the extent or seriousness of the dislocation.

If it is a minor case—the dog isn’t feeling extreme pain and there are no signs of infection—it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Your vet will perform a number of procedures (including manually replacing the claw  to its original orientation, trimming the claw, cleaning around the area, applying bandage on the affected area, doing cold compresses, etc) to stabilize the affected area, reduce inflammation, and prevent aggravation  of symptoms.

If it is an extreme case of dislocation or if your dog repeatedly dislocates or injures the claw, you can consider removing it permanently. This usually involves surgical amputation of the digit that the dewclaw grows from.

It is also advisable to remove dewclaws in polydactyl breeds to prevent injuries.

However, you should note that removing your dog’s dewclaw means that some of his paw muscles will atrophy considering that they won’t be used anymore. As a result, your dog may be at risk of health conditions like arthritis, especially if they are working or sporty.  

Bottom line: where possible, it is highly recommended to let treat the claw and allow it to heal and re-grow because of its benefits to your canine friend.

Remember that if your dog has a dewclaw, it has a definite purpose. Probably it is there to stabilize your Fido’s wrist joint or offer him extra traction when running.

Some dogs also need their dew claws to climb trees (like Catahoula Leopard) or get out of water when they break through the ice (like Huskies).

Related Post: Do Dew Claws Grow Back?

Conclusion

Hopefully, you can now tell if your dog’s dewclaw is dislocated or injured.

Generally, many cases of dewclaw dislocations are fixable with the right treatment. And maintenance of a dog’s dew claws is always within the skillset of every responsible dog owner.

So, never overlook the seriousness of any form of dew claw injury in your pup nor should you ignore the value or purpose of the claw to your dog.

Finally, if your pup has been treated for dewclaw dislocation or injury, don’t forget to examine his bandages regularly (or as often as your vet recommends) for potential signs of infection.

Take your dog to the vet immediately you notice weird symptoms like bleeding, pus, excessive swelling, etc.

Infections do spread fast, so keeping your pup’s dewclaw injury clean is the best way of ensuring that he gets back to his old healthy self again.

 

 

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Sable M. is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.