Indiana is a very handsome, sweet, 18 month old Bernese Cross who first came to visit us several weeks ago. Indiana was seen for a torn dew claw; he had caught his hind dew claw on something that broke the nail and caused trauma to the surrounding area resulting in a very sore, red swollen digit. Dr. Sofronia cleaned the area; clipped away some of the broken nail to prevent it from catching and further tearing, and applied some cream to keep the area free from infection.


Dr. Sofronia examines Indiana’s torn dewclaw.


An up close image of the torn dew claw and the inflamed area surrounding it.

Two days later Indiana came back for his neuter as well as to have his two hind dew claws removed.

What exactly are dew claws?

A dew claw is a digit, found higher up on the inside of the paw, often described as the “thumb.” Not all dogs have dew claws; however they are most commonly on the front paws, less commonly on the hind paws. Some dogs have dew claws on all four paws. Dew claws rarely touch the ground; however they are used to grip onto an item when held between the paws.

Is dew claw removal necessary?

Not all dew claws cause problems; many dogs will live their entire lives without ever having any issues with their dew claws. However, depending on the placement of the digit and how attached they are, some have risk of catching and tearing just as in Indiana’s case. To prevent such injuries, dew claws are sometimes removed when a puppy is very young, in the first few days of life. The procedure at this age is very quick, does not require full anesthetic, and heals very quickly.

If dew claws are not removed when the puppy is very young, then surgery under general anesthetic is required to remove the digits, often performed during a spay or neuter.

Indiana recovered well from his surgery; bandages were placed on his hind paws to protect the incision site. Over the next couple of weeks Indiana required multiple bandage changes to keep the area clean, dry and protected from infection.

Now, fully healed and bandage free, Indiana is happy and will no longer have to worry about catching or tearing his dew claws!

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