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Golden Retriever Dew Claw Facts

Golden Retriever Dew Claw Facts

Whether you call it a Golden Retriever dew claw or dewclaw, it’s the same thing. The dewclaw is a vestigial dog digit; essentially the canine equivalent of a human big toe or thumb. Most dogs and cats (and many other mammals) have dewclaws inside the front legs and sometimes even on the hind ones.

Golden Retrievers only have dewclaws on their front legs, but you can find them on all four limbs of many other dog breeds. Sometimes, like in breeds like the Great Pyrenees, double dewclaws are evident – known as polydactyly.


What Are Dewclaws?

A dog’s dewclaws are positioned higher up on the leg than its other toes, so that they don’t touch the ground when the animal is standing. It is widely believed that the dewclaw was used as an aide for gripping and climbing during the evolutionary period of many mammals. Nowadays, it’s well-known that dewclaws still serve some important purposes.

Front dewclaws stabilize the carpal ligaments on your Golden Retriever’s legs when it is running. This provides extra balance and grip, without which these ligaments could stretch or tear. This could result in arthritis or laxity in later life.

Dewclaws stabilize the legs of Golden Retrievers by digging into the ground or other surface when they’re turning while running. They also help to propel the dogs out of mud or water. Not to mention, without its dewclaws, your pooch would have a lot more trouble holding a bone or chew toy in position!


Why Are They Called Dewclaws?

There are a few reasons attributed to the naming of dewclaws. One school of thought says that when dogs worked in the fields in the morning, dew gathered on these claws from the tips of the grass. This dew would then drip from the claws after they left the fields, as the claws didn’t touch the ground.

Other options for the origins of the name include the fact that these claws don’t touch the ground and are always clean because of the dew in the mornings.

Yet another theory suggests that the extra digits were considered the paw’s dewdrops, as they are positioned above the paw, just as dew settles above the ground on grass and leaves.


Should You Remove Golden Retrievers’ Dewclaws?

If your Golden Retriever is an active dog that chases balls, sticks or Frisbees, its dewclaws play a vital part in its everyday life.

Some Golden Retrievers are keen participants in agility sports. Sports like these make the dewclaws even more necessary. A dog’s dewclaws assist with making tight turns and landing properly after jumps. Clearly, this would improve your Golden Retriever’s scores in agility games or competitions.

Even if your Golden Retriever isn’t the most active, removing its dewclaws places your pooch at risk of developing carpal hyperextension injuries and arthritis. Carpal hyperextension can cause joint instability, swelling, and limping.

This condition might mean your Golden Retriever has to undergo surgery to fuse its carpus. A steel plate would be fitted into your beloved pet’s forelimb to secure its wrist joint. This is not a pleasant or economical surgical procedure and would mean about three months of rehabilitation for your Golden.

It’s better not to even consider removing your Golden Retriever’s dewclaws. They serve an extremely important function in canines and dewclaw removal is now considered a highly controversial practice. Think about the procedure in the same way as you would cutting off your dog’s ears or tail, or even removing a human thumb!

Unless there’s a necessary medical reason, and your veterinarian suggests it, you’re essentially handicapping your faithful companion by removing their dewclaws.


Why Do Some Pet Owners Remove Their Dog’s Dewclaws?

If pet owners decide to remove their dog’s dewclaws, it normally happens when they’re very young puppies. Others are left with no option, as the dog has caught one of its dewclaws on something, resulting in a serious injury. Then there are those who choose to remove them to prevent such an injury.

You’ll find that the dewclaws of working and service animals like police dogs, rescue dogs, and hunting dogs are often removed. These dogs are often found in locations where their dewclaws could be snagged on fences or caught in bushy or wiry undergrowth.

In these instances, if a dog’s dewclaw is caught while a dog is moving at full speed, it could cause severe injury to its paw, at the very least. There have also been cases where dogs have ended up with serious muscular injuries and even broken bones due to hooked dewclaws.

Double dewclaws are occasionally removed by veterinarians, as they’re sometimes not well-attached. Rear dewclaws on dog breeds that have them are the most commonly removed to reduce the chances of the dog’s feet being injured.

Even then, you would have to be extremely worried about injuries to consider having dewclaws removed, as they serve a very important function. If you have noticed constant problems and dewclaw injuries to your Golden Retriever, it’s best to have them removed when you spay or neuter your dog. This will save on anesthesia costs and reduce the chance of recurring trauma.


How To Reduce The Chance Of A Dewclaw Injury

The chance of dewclaw injuries in Golden Retrievers is viewed as slim, as they only have dewclaws on their front paws. Injuries to back dewclaws are more common and often more serious. Front ones can still happen though, especially in active dogs participating in agility sports or doing lots of running.

Dewclaws are parts of Golden Retriever’s paws and have nails, just like the other claws. Hooking these can cause them to be partially or completely detached, or the nails could split, break, or become infected. If you keep the nails properly trimmed you’ll reduce the chance of injury.

It goes without saying that Golden Retrievers experience intense pain when their dewclaws are broken and infected. In this scenario, we recommend an immediate trip to the vet! Vets know exactly how to treat a dewclaw injury, using sedatives and prescribing painkillers and/or antibiotics as necessary.

If it’s infected, you should never attempt to remove or trim your Golden Retriever’s dewclaw on your own.

Since we advise against having your Golden Retriever’s dewclaws removed, it makes sense to cut down the risks of getting your dog’s feet injured. The best ways to do this are as follows:

Keep your Golden Retriever’s nails short

Keeping nails short on Golden Retrievers will definitely lessen the risk of injury to their dewclaws. Like all dog breeds, all Golden Retriever’s nails should be kept trimmed, but special attention should be paid to their dewclaws. As they don’t normally touch the ground, dewclaws are not worn down in the same way the nails on the other claws are.

Due to this, the risk of ingrown and damaged nails is much higher with dewclaws. Leaving them untrimmed for too long can result in infections and, potentially, a serious injury. We’ve already mentioned how long dew claws could catch onto foreign objects and cause injury and infection, so maintaining the dewclaw length on Golden Retrievers is imperative.

Be aware of how to monitor dewclaws on Golden Retrievers

Educating yourself on the dewclaws of Golden Retrievers will go some way to your understanding and ability to monitor the condition of your dog. Golden Retriever breeders are encouraged to educate new dog owners on how to care for their new pet’s dewclaws. This will mean you’ll be able to monitor your Golden’s dewclaws properly from the word go.

Don’t remove dewclaws from your Golden Retrievers at home

We’ve touched on the importance of leaving dewclaw removal to the professionals, but it’s important enough to mention again! It’s not an easy task to take out a dewclaw, and removing these from Golden Retrievers without the proper training and expertise can cause infection and extreme pain to your dog.

Even if you notice the dewclaw is not firmly attached, go directly to your family vet and don’t attempt a DIY job. Let the professional deal with the problem in a way least likely to adversely affect your pet.


What To Do For Golden Retrievers That Don’t Have Dewclaws

You may own or know of Golden Retrievers without front dewclaws. In these cases, it’s important to know what exercises are appropriate to condition Golden Retrievers without harming them.

We’ve highlighted the reasons why Golden Retrievers should keep their dewclaws. In this way, you’ll be aware of how to strengthen those muscles that will suffer without them. The following exercises can maintain the condition of your dog’s scapular shoulder muscles if they’re missing their dewclaws:

Side-stepping exercises

Side-stepping exercises will not only improve your Golden Retriever’s shoulder muscles but also its coordination, balance, and flexibility.

  • Lateral movement: Guide your dog around you in a circular motion, encouraging it to step left and right at regular intervals.
  • Weaving through poles: Position some poles and guide your dog to weave in between them while following you.
  • Jumping a hoop: Use a hula hoop and call your Golden Retriever through it, trying to keep its body facing forward and straight.

Strong turning exercises

Besides conditioning the scapula muscles, these exercises will also help Golden Retrievers (or any other dogs) to respond to commands. They will also assist with their agility and coordination.

  • Tight turning: Encourage your pooch to follow you in a straight line. Then quickly change your direction, forcing them to turn and follow in the new one.
  • Reversing: Call your dog to you, then move quickly past it, causing it to turn and follow you in the opposite direction.
  • Quick stopping: Lead your Golden Retriever in a straight path before stopping suddenly and commanding it to lie down or sit.
  • Spiraling: Encourage your Golden to follow you in a small circular spiral – but don’t carry on too long that you or your pooch gets dizzy!

Weight-shifting exercises

Weight-shifting exercises improve Golden Retrievers’ stability and balance. They also help to strengthen their shoulder scapulas.

  • Raising a paw: Ask your Golden Retriever to stand on one paw, and then teach it to raise the other. Every time you do, encourage it to hold the position for a couple of seconds. This will take some practice and a couple of dog biscuits (or a couple of packets).
  • Walking over obstacles: Devise a set of obstacles, like balance beams or benches, and encourage your pooch to step or walk over them. These exercises help Golden Retrievers shift their weight better than most others.
  • Pull the rope: In a similar manner to tug of war, pull a rope or a piece of cloth against your dog. The harder Golden Retrievers pull against you, the more weight-shifting and strengthening of their shoulders they’ll be doing.

Make these exercises easy for the Golden Retrievers initially, and increase their difficulty as your dog gets used to the tasks. These exercises are valuable, not only for Golden Retrievers without dewclaws but for other dog breeds as well.

Always keep a pocket of treats and reward your best friend with praise and yummy tidbits when they complete an exercise successfully!


Do Golden Retrievers Have Double Dewclaws?

Golden Retrievers don’t have double dewclaws, and nor do they have rear dewclaws. The most well-known dog breed with double dewclaws is the Great Pyrenees. There are also others, including the Beauceron, the Briard, and the Icelandic Sheepdog.

The majority of dogs with four dewclaws are large dog breeds. Apart from those mentioned above, the Saint Bernard, and various breeds of sheep and mountain dogs typically have these claws on all feet. Golden Retrievers only have front dewclaws.

You can visit our homepage for more information on all kinds of dogs, whether you’re looking for health advice or tips to keep your pup occupied.


What Are The Costs Of Surgically Removing Dewclaws?

The cost will vary depending on your veterinarian. These are the common services you’ll likely be charged for if your dog requires surgery:

  • Local anesthesia for puppies
  • General anesthesia for older dogs
  • Surgical fee
  • Bandaging fee
  • Potential antibiotic and painkiller costs
  • Further fees for any unpredicted complications

The surgical fee charged will depend on the procedure performed. It will be cheaper if there’s only a small cut required to remove a tight piece of the nail. Should the dewclaw include a joint that needs to be disconnected from the dog’s leg, you’re looking at a larger bill. Having to treat any prior infection could delay any surgery until the infection has gone.


Can A Dewclaw Injury Be Treated At Home?

When a Golden Retriever’s dewclaw gets broken or torn, it could expose a part of the nail called the quick. This is where the nerves and blood supply of the nail are housed, so besides bleeding quite a lot, it can be extremely painful for the dog. Due to nerve exposure, even a change of temperature can cause your pooch agony!

You could put a bandage around the wound to curb the bleeding temporarily. Still, you’re really not going to be able to get by without professional veterinary help for any length of time. Once the vet has treated your Golden’s injury, it’s likely they’ll fit a pet collar (also known as a cone of shame). That way, your pet won’t disturb the bandage and lick the dewclaw, causing infection.

Golden Retrievers often need painkillers and antibiotics for these types of injuries. You can temporarily treat the wound as best you can, but it’s best to err on the side of caution. Golden Retrievers are good dogs, and even if they’re not kicking up a fuss, they’ll be in pain, so get your best friend to the vet as soon as you can!



Are Golden Retriever dew claws prone to injury?

While dewclaw injuries are not common in Golden Retrievers, they can still occur. Dewclaws that are not properly attached or are excessively long can be more prone to injury, especially if the dog is very active or participates in sports like agility. It is important to monitor your dog’s dewclaws and seek veterinary attention if you notice any signs of injury or discomfort.

Do all dogs have dewclaws?

No, some breeds do not typically have dewclaws (although individuals in the breed may have them). These dog breeds are:

  • Australian Shepherd
  • Boxer
  • English Bulldog
  • Greyhound
  • Newfoundland
  • Schnauzer
  • Shih Tzu
  • Weimaraner


Final Thoughts

Golden Retrievers have dewclaws like most other dog breeds, and these dewclaws are there for a very good reason. Unless there’s a medical reason for them to be removed, you’ll be doing your Golden a disservice by doing so.

An active Golden Retriever’s dewclaws are important to help them run and jump – and ultimately keep them healthy and mobile. To look at things from a different perspective, we wouldn’t cut off our own big toes!

Would you?