Do Labs Have Dewclaws? Keep or Remove? Here’s What You Should Know

We all have one thing in mind when it comes to our pets, their health and well-being. When we tend to notice anything out of place, we can’t help but worry a little bit.

Years ago, I didn’t know what a dewclaw is, and I remember that I panicked when I held my pup’s hand and noticed something that caught my attention.

After a lot of research and vets consultations, I found out that dewclaws are not essentially harmful as long as they don’t get infected or caught up in anything.

So, Do labs have dewclaws? Labradors have dewclaws on their front legs and rarely back legs too. Front dewclaws provide additional traction and aid in the stabilization of the wrist joint. Some dogs use their dewclaws to help them climb trees or hold objects to better chew on, whereas back dewclaws serve no purpose.

What is the purpose of dewclaws? Why do labs develop them and should they be removed or not? I know all of these questions cross your mind. Keep on reading to know more about them.

Do Labradors have dewclaws?

dog dew claws to show do labs have dew claws

Labradors and most dog breeds tend to have dewclaws on their front legs, and on rare occasions on the rare legs too, it is similar to a thumb with a nail that is a bit above the paw.

Typically, a dewclaw that is bone-attached to a labrador’s front legs serves a specific function.

As we know, labs are energetic and will keep running around all day every day; When dogs run, their front feet regularly bend to the point that their dewclaws contact the ground. These dewclaws give more grip and assist maintain the wrist joint at high speeds (particularly while turning) or on slick surfaces. The function of dewclaws that are merely connected only by the skin is vaguer.

The dewclaw also helps dogs in gripping onto something or climbing surfaces. Did you know that Golden Retrievers also have them? I discuss this in much more depth in my post on why do goldens have dewclaws here, so check it out if you have a golden or are thinking of getting one someday.

What are dewclaws? 

A dewclaw is comparable to thumbs and big toes. Of course, they are not precisely identical to human structures, but they are found on the feet of numerous animals, including dogs, birds, and reptiles. 

Dew Claws are thumb-like projecting organs that often develop higher on the paw than the rest of the toes, such that when the dog stands, it does not make contact with the ground.

Dewclaws aid dogs in activities like climbing, supporting the wrist joint while running and leaping, and climbing.

Dogs have dewclaws nearly always on their forelegs inside and sometimes on their back legs also. Unlike front dewclaws, most breeds’ rear dewclaws have minimal bone or muscle tissue. 

Certain breeds will have more than one dewclaw on the same paw, which is typical but not physiologically essential. 

At least one of the dewclaws will be loosely attached to the leg and will need to be surgically removed.

What do dew claws do? 

During a dig’s leaping or taking tight turns while running, the dewclaw touches the ground to support the wrist joint and provide support, the dewclaw claws into the ground to support the limb components and prevent torsion.

Some dogs utilize their dewclaws to assist them to climb trees and get out of the water, or to grip objects while chewing.

Not only that, but dewclaws have a fundamental function when it comes to the prevention of disease, with dogs that don’t have dewclaws, the wrists’ muscles are more likely to strain and rupture, resulting in laxity and arthritis over time. This might cause additional tension to be created in the dog’s carpus, elbow, shoulder, and spine as it tries to compensate for the missing support.

Why do labs have dewclaws? 

Labs have dewclaws, especially on their front paws, for a specific reason. The front declaw s normally attached by a bone or a muscle tissue, this provides an extra suppose for the dog’s wrist joint, especially while they are running around energetically.

It is rare for a labrador to have dewclaws in their back legs, but when they do, rear dewclaws are not attached by a bone or a muscle tissue and their function is not so prominent. 

The risks of dewclaws (and why some breeders remove them) 

Typically, Dewclaws doesn’t pose a severe risk, but there are some painful injuries that could occur.

  1. The Dewclaw could tear in playtime

The main risk of dewclaws is that whenever your dog is running around vigorously, jumping from one spot to another, it is possible that the dewclaw may get caught into something and tear. This will cause a lot of pain and a huge injury to your dog; this especially applies to the rear dewclaws as they tend to be not connected to the skin with a bone or a muscle tissue, making it easier to get torn.

  1. Ingrown Dewclaw nails

Since dog nails mostly get naturally filed by the friction of walking and running, there is no risk of an ingrown nail, yet this doesn’t apply to the dewclaw as it doesn’t touch the ground making the nail growing from it sharper and your dog more likely to have ingrown dewclaw nail.

  1. Scratching 

As I have told you, dewclaw nails don’t get blunt and filed as they rarely touch the ground while the dog is moving; and if you forget or neglect to cut and file the dewclaw nail, this not only puts your dog at risk of an ingrown nail but puts you, other dogs, children, and other people also at risk of being scratched by accident with the sharp dewclaw nail.

Should you remove your labrador’s dew claws? 

You should not remove your labrador’s dewclaws without a clear and concise medical reason to do so as dewclaws serve an important function for your dog, and removing them unnecessarily will do more harm than good.

There are some situations in which removing the dewclaws will be necessary, but you should not worry about it too much. To explain it further, let us break it down into two parts, firstly, due to the importance of frontal dewclaws, they should only be removed if there is a severe reason. 

To avoid harm, vets are more likely to remove weakly connected double or rear dewclaws.

Because front dewclaws perform a vital function, they should not be removed unless there is a very strong reason to do so, such as a serious injury or the development of an illness or a malignant growth; removal under those conditions would undoubtedly be in the dog’s best interests.

However, these issues happen so seldom so if frontal dewclaws are healthy, there is no reason to remove them, not only that but I actually advise you against it. 

As for rear declaws, since they serve no purpose for your dog, removing them with surgery would be okay, but make sure you get it done by a professional, and not try to do it at home by yourself.

How to maintain your lab’s dewclaws? 

  • Trim dewclaw nails

Dewclaw trimming and maintenance should be part of your Labrador’s regular grooming regimen.

Because dew claws do not touch the ground and so do not become filed, you must routinely cut your dog’s nails with a decent nail clipper.

Because dewclaws are located a bit higher on the dog’s leg, they will not wear naturally, thus these dewclaws must be clipped.

  • Check for injuries

You also need to make sure you regularly check for any infections or cuts that may happen if the dewclaw gets pulled while the dog’s playing. The dewclaw is prone to cracking, fracturing, and ripping, therefore it is critical to inspect it on a regular basis to ensure that it is healthy and not causing pain to your dog. Examine the claw every week or so to check if there is any chipping, peeling, expanded cracks, or other signs of an injured dewclaw.

When to remove Labrador puppies’ dew claws? 

If you opt to remove your puppy’s dewclaw, you must select whether to remove simply the rear dewclaw or both the rear and front dewclaws.

If you decide to have this operation done, keep in mind that it should be done while the puppy is under 5 days old and only after the region has been numbed with an anesthetic.

Normally, I Wouldn’t recommend removing dewclaws if there is no reason to, instead, you should make sure to maintain it, trim the nail and regularly check for any injuries or cuts that may cause an infection.

Do you need to trim a dewclaw?

Normally, nails are always in contact with the ground while the dog is walking or running, this files them down leaving no sharp edges and making trimming them less frequent.

This doesn’t apply to dewclaw nails as they rarely touch the ground as they tend to grow a bit higher than other nails. That is why they need constant trimming to avoid ingrown nails, scratching, or getting pulled while the dog is engaged in any physical activity.

This process should take place every 3-4 weeks as overgrown nails are painful.

Related Questions 

Is removing dewclaws cruel? 

Yes, removing a dewclaw is cruel if done for cosmetic or appearance-related reasons. Removing dewclaws is only beneficial if it’s for health reasons like having a cancerous tumor or infection; you should remove dewclaws for any other reason before the puppy is 5 days old with an anesthetic.

Are dew claws rare? 

No, Dewclaws are not rare, most dog breeds are born with front dewclaws; rare dewclaws may be rarer and less functional yet in some breeds, they are as common. Front dewclaws can help dogs in climbing, holding on to things, and supporting the wrist joint while jumping.

How late can you remove dewclaws? 

you can remove dewclaws when your puppy is still a newborn between 3 and 5 days old. If you don’t do it at that time, then it is recommended to wait until the pet is at least 12 weeks old. Often, the dewclaws removing procedure takes place while the dog is undergoing spaying or neutering.

How many toes do labs have? 

Labs have 16 toes, 4 on each paw. If a dog has more than 4 toes at one paw, the fifth is called a dewclaw, declaws are small thumb-like appendages that grow higher on the paw than the rest of the toes and rarely touch the ground. They aid dogs in climbing, holding things, and supporting the wrist joint.

Can dew claws hurt dogs? 

Dewclaws don’t hurt dogs except in the cases of being caught in something and snagged or torn while the dog moves or an ingrown dewclaw nail, overgrown nails that may scratch, or in some rare cases developing a cancerous tumor.

Helpful Resources 

Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws?

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources

If you liked the article, you can share it using the share and pin buttons at the end of the post. I’ll really appreciate it ♥️♥️


Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting and being part of our vibrant community.

Recent Posts