Question from Sharon Barrett

I have a yorkie she has problems with her front dew claws they seem to split so she is constantly licking her paw is there anything I van do to ease her discomfort please? Thank you, her brother also has the same problem they will be 5yrs in April… Thank you.x

Answer from Shanika Online Vet

Hi Sharon, thank you for your question about your dog’s dew claws. In order to ease your dog’s discomfort caused by the splitting dew claws it is important to understand what dew claws are and why they are splitting.

What is a dew claw?

The dew claws are small toes in the position in which we have our thumbs, they are considered to be a ‘vestigial digit’ in the dog. Vestigial refers to the fact that dew claws are usually much smaller than the other toes and now serve very little function, some people do however see their pets using their dew claws to help grip objects. Dew claws can be found on both front and back legs but are more common on the front legs. Not all dogs have dew claws and some may have had them removed when very young.

Why is the dew claw splitting?

A claw or nail is formed by the tissue in the nail bed, any damage or disease of the nail bed itself can lead to a weak claw which is prone to splitting. Diseases that can affect the nail bed include bacterial or fungal infections and traumatic damage.

Overgrown claws and or weak claws are much more prone to catching on things, cracking and splitting. The nail bed is a very sensitive structure with a good blood supply, so damaged claws can cause a great deal of discomfort to your pet and may bleed.

How can I ease my dog’s discomfort?

Vetster option 01 (Blog)

Firstly by ensuring the dew claws are kept correctly trimmed, there will be less chance of the claw catching on things when the dog walks or plays and therefore less chance of splitting.  As with the rest of a dogs nails the dew claw has a small blood vessel running through it from the nail bed, this is often referred to as the ‘quick’, care must be taken to trim the nail using a pet nail trimmer and leaving a few millimetres of nail after the blood vessel. If the blood vessel is accidentally cut into then firm pressure should be applied plus or minus a cauterising agent (this is a substance that helps to stop the bleeding). If in any doubt then ask your vet or veterinary nurse to trim your dog’s claws for you.

Can my dog’s diet affect its nails?

A good balanced complete dog food should contain all the essential nutrients your dog need to maintain a healthy body, however it is though that the B vitamin Biotin may help hair and nail growth. B vitamins are water soluble and supplementation under the direction of your vet is worth considering.

Should I consider dew claw removal?

Any surgical procedure should only be undertaken after careful consideration and discussion with your vet. Once a dog is adult then the dew claws have a very good nerve and blood supply and therefore removal is a very similar process to amputating any other toe. Toe amputation requires general anaesthesia, post -operative wound care (dressings) and pain relief.

We usually advise dew claw removal if there are repeated incidents of dew claw damage and or infections that are causing pain and suffering to your pet.

In conclusion the best long term solution for your dogs might be to have their dew claws removed but this decision should be made between you and your vet taking into consideration your pets circumstances. I hope that this answer has been helpful to you.

Shanika Winters MRCVS