Overgrown Dew Claw: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Overgrown Dew Claw

Dew claws are the small toes on the side of a dog’s paws that don’t touch the ground. Most dogs have dew claws on their front legs, and some also have them on their hind legs. While dew claws are not as essential as other toes for walking, they still play a role in a dog’s anatomy and need to be taken care of properly.

One common issue that dog owners may encounter with dew claws is overgrowth. Overgrown dew claws can be uncomfortable for dogs and even lead to infection if left untreated.

Keep an eye on your dog’s dew claws, especially if they have hind dew claws, which are less well-attached and more prone to injury. In this article, we will discuss what causes overgrown dew claws, how to identify them, and what steps you can take to prevent and treat them.

Key Points:

  • Dew claws are the extra claws on a dog’s paw that do not touch the ground and can be found on the inside of the front legs and sometimes on the back legs.
  • Overgrown dew claws can be painful and cause discomfort for a dog, as they can grow into the skin or snag on objects.
  • Dogs with longer or thicker dew claws are more prone to overgrowth, and dew claws on the hind legs are more likely to become overgrown than those on the front legs.
  • To prevent overgrowth, owners should regularly trim their dog’s dew claws or have them trimmed by a professional groomer or veterinarian.
  • If a dew claw becomes overgrown, owners should not attempt to trim it themselves, as this can cause injury or infection.
  • Instead, owners should take their dog to a veterinarian or groomer to have the dew claw trimmed or removed.
  • In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct an overgrown dew claw and prevent further injury or infection.

Understanding Dew Claws

Dew claws are the small toes located on the inside of a dog’s front or back legs. While all dogs are born with front dewclaws, some breeds, such as the Norwegian Lundehund, also have double dewclaws on their rear legs. Rear dewclaws are often less attached and more prone to overgrowth and injury.

Dew claws serve no functional purpose in modern dogs and are considered vestigial structures. However, they can still cause problems if left untrimmed or if they become overgrown. Overgrown dew claws can curl and grow into the dog’s skin, causing pain, infection, and even lameness.

Some breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, have a genetic predisposition to having double dew claws. If you have a breed that is prone to overgrown dew claws, it is important to regularly check them and trim them as needed.

When trimming dew claws, it is important to use the proper tools, such as dog nail clippers or a dog nail grinder. It is also important to be careful not to cut the quick, which is the blood vessel and nerve that runs through the nail. If you are unsure about how to trim your dog’s dew claws, consult with a veterinarian or professional dog groomer.

In summary, while dew claws are vestigial structures with no functional purpose, they can still cause problems if left untrimmed or if they become overgrown. Regularly checking and trimming your dog’s dew claws can help prevent injury and discomfort.

Causes of Overgrown Dew Claws

Overgrown dew claws in dogs occur when the dewclaw, which is the claw located on the inner side of the paw, grows too long and begins to curl under the foot. This can cause the dog pain and discomfort, and can also lead to infection. Here are some of the causes of overgrown dew claws:

Lack of Wear and Tear

Dogs that do not walk or run on hard surfaces regularly may not wear down their dew claws naturally, leading to overgrowth. This is especially true for dogs that spend most of their time indoors or on soft surfaces like grass or carpet.


Some dog breeds are more prone to overgrown dew claws than others due to genetics. Breeds with extra dew claws, like Great Pyrenees or Saint Bernards, are more susceptible to overgrowth.


Injuries to the dew claw can cause overgrowth. For example, if the dew claw is broken or damaged, it may not wear down properly and can become overgrown.


Neglecting to trim your dog’s dew claws regularly can lead to overgrowth. Dew claws should be trimmed every few weeks to prevent them from becoming too long.


As dogs age, their nails may grow more quickly, including their dew claws. This can lead to overgrowth if they are not trimmed regularly.

Symptoms of Overgrown Dew Claws

Overgrown Dew Claw

An overgrown dew claw is a common issue that many dogs face. This can cause discomfort and pain for your furry friend. Here are some of the symptoms to look out for if you suspect that your dog has an overgrown dew claw:

  • Limping: If your dog is limping or favoring one leg, it could be a sign of an overgrown dew claw. This is because the overgrown claw can put pressure on the surrounding tissues and cause pain and discomfort.
  • Redness or swelling: If you notice redness or swelling around the dew claw, it could be a sign of inflammation. Inflammation can occur when the overgrown claw rubs against the skin, causing irritation.
  • Discomfort: Your dog may exhibit signs of discomfort when you touch the affected area. This could include whining, crying, or pulling away.
  • Pain and discomfort: An overgrown dew claw can cause pain and discomfort for your dog. This can make it difficult for them to walk, run, or play.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet can examine the affected paw and determine the best course of treatment. In some cases, the overgrown dew claw may need to be trimmed or removed to alleviate the pain and discomfort.

Common Dew Claw Injuries

Dew claws are the extra toes found on the inside of a dog’s front legs, and sometimes on their hind legs too. While some dogs have them removed at a young age, others still have them intact. Dew claws can be prone to injuries, and it is important to check them regularly for any signs of damage.

The most common dew claw injuries include torn or broken dew claws, overgrown dew claws, and ingrown or infected dew claws. These injuries can cause discomfort and pain for your furry friend and may require medical attention.

Torn or Broken Dew Claws

A torn or broken dew claw can occur when a dog’s dew claw gets caught on something, such as a fence or carpet. This can cause the nail to tear or break, resulting in pain, swelling, and bleeding. In severe cases, the entire dew claw may be torn off.

Overgrown Dew Claws

Overgrown dew claws can cause discomfort for your dog, especially if they are curling or growing into the paw pad. This can lead to infection or ingrown nails, which can be painful and require veterinary attention. Regular trimming of your dog’s dew claws can help prevent overgrowth and associated problems.

Ingrown or Infected Dew Claws

Ingrown dew claws occur when the nail grows into the paw pad, causing pain, swelling, and infection. Infected dew claws can also occur due to trauma or injury. Signs of an infected dew claw include redness, swelling, discharge, and a foul odor. Treatment may include antibiotics, pain medication, and dew claw removal in severe cases.

Infection Risks and Treatment

Overgrown dew claws in dogs can pose a risk of infection if not properly cared for. Infection can occur if the dew claw is torn, broken, or ingrown. Signs of an infected dew claw may include redness, swelling, discharge, and pain.

If you suspect your dog’s dew claw is infected, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to help treat the infection. It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and duration of the antibiotics to ensure the infection is fully treated.

In addition to antibiotics, your veterinarian may recommend other treatment options depending on the severity of the infection. These may include:

  • Cleaning the infected area with an antiseptic solution
  • Applying a topical ointment or cream to the infected area
  • Removing the dew claw if it is severely infected or causing ongoing issues

It is important to note that attempting to treat an infected dew claw at home without veterinary guidance can lead to further complications and potentially worsen the infection. Always seek professional veterinary care for any signs of infection in your dog’s dew claws.

Overall, proper care and maintenance of your dog’s dew claws can help prevent infection and other issues. Regularly checking your dog’s dew claws for overgrowth, tears, or other signs of damage can help catch issues early and prevent them from becoming more severe.

Dew Claw Trimming

Regular nail trimming is an important aspect of dog grooming that is often overlooked. If not trimmed regularly, a dog’s nails can become overgrown, leading to discomfort and even injury. The dew claw, in particular, is prone to overgrowth and can cause pain if not trimmed properly.

When trimming your dog’s dew claw, it is essential to work slowly and carefully. Use sharp nail clippers designed for dogs and avoid cutting the quick, which is the center of nerves and blood vessels in the nail. If the dew claw is dark-colored, the quick may not be visible, so it is best to trim in small increments.

If you accidentally cut the quick, it can be painful for your dog and may cause bleeding. To stop the bleeding, apply styptic powder to the nail bed. It is also a good idea to have some on hand before you begin trimming your dog’s nails.

It is recommended to trim your dog’s nails every 4-6 weeks, but the frequency may vary depending on the breed and activity level of your dog. Regular trimming will help prevent overgrowth and make the process of trimming easier for both you and your dog.

Professional Care for Dew Claws

If you notice that your dog’s dew claws are overgrown, it is important to seek professional care from a veterinarian or groomer. Attempting to trim them yourself can result in injury to your dog, especially if you accidentally cut the quick or the blood vessel that runs through the claw.

A veterinarian or groomer can safely trim your dog’s dew claws using specialized tools and techniques. They can also check for any signs of infection or injury and provide appropriate treatment if necessary.

In some cases, dew claw removal may be recommended by a veterinarian. This is typically done for dogs that have a tendency to snag or tear their dew claws, causing pain and discomfort. Dew claw removal is a surgical procedure that should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

It is important to note that dew claw removal is a controversial topic in the veterinary community. Some veterinarians believe that dew claws serve a purpose and should not be removed unless absolutely necessary, while others believe that removing them can prevent potential injuries and health issues.

If you are considering dew claw removal for your dog, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with a veterinarian and make an informed decision based on your dog’s individual needs and circumstances.

Preventing Overgrown Dew Claws

Preventing overgrown dew claws is essential to keep your dog’s paws healthy. Here are some tips to help you prevent overgrown dew claws:

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance of your dog’s dew claws is crucial to prevent them from becoming overgrown. You should trim your dog’s nails regularly, including the dew claws. If you are not comfortable trimming your dog’s nails, you can take them to a professional groomer or veterinarian.

Limit Running and Digging

Running and digging are natural behaviors for dogs, but they can also cause their dew claws to become overgrown. Limiting your dog’s running and digging can help prevent overgrown dew claws. Instead, take your dog for regular walks to keep them active and healthy.

Use of Toys

Toys can be useful in preventing overgrown dew claws. Chew toys can help your dog naturally file down their nails, including their dew claws. Additionally, toys that require your dog to grip and stabilize can help keep their nails at a healthy length.

Provide Traction

Providing traction for your dog can also help prevent overgrown dew claws. If your dog slips and slides on smooth surfaces, it can cause their nails to become overgrown. Providing traction, such as using rugs or mats, can prevent this from happening.

By following these tips, you can help prevent overgrown dew claws in your dog. Remember, regular maintenance and monitoring of your dog’s paws are essential to keep them healthy and happy.

Pain Management for Dew Claw Issues

Dealing with an overgrown dew claw can be a painful experience for your furry friend. It is important to manage their pain and discomfort to ensure their well-being. Here are some pain management techniques to consider:

Pain Relief Medications

If your dog is experiencing pain from an overgrown dew claw, there are various pain relief medications that you can administer. However, it is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best medication and dosage for your dog. Some common pain relief medications include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These medications can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Opioids: These medications can be used for more severe pain relief but should be used with caution as they can have side effects.


Bandaging the affected paw can also help alleviate pain and discomfort. Wrap the paw with a soft, clean bandage to protect the dew claw and reduce pain caused by movement.

Discomfort Management

In addition to pain relief medications and bandaging, there are other ways to manage your dog’s discomfort. Some methods include:

  • Keeping the affected paw clean and dry to prevent infection.
  • Providing a comfortable and cozy resting area for your dog.
  • Avoiding activities that may aggravate the dew claw.

It is important to monitor your dog’s pain and discomfort levels and make adjustments to their pain management plan accordingly. Remember, always consult with your veterinarian before administering any pain relief medications or making any significant changes to your dog’s pain management plan.

Dog Owner Responsibilities

As a responsible pet parent, it is your duty to ensure that your furry friend’s dew claws are well-maintained. Neglecting the dew claws can lead to several health issues, including overgrowth, irritation, snagging, and even infections. In this section, we will discuss some of the crucial responsibilities that pet parents should undertake to keep their dog’s dew claws healthy.

Regular Inspection

Pet parents should inspect their dog’s dew claws regularly to ensure they are not overgrown or causing any discomfort. Dew claws that are too long can cause pain and discomfort, especially when walking on hard surfaces or climbing trees. Regular inspection can also help detect any signs of infection or injury.


Trimming your dog’s dew claws is an essential part of their grooming routine. Overgrown dew claws can catch on carpets or other surfaces, leading to painful injuries. Pet parents should use the right tools, such as dog nail clippers or grinders, to trim their dog’s dew claws. It is crucial to be cautious during the trimming process to avoid causing injury to your dog.

Rewards and Treats

Dogs can be anxious during grooming sessions, including dew claw trimming. Pet parents can make the process more comfortable by offering rewards and treats. Positive reinforcement can help your dog associate dew claw trimming with a positive experience, making it easier to groom them in the future.

In conclusion, pet parents play a crucial role in maintaining their dog’s dew claws’ health. Regular inspection, trimming, and positive reinforcement can ensure that your furry friend’s dew claws remain healthy and free from infections or injuries.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you properly trim a dog’s dew claw?

To properly trim a dog’s dew claw, you should use a sharp pair of dog nail clippers or a dog nail grinder. It is important to avoid cutting too close to the quick, which is the sensitive part of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves. If you are unsure how to do it, seek advice from a veterinarian or a professional dog groomer.

How can you tell if a dog’s dew claw is overgrown?

You can tell if a dog’s dew claw is overgrown if it appears longer than the other nails and starts to curl or grow into the paw pad. You may also notice your dog licking or biting at the dew claw, or limping or favoring the affected paw.

What are the risks of leaving an overgrown dew claw untreated?

Leaving an overgrown dew claw untreated can lead to pain, discomfort, and infection for your dog. The overgrown nail can also become caught on objects, causing further injury or tearing. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove the dew claw.

Can an overgrown dew claw cause pain or discomfort for a dog?

Yes, an overgrown dew claw can cause pain or discomfort for a dog. If left untreated, the nail can grow into the paw pad, causing infection and discomfort. It can also affect the dog’s gait and cause limping or favoring of the affected paw.

Are there any home remedies for treating an overgrown dew claw?

There are no recommended home remedies for treating an overgrown dew claw. It is best to seek advice from a veterinarian or professional dog groomer to ensure proper treatment.

What is the best way to prevent dew claw overgrowth in dogs?

The best way to prevent dew claw overgrowth in dogs is to regularly trim their nails and check for signs of overgrowth. You should also ensure your dog has a healthy diet and regular exercise to promote overall nail health.