Why we no longer remove dewclaws.
By William and Robyn Hannah
Removal of a dewclaw is not necessary. Here is our theory, ( my husband and I). As you can see from the following diagram, the dewclaw is attached to many tendons that help stabilize the carpal ( wrist ) joint. We already know that when a tendon or muscle is not used it will atrophy. This can result in arthritis of the carpal. Here is where our theory comes in to play. As a result of the deterioration of those tendons, it will cause the dog to have to adjust his stance and gate. Even if it is ever so slightly to accommodate the tightening and atrophy of those tendons.
Think about it like you remove your thumb. Once you do that, you will have a tendency to hold your hand different, instead of your first finger aligning with the center of your arm, your middle finger would align with the center of your arm. This would cause a shift in not only how the other muscles have to work to accommodate this change but also in the torque of your wrist, elbow and the shoulder.
This would be the same with the dog. The tightening and atrophy of the tendons holding the carpal stable, would cause a shift in the other muscles trying to compensate for that. Turning the leg and paw slightly inward effecting the gate and stance. We believe it would also effect the roll of the paw when it contacts the ground, just as a person that would walk on the outside of their feet. Fortunately, we do not stand on our hands, if we did we would probably notice that our elbows, wrists and shoulders would strain. We believe this to be true for the canine as well. Altering the way they walk. We believe this can cause issues with patellas, and hip joints as well as the carpal joint. Resulting in hip displasia, and slipped patellas.
On another note, we do know that dogs use the dewclaw for many different things. Helping to corner when running is one. They use the dew to hold bones when chewing on them, like you would a thumb to hold something steady. They use the dew to scratch their noses and face. You will notice this when you see your dogs use the inside of their paw to wipe their eyes and face, however there is usually no dew there to utilize. Also I have seen puppies suck on the inside of their paw where their dew usually is when i used to remove it. Like sucking on a thumb for comfort. There are many uses for the dew that we probably have no understanding about. But it is used by the canine for various things.
The only exception is when the dew has no bone and is attached only by the skin and hangs. Therefore not having tendons attached to it, ( where there is bone there is tendon ). In that case I would say it is ok and important to remove it so that it does not rip off.