One minute your dog is running and playing, and the next, they’re holding up a blood-tinged paw. It’s a heart-stopping moment. What happened? It’s possible that your dog has broken or torn their dewclaw. If this visibly alarming sign presents itself, it’s crucial to bring your furry friend to the nearest UrgentVet location. They will provide the necessary treatment to stop the bleeding and ease your dog’s pain.
Dewclaws in dogs explained
Dewclaws are the innermost digits on your dog’s forelimbs and sometimes hind limbs. While the forelimb dewclaws are attached by bone and ligament, forming a true digit similar to the other four toes, hind limb dewclaws are typically considered vestigial digits. They are only attached to the foot by skin. Although these digits don’t directly contact the ground when your dog stands or walks, they support natural movement when your dog runs and extends their carpus.
Dewclaw injuries in dogs
Due to their location and inconsistent ground contact, dewclaws are prone to nail overgrowth and injury. During rough play or physical activity, these long, sometimes misshapen nails may be snagged, pulled, or broken.
A dewclaw injury is more severe than a hangnail. Due to their tissue attachment and blood supply, veterinary treatment is required to reduce pain and prevent infection. In some cases, the entire toe may be broken or dislocated, necessitating a more extensive treatment plan or total toe removal.
Dewclaw injury signs in dogs
Dewclaw injuries can manifest in various ways. Some signs are more subtle than others. Look out for:
- Bleeding toenail
- Swollen or misshapen digit
- Cracked nail
- Frequent licking or chewing on or around the dewclaw
- Persistent infections that don’t improve with treatment
What to do if your dog has torn their dewclaw
While a dewclaw injury isn’t necessarily an emergency, timely care is essential. If your dog’s dewclaw has been injured or torn during your primary veterinarian’s open hours, contact them. However, if the injury occurs after their closing time or on the weekend, head to the nearest UrgentVet location for convenient and compassionate care.
If your dog’s dewclaw is bleeding, gently wrap their limb with a gauze pad and flexible bandage wrap. Avoid tightening the bandage as it can hinder circulation to the foot. Only administer pain medication if instructed to do so by your primary veterinarian. If you don’t have bandage materials available, keep your dog calm and confined until you can bring them to our facility. Stay calm yourself, as your anxiety can be contagious to your dog. Increased stress can raise their blood pressure, exacerbating bleeding and pain.
Dewclaw injury treatment for dogs
The treatment for a broken dewclaw generally involves trimming the damaged area, which may be a portion or the entire nail. The UrgentVet team may administer a local anesthetic to numb the digit’s nerves and prevent additional pain. After removing the damaged nail, your dog’s paw will likely be bandaged. Keep the bandage clean and dry for several days to promote healing. Prevent your dog from licking or chewing the area, and if necessary, use an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from reaching their bandaged paw. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication may also be prescribed to prevent infection and keep your dog comfortable. As long as the nail’s blood supply hasn’t been injured, the dewclaw will regrow within 2 to 3 months.
In more complex cases, such as tumors, dislocation, fractures, or recurring injuries or infections, extensive surgery may be required. Your dog will need anesthesia for such procedures, and in many cases, dewclaw amputation (removal) is the preferred treatment option.
How to prevent dewclaw injuries in dogs
Routine nail maintenance is the best way to help your dog avoid the pain and discomfort of a broken or torn dewclaw. Plan to trim or grind your dog’s dewclaws at least twice a month. If you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself, seek assistance from your groomer or primary care veterinary team. They can provide tips and guidance or perform the service for a small fee.
If your dog experiences a broken or torn dewclaw, the signs can be alarming, especially if it happens when your primary veterinarian’s facility is closed. UrgentVet is here to help with evening, overnight, weekend, and holiday care for all non-life-threatening pet accidents, injuries, and emergencies. Visit the UrgentVet location nearest you, check current wait times, and conveniently check-in online for knowledgeable and compassionate veterinary care.
Remember, if your dog’s dewclaw is causing them pain or shows signs of injury, seek professional veterinary care to ensure their well-being.