Menu Close

A Community Of Ryman-type Setter Enthusiasts

 

Take the dew claws off, or not?


The Ryman Setters Forum Forums Health Take the dew claws off, or not?

Viewing 17 reply threads
  • Author
    Posts
    • #94
      October Setters
      Keymaster

        We would like to hear people’s opinions and thoughts on this question. We’re talking about solid front dew claws and toes. Dangling types on the rear legs, which are unusual in setters, are an entirely different subject. Conventional wisdom says dew claws should always be removed in order to prevent injuries. Several years ago we began to question whether this really is better for the dogs, and are considering leaving them on for the following reasons:

        1- From our experience (anecdotal so not necessarily true) removing them seems to make the dog more likely to become down on the pasterns (bent too much at the wrist), more prone to injuries, and/or have tendon problems in the front legs. The muscle development of the foreleg may also be unbalanced because those muscles that are normally connected to the dew claw toe are not used, which would also contribute to injuries. A well known advocate of leaving them on is Dr. M. Christine Zink DVM. Here are her arguments, which she articulates much better than we can.
        http://www.caninesports.com/uploads/1/5/3/1/15319800/dewclawexplanation_rev_apr_10_2013.pdf

        She probably doesn’t have enough information to draw any conclusions on the arthritis, but she makes a credible case regarding the musculature and function of the leg.

        2- Dogs use the dewclaws when they are turning sharply, climbing over rocks and logs, etc. They are a functional part of the body on the English setters we have experience with, and probably help a hunting dog negotiate difficult cover and ground.

        3- Removal often causes a bare spot of hairless scar tissue that gets abraded/scuffed while hunting, especially in crusty snow, causing a raw or sore spot. The dewclaws occasionally grow back, at least partially and not always protruding through the skin, which makes this worse.

        The main argument for taking them off is the risk of injuries to the dew claw toe. We have owned a number of dogs with intact dew claws and have not had any injuries, but it definitely can happen and we have seen one on a friend’s dog. Most vets we have asked about it have rarely or never seen a serious dew claw injury though. Overall we think this risk is real but overblown, although if you have had a dog with a nasty dew claw tear you might feel otherwise.

        A dew claw tear obviously would not have happened if the dew claw was not there, but if your dog has a blown or partially torn tendon on the front leg or is arthritic in the wrist does anyone ever consider whether it was caused by the dew claw removal? Are we causing more injuries in working dogs than we are preventing, some of them likely to be chronically painful?

        There are lesser arguments for removal, like the fact that you get scratched because the dog grabs your leg or arm with them (we think this is actually more of an argument for leaving them on because it shows that dogs use them), or dew claws can grow long if people forget to trim them. We don’t think those are very serious arguments.

        For the last couple of years we have continued to remove dew claws even though we believe it’s the wrong thing to do, for one reason: We are afraid people will take them off later. If done in the first few days after being born the stress on the pups seems very negligible- they usually act like nothing happened within a few minutes.However, the operation to amputate them at an older age is surprisingly hard on the dog, definitely damages the wrist and tendons, and in our opinion should not even be offered by vets. The foreleg may recover acceptably from disconnecting the tendons/muscles from the dew claw toe in newborn pup, but in our experience it definitely does not in an older dog. You cause a serious injury trying to prevent a theoretical one that most likely will never happen.

        We would very much appreciate feedback from other breeders and especially from hunters/owners. Would you still feel like you would need to take them off after considering the above? Are there other considerations we are missing?

        Cliff and Lisa

      • #127
        brddggr
        Participant

          Interesting discussion.  I have a Llewellin setter that does not have her dew claws removed.  The breeder does not remove dew claws for the same reasons you discussed above. I have not had problems with injuries to the dew claw, but I do have problems with boots.  Whenever I run the dog with boots, she ends up with raw spots on the outside of the dew claw – nothing I do seems to prevent this.  I have tried wrapping that area with tape, but the problem persists.  I am guessing that the problem is caused by the dew claw slightly protruding, creating a bump that is rubbed by the top of the boot.  I have also used several different types of boots with the same problem.

          Funny, whenever this happens I cuss the breeder for not removing the dew claws.  And I was always skeptical of his list of reasons for not removing the dew claws.  But after reading your post and the article from the veterinarian, it looks like he may be right.  And maybe it is worth dealing with this minor issue in order to obtain the other benefits of not removing the dew claw.  I would be interested if anybody else has this problem, and if they have figured out a solution.
          Ray
        • #129
          October Setters
          Keymaster

            Hi Ray,

            Glad to see you here! Thanks for the comment. I think you bring up a legitimate problem. We rarely use boots so haven’t seen it. I’m with you that it is probably minor compared to the other issues, but I wouldn’t write it off as nothing to consider.

            I will also be interested to hear if anyone has come up with a solution. One thing that might be worth trying is using the boots for short periods of time at first and see if that builds up tolerance to them.

            Lisa

          • #131

            Lisa,

            We are in the camp that leaves the dew claws there. Folks may recall we had a litter born Sept 1 which was announced here when rymansetters.com got up and running. Before that litter was born, we consulted with our veterinarian, anticipating making a decision in this regard. Years ago, I sold a pup to someone who anticipated the dew claws would be removed and never heard the end of it when he found his new pup still sporting them at 7 1/2 weeks. We did not want to go through that again, either they were coming off, or we would be prepared with to say without apology why the dew claws are still there. So… we did not ask her if we should have the dew claws removed. We asked if she saw issues with injuries related to dew claws in her practice. Her answer, as you may now predict, was “no”.

            QWe made an explicit decision not to remove dew claws. After 28 years in the woods with dogs with intact dew claws, we have never seen an injury. We don’t see them on our friends’ bird dogs, that have dew claws, and hunt hard in wicked nasty cover right along side ours. Removing the dew claws appears to be a cultural belief that something bad will happen if they are not removed. Does a dew claw injury prove they should have been removed? Okay, the point in this regard is presented in an extreme way for rhetorical purposes, but how many of us had a dog with a sliced pad, a torn ear, or really commonly, a bloody tail tip? We don’t remove anything to address those injuries.  If anything, maybe we should rest and rotate our dogs more often. 

            I don’t mean to make this a rant, its just seems an issue worth a strong response. Please, if someone else has experience or argument to the contrary, share constructively and we will listen, but for now, you all know where we stand.

          • #134

            A few years ago I started leaving dew claws on my litters.  I had come across Dr Zinks writing and it meshed with my overall sense that natural is often (usually?) better.  I think dew claws are there for a reason and serve a purpose, even if it is a small purpose.  I have hunted setters for 46 years and have never had a dewclaw injury on my dogs.  

            I have heard others say that they have experienced dew claw injuries – being torn or ripped – but I do not know what breed they had.  I have seen dogs of some breeds such as GSPs that have large, floppy dew claws that just looked like they may be more prone to injury.   A friend with one of my dogs reported some abrasion on her dew claws after days of hunting rough grass in Montana but it was not problematic and I’m certain that the dew claws were not the only area abraded after days of good hunting.  

            Before puppies go home I send a variety of educational articles to the buyers and I include Dr Zinks article and photo regarding dew claws.   Only once have I had anyone say that maybe they would have them removed when the dog was older and I quickly launched into educational mode and they realized that would be unnecessary and traumatic.  

            The potential boots issue is a valid point.  I suggest using vet wrap under the boots to first secure the dewclaw and reduce abrasion.  I also wonder if the innertube-type of boots might eliminate that problem. 

            Good topic and discussion, thanks.  I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one considering the topic.

             

          • #139
            October Setters
            Keymaster

              We are pretty much there with deciding not to do them any more. Will try the educational approach, but we have also considered telling people their guarantee would be voided for problems in the front legs if they take the dew claws off later.

              Lisa

            • #142

              I thought I would share this video about dewclaws that someone brought to my attention.

               https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4XflsMEk-k

            • #143
              October Setters
              Keymaster

                Kind of clinches it doesn’t it? I thought the Chessy was the best example. This is also what I feel happens scrambling over rocks, logs, etc. Thanks for posting.
                Lisa

              • #144

                Excellent video. I always felt dew claws had a purpose just didn’t understand what.
                Thanks

              • #145
                Classic Setters
                Participant

                  Watched a portion of the video and it is interesting how the dogs used their dewclaws to pull themselves up on the ice while those without them floundered and couldn’t get out of the water.  I am finding it very difficult to justify removing the dewclaws just to avoid the small possibility of a future injury.  In addition, twice I have had dogs whose dewclaws were removed in the first few days who had to have additional surgery as the removal was incomplete or some part grew back.  So removing them to avoid a possible future surgery actually caused two surgeries to be performed.  Our dogs have not had any injuries to an intact dewclaw either.  We haven’t used dog boots so that is not an issue for us.  Is there a way to modify the boots to avoid rubbing on the dewclaw so one of the major reasons people want them removed is not an issue?  

                • #146
                  Robert
                  Participant

                    I can speak from personal experience, I got an English pointer from Canada, and according to them it was illegal to remove the dewclaws. While hunting my boy did tear his dewclaw, not only was it painful for him, but for me as well to watch him suffer. What I learned about hunting with dogs that have dewclaws, keep them short, keep up with your nail trimming and make sure you don’t let them grow to long. When we were going to hunt hard, I would wrap his dewclaws with a small ace bandage, about 2 inches wide. I never had another problem with them. If breeders are to let the dewclaws on, I would give instructions on preventive care. I didn’t care that my hunt was cut short because of the tear, just knowing I could of prevented it made me more upset. If I had a dog with dewclaws, I know what to do now, so it is not a big deal to me.

                  • #147

                    Robert, thanks for sharing your experience. Do you think that a short haired dog like your pointer had a more exposed or prominant dew claw than setters? I have seen some gsp that have large, floppy dewclaws

                  • #148
                    Robert
                    Participant

                      Hi Lynn,
                      I don’t think my pointers dewclaw was any different than any other breed I have seen them on. My setter does not have them. I thought it was interesting that canada does not allow for the removal of dewclaws, I imagine they have thousands of dogs hunting up there with not to much trouble. Working at a boarding kennel, I get to see all sorts of things, I have seen dogs with dewclaws so long they were all curled up, you try to trim them back, but the quick grows out so far that you can’t get them short enough. Like I have said, if I had another dog with dewclaws, I would keep it short, and I would still put a wrap around it for hunting. Nail care is so important to the health of all dogs, keep them trimmed and everything should be good. At the kennel we bath and trim the nails on all dogs before they go home, you would be suprised at the number of people who don’t trim there dogs nails, and there would be the problem if they had dewclaws and hunted.

                    • #149
                      October Setters
                      Keymaster

                        I think I remember reading that England also doesn’t allow removal of dewclaws, trimming ears to make them stand up, etc.

                        Important point that we should be educating our puppy buyers on how to take care of them. It’s easy to get lazy about keeping track of trimming nails.

                        Robert- what kind of cover did your dog tear the claw in? I’ve read a number of times that it might be more of an issue in cut corn. The setter I saw with a dew claw injury was hunting in grouse cover though, and I don’t know how it happened. She also got a big 3 corner skin tear on barbed wire that needed stitches during that same week of grouse hunting :/

                        Lisa

                      • #151
                        Robert
                        Participant

                          Hi Lisa,
                          My boy tore his dewclaw in thick under brush while grouse hunting in mn. It was about a three year old clear cut, if you ever hunted mn. You would see our clear cuts our like an obstacle course, fallen trees, stumps, and a lot of brush, when the aspens start growing they turn into grouse hot spots, but the terrain is hard on man and his dog.

                        • #156
                          October Setters
                          Keymaster

                            Robert- Sounds similar to WI clear cuts. Having had a dog with an injury, what do you plan to do when you start breeding? Does the risk of a similar cut seem worse to you than potential tendon problems, etc? I wouldn’t fault you either way, just curious what you think.
                            Lisa

                          • #157
                            Robert
                            Participant

                              I really want to talk to my vet about it, but right now I’m leaning to leave them on. I want my dogs to be the best they can be and if having dewclaws enable them to live a healthier life I would go that way. I’m curious, do wolves have dewclaws?

                            • #158
                              October Setters
                              Keymaster

                                Yes, on the front. Lisa

                            Viewing 17 reply threads
                            • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
                            Ryman Setters Forum