The Purpose of the Dewclaw on Canines

The dewclaw on a dog is not really what most people think. To be honest, it is the appendage that has sort of become obsolete to dogs over time. For those unaware, the dewclaw (which people often think of as the dog’s thumb) is a vestigial anatomy on the foot on the dog, and most don’t know why it exists. Well, truth is, before your dog was a big, squishy, lovable creature, they were wild animals who needed to chase prey up trees and such. That dewclaw game them the ability to do just that.

Over time, though, as we see, they use the dewclaw for less in less in their domesticated lives. While it may be good for helping to hold a bone steady while they lick out the marrow, mostly it is just a part of the anatomy left over from when they were wolves and wild dogs, way back. It should also be noted that the dewclaw is not always in the same spot. Some dogs have it more like a thumb, and some dogs have it higher up the leg and ankle a bit. This can actually be a problem, because that dewclaw tends to be attached my looser skin, and if it gets caught on something, it is not unheard of them to get ripped off. While that may not be enough to cause a fatality, it can cause a lot of discomfort (and quite a mess) so best just be careful with it.

So how do we be careful with it. Well, by learning about it, silly. And that is just what we just did.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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