How To Cut A Curled Dew Claw Dog

What is a Dew Claw?

A dew claw is an extra toe located higher up on a dog’s front or hind legs. They are located on the inside of the leg, positioned analogously to a human thumb. Not all dogs are born with dew claws, and they can be removed when a dog is a few days old. Dogs often use their dew claws to grasp objects like bones or toys.

Dew claws are most commonly found on the front legs. However, some breeds of dogs such as Briards, Great Pyrenees, Lundehunds, and St. Bernards have rear dew claws as well. Certain dog breeds are more prone to having rear dew claws, including Australian Shepherds and Portuguese Sheepdogs.

The reason some dogs have dew claws and others don’t relates to selective breeding by humans. Dogs that were bred as working or hunting dogs often had their dew claws removed, as the claws could get snagged and torn during outdoor activities. Conversely, dogs bred as companions or for dog shows were more likely to retain their dew claws.

While the presence of absence of rear dew claws is primarily determined by breed, all dogs are born with dew claws on their front legs. However, front dew claws are sometimes removed for cosmetic reasons or to prevent injury when the dog is a few days old. The removal of dew claws is a controversial practice, with many veterinarians arguing that dew claws serve an important purpose for dogs.

Problems With Curled Dew Claws

Overgrown and curled dew claws can be very problematic for dogs. As the claw grows longer, it can start to curl around and dig into the dog’s sensitive paw pads. According to A pet owners guide to dew claws, ingrown dew claws can result in inflammation, sores, bleeding, and infection of the surrounding tissue.

If the ingrown nail breaks the skin, it can allow bacteria to enter and cause an infection. This can be extremely painful for the dog. According to Dewclaws in Dogs: All You Need to Know, overgrown dew claws are also prone to catching on objects or tearing, which can cause trauma and injury. Keeping dew claws neatly trimmed is important to prevent these issues.

When to Trim Dew Claws

You should trim a dog’s dew claws every few weeks to keep them at a proper length. The ideal schedule is to trim them every 3-4 weeks, which helps prevent overgrowth and curling inward. According to veterinarians, a good rule of thumb is that dew claws should not touch the ground when the dog is standing normally [1].

Signs that it’s time for a trim include:

  • The dew claws are long enough to touch the ground
  • The dew claws are starting to curl or twist to the side
  • Your dog seems bothered when walking or running
  • You hear the clicking sound of nails on the floor

Check with your veterinarian if you are unsure of the ideal length for your dog’s dew claws. They can demonstrate proper trimming technique and advise you on the best schedule for your dog’s individual needs.

Supplies Needed

Before trimming your dog’s curled dew claws, you’ll need to gather the proper supplies. Having high quality tools will make the process easier and safer for both you and your dog.

The main supplies you’ll need include:

  • High quality nail clippers – Look for clippers designed specifically for dogs that are sturdy, sharp, and allow for a clean clip. Make sure to have separate clippers for dew claws.
  • Styptic powder – Like Kwik Stop, this helps stop bleeding in case you cut the quick. It’s an essential supply to have on hand.
  • Antiseptic wipes – Use these to clean your dog’s paws before and after trimming. Helps avoid infection.

You may also want treats to reward your dog and help keep them calm and relaxed throughout the process.

Prepare Your Dog

Getting your dog comfortable with having their dew claws handled and trimmed is an important part of the process. Here are some tips:

Handle paws frequently – Make it a habit to gently touch and massage your dog’s paws often. This will help desensitize them and make them more comfortable having their feet handled for trimming. Give treats and praise while handling paws so your dog associates it with something positive.

Introduce clippers slowly – Let your dog inspect, sniff, and become accustomed to seeing the nail clippers. Gently touch the clippers to their feet without actually trimming. Give your dog praise and treats for remaining calm and relaxed. This will help them become more comfortable with the sensation before actually clipping.

Positive reinforcement – Always clip just a small amount of the nail at first, followed by lots of praise, treats, and pets. Make it a very positive experience. Take breaks often. The more frequently you handle feet and clip, while ensuring it’s associated with good things, the easier the process will become.

Go slow and be patient. With time and consistency, you can accustom your dog to having their dew claws trimmed in a stress-free, positive way.

Trimming Technique

Proper trimming technique is important for a safe, effective trim. Here are some key tips:

Hold the paw properly. Gently squeeze the foot to extend the nails and place your thumb on the top of the paw and your finger underneath, with the nail between your thumb and finger. This allows you to control the paw and safely expose the nail.

Cut the nail at a slight angle, avoiding cutting straight across, which can cause the nail to splinter. Cutting at a slant helps avoid hitting the quick. Only trim the sharp tip of white nail, avoiding cutting into the pink quick.

Make small snips instead of large cuts. Start by trimming only a small amount, then inspect the nail and repeat as needed. Removing only a small amount at a time reduces the chance of cutting the quick.

For more details, see the step-by-step guide from AKC.

Cutting the Quick

The quick of the nail is the blood vessel inside the nail. It contains nerves and blood supply for the nail. Cutting into the quick will cause bleeding and be painful for your dog.

If you accidentally cut your dog’s quick 1, immediately apply pressure to the nail with a clean cloth or paper towel for 2-5 minutes to stop the bleeding. You can also use styptic powder designed for pets to help clot the blood faster.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop after applying pressure, contact your veterinarian. They may use cauterizing agents or bandages to stop bleeding on a badly cut quick. Avoid using human styptic pencils, as they can be painful and burn the nail bed.

Be extra gentle handling your dog’s paw after an accident and keep an eye on the nail for signs of infection like redness, swelling, discharge or a foul odor. Let the nail fully heal before trimming again, which takes 1-2 weeks. Next time, trim less of the nail or have your vet/groomer do it if you’re unsure how short is safe.


After trimming your dog’s nails, especially if you cut the quick, it’s important to properly care for your dog afterwards.[1] Here are some tips for aftercare:

Reward and reassure your dog with treats and praise. Trimming nails can be stressful, so validating your dog’s patience helps keep the process positive.

Monitor the trimmed nails for the next few hours for signs of bleeding or discomfort. If the bleeding persists for more than 5-10 minutes, seek veterinary assistance.

Keep the trimmed nail area clean to prevent infection. Use a dog-safe antiseptic if bleeding occurred.

Avoid strenuous activity like running or hiking which could open the wound. Limit activity for at least 24 hours after trimming.

Try over-the-counter coagulant products to stop bleeding. Styptic powder or an alum block can quickly constrict blood vessels.

Do not bandage the paw unless bleeding continues beyond 10-15 minutes. Bandages can trap debris and cause infection.

If you cut the quick, keep an eye on your dog’s behavior for signs of pain or discomfort. These signs could indicate an issue requiring veterinary care.


When to See a Vet

If your dog’s dew claw begins bleeding excessively during or after trimming, seek veterinary care. Apply pressure with a clean towel to control bleeding and transport your dog to the vet immediately. Excessive bleeding indicates the quick was likely cut, which requires medical attention to stop the bleeding and prevent infection.

Signs of infection include redness, swelling, discharge, foul odor, and fever. Infections require antibiotic treatment and may be caused by clipping the quick or unsanitary trimming conditions. Bring your dog to the vet at the first signs of infection.

Sometimes, dew claws that are partially removed can regrow. These regrowths are prone to snagging and injury. If you notice your dog’s dew claw regrowing after trimming, take your dog to the vet to have it fully removed.

Preventing Curled Dew Claws

There are a few ways to help prevent your dog’s dew claws from becoming overgrown and curling inwards:

Establish a regular trimming schedule. Trimming your dog’s dew claws every 2-3 weeks can help prevent overgrowth. Be sure to examine the nails in between trims as well, and trim as needed. Creating a routine will help keep the dew claws neatly trimmed.

Ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise and activity. Dogs that exercise on different surfaces like pavement, grass, and dirt will naturally wear down their dew claws to some degree. Taking daily walks and playing games like fetch can help file down overgrown dew claws. Active dogs are less likely to deal with curled dew claws.

Consider dew claw removal. Some dog owners opt to have their vet surgically remove the dew claws, especially if they are prone to injury. This eliminates the need to monitor and trim. However, it is a surgical procedure that may require anesthesia and recovery time. Discuss the pros and cons with your vet.

With diligent trimming and activity, it’s often possible to prevent problematic overgrowth. But dew claw removal is an option to discuss with your vet if the nails persistently become overgrown despite your best efforts.

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