How Many Toes Does A Dog Have?

an additional one or two toes on foot

Do you often find yourself fascinated by the anatomy of animals? Whether it’s the majestic mane of a lion, the long neck of a zebra, or the paws of a dog, every creature has unique characteristics that are worthy of attention. The various functions that animals achieve through their physical traits make this topic an intriguing field to delve into and understand.

Speaking of dogs paw, you must be wondering how many toes do dogs have? Does their front foot really have a fifth toe, or is it only four toes? Based on dog breeds, the answers can vary (Puffin Dog have extra toes). Keep reading to learn more about how many toes does a dog have.

How Many Toes Does A Dog Have?

Dogs’ legs usually have four toes. That makes it collectively sixteen toes. If you notice dog paws, you will observe how the toes are stacked really closely, and their nails almost look like thick claws, protruding from the side of their toes or toes itself.

Based on dog species, genetics, malformation, or unfortunate amputation, your dog can have more than four toes. For example, Australian shepherds can have an extra toe known as dewclaws which gives it five toes. Even the Great Pyrenees dog has more than usual toes. In fact, their toes could be up to six in number.

Thus dogs with dewclaws can have 18 to 22 claws. Also, don’t be surprised when dogs toes are referred to as claws. This is because the nails are almost as evident as the toes. It common for veterinarians to remove loosely attached double or rear dewclaws to prevent injury rather than to maintain dewclaws.

If your dog is a newborn puppy and has a fifth toe, then it would be best to remove it. This extra toe usually doesn’t even touch the ground, and neither can it be used to carry things. At best, it can be used to grip items such as meat and bones.

What Are Dewclaws?

Dewclaws are toes that do not touch the ground even when the dog walks. Most often, there are only rear dewclaws at the rear feet of the dog. There are also few dog breeds with dew claws on their front foot. Don’t be surprised to see dogs with double dew claws. 

This feature use to offer some functionality in earlier canine generations. But with evolution, this toe grows on absurd spots and leads to problems associated with pain, injuries, surgery, running, and even some muscles.

These dewclaws are like loosely attached fingers of short lengths; one can also call them appendages. People consider this extra toe on a dog as a drawback to a dog’s prime quality, speed. Thus these extra digits are usually removed by breeders or an expert veterinarian.

total of five toes on foot to function

Why Do Some Dogs Have Dewclaws?

Some dogs have front dewclaws, double dewclaws, or dewclaws on their front feet or rear feet. Back in the day, these dewclaws had a purpose. But now their functionality is extremely limited. Unless it is a rear dewclaw, it would be stupid to remove this part. They can use front-sided dewclaws to hold and flap objects, and it also helps them make some movements.

The canines with front dewclaws and ones on their hind legs can achieve greater stability in strenuous situations that require balance. It also helps a number of dog species with great grip while the dogs run at high speeds.

Although some dogs struggle with a dewclaw debacle when it’s not a toe on the foot and instead, extra skin with nails popping out of the leg. These abnormal hind feet dewclaws have zero consequences and must be treated via surgical procedure before an injury could lead to a leg infection.

Remember, the Great Pyrenees has dewclaws that make contact with the ground and are loosely attached to all bones. Thus they don’t need to undergo an operation.

a way for them to be more stable

When Should You Consider Removing A Dog’s Dewclaw?

Dewclaw, also known as the fifth toe, must be removed when it is not growing on the paw of a dog. The fact that such dog toes have only skin and muscle, and no bone, makes them prone to injurious circumstances.

There are cases when the nail can crack and lead to a problem of pus or unwanted growth of a semi-amputated toe. This could develop into an excruciating sense of pain that doesn’t let your dog rest. Once the swelling builds and becomes worse, your dog’s overall health is at stake as an end number of problems could arise.

The presence of these dewclaws in hind legs could risk the safety of your pups while playing around. Even worse, the damage could make it hard for your dog to utilize leg support. Nothing worse than watching a canine struggle on rocky terrain, right? The discomfort induces an attitude of fear inside your dog’s head and leads to overall lethargy.

The following dewclaw-related issues can occur:

  • Growth: The extra toe is of no use and will continue to grow. Eventually, even nails would grow. It grows deeper into the skin and not only spoils the appearance of your doggo, but also leads to a loss of ability in maximum leg function. In rare cases, the length of the toe increases with age and leads to life-long complications.
  • Tearing: Dogs are active and playful creatures. There are several ways they can naturally worsen this condition. Falling, rolling around, or even slippery places could lead to a tear in the dewclaw. This reason is enough for the claw to get damaged and lead to several types of health issues.

Surgical treatment is the only guaranteed measure for this issue, with an exception for Saint Bernards and Mastiffs. Also, if you have a high-maintenance pet who has joint issues and cannot walk on a specific type of surface, you have all the reasons to look for a long-term solution.

These eyesore-like open wounds could infect the gait and spine of the dog. As the rear and possibly even front legs would be weak, dogs would have to solely use their jaws when ripping meat with bones.

a reason for dogs to be different

Tips To Maintaining Dog’s Claws

Depending on whether you have show dogs, herding dogs, or other breeds, maintenance differs. Ask yourself a few questions. Is your dog a physically active breed? How big will your newborn puppy grow? Do your puppies have any bone health problems like hip dysplasia [1]?

Based on these factors, you can decide the frequency to trim your dog’s nails unless they will naturally wear away.

  • Not keeping an eye on the claw condition can cause dogs to experience pain on their entire paw. It would be in your best interests to cut their claw nails every two weeks. A lazy breed that doesn’t do much physical exertion can go through weekly nail cutting sessions.
  • Don’t ever squeeze your dog’s toes, it hurts. Instead, hold their hand while cutting their nails. Substitute the pain associated with claw maintenance by feeding your pet treats.
  • If your dog is constantly scraping surfaces, trying to climb trees, or swimming in a pool of water, you do not need to take too much care of their claw, unless it’s the dewclaw. The claw helps a lot to break through the ice or get added support on a wall and gets pruned in the process.
  • Post-operation for the dewclaw, train your dog not to keep licking and scratching the area. It turns out, a few bacteria could infect the freshly treated wound.
  • If you notice odd features on your dog’s paw, immediately visit a vet and resolve the problem. You don’t want your dog’s rear or front feet to look horrifying due to abnormal growth. 
some dogs have many toes

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Dewclaw removal painful?

No, removing a dewclaw of a dog by surgery is not painful and lasts for about 10 minutes. Dogs who are weak, sensitive, and have more than one dewclaw may face pain to some extent. Stronger breeds will feel less pain on their front and back legs as compared to smaller and comparatively weaker breeds.

Also, almost everything about the pain factor depends on the size, shape, and internal growth of the dewclaw of the dog.

Is removing dewclaws cruel?

It depends; removing a dog’s dewclaws is considered cruel by some people, whereas others consider it as a necessity for the greater good of their pet. Although the debate is never-ending, it would be a wise choice to get the dewclaws removed. Vets will provide you top-notch guidance on the entire process.

Can dewclaws grow back?

Yes, they can grow back if the entire root of the nail is removed. Even the slightest of roots have a high probability of growing back into a full-fledged dewclaw. Make it a point that your vet’s patients haven’t suffered from this issue. Seek information on their previous cases for verifying their surgical skills.

Will a broken dew claw heal itself?

Yes, a broken dew claw will generally heal itself. Although at the risk of catching free radicals in the air. An open wound most likely attracts bacteria and worsens. It could lead to pus and quicker spreading of the infection. An instant visit to the vet must be your top priority.


Well, the question of how many toes does a dog have has led to unfolding several dog claw-related queries. Remember, irrespective of the breeds, dogs need to have perfectly healthy dog’s feet. Apart from being a catchy feature of their attire, it is also the main body part that enables them to be the free and active animals that they are.

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