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Can You Declaw A Dog? The Ugly Truth About Removing A Dog’s Nails

Can You Declaw A Dog? The Ugly Truth About Removing A Dog’s Nails

Declawing cats used to be common, but can you declaw a dog too? Of course, declawing our feline companions seemed an easy way to avoid a scratch from their murder mittens and to save the curtains. Nowadays, the practice is frowned upon.

Yet, plenty of people still think about removing their dog’s nails. The reasons for declawing dogs are often similar: people don’t want to be scratched, and they don’t want their dogs digging holes or scratching their hardwood floors. Some of these issues can be solved with a good pair of dog nail clippers, but some owners don’t want to deal with nails at all.

If you are googling “dog declawing near me,” we need to assess why and the ethics behind this decision. Firstly, we must outline the difference between dew claw removal and declawing dogs. Secondly, is declawing dogs legal, and what are the pros and cons of declawing dogs?

Declawing versus removing dew claws

Declawing shouldn’t be confused with dewclaw removal. Declawing means removing the four nails on a dog’s paw pads. Dewclaw removal is far more common.

Most dogs have a fifth digit, almost like a thumb, near their wrist on their front leg. Dewclaws may look pretty useless, but experts argue that most front dew claws are attached to tendons that help to stabilize a dog’s wrist when they run.

Most dogs have dewclaws on their front legs. Some breeds, like St. Bernards or Yorkshire Terriers, can also have them on their back legs, called rear dewclaws. The Norwegian Lundehund has six toes on every foot to help them climb.

Regardless, the breeder likely removed them if you don’t see a dewclaw on your dog’s front feet. This is controversial. It typically has to happen when the puppy is between 3 and 5 days old. The breeder may clip it off themselves. If the dog is older, a vet must remove dewclaws surgically under anesthesia.

It’s not an expensive procedure for puppies, typically costing around $50 for a newborn (3-day-old) puppy. But it usually isn’t necessary.

Back dew claws often aren’t attached to anything and simply dangle, so removing them arguably prevents them from getting caught on something and injuring the dog. Breeders of hunting dogs also have their dog’s dewclaws removed to prevent them from getting caught when the dog is running through rough terrain.

For most dogs, there is no reason for removing dewclaws on the front legs unless there is some cancer or disease that compels it.

Can you declaw a dog?

Declawing dogs does happen. Declawing or removing a dog nail from the actual paw (not a dewclaw) is called an onychectomy. This is not the same as clipping nails very short. It means amputating the toe at the last digit so the nails can never grow back.

Of course, you don’t want to clip nails too short and risk cutting the quick. So remember to read our guide on cutting dog nails at home.

What are the dangers of declawing a dog?

Consider removing amputating all your toes at the last joint. You may notice that it is harder to balance afterward. You may never be able to walk properly again. Declawing a dog has much the same effect, so think carefully if you find yourself wondering, “can you declaw a dog?”

Dogs’ nails help them balance and distribute their weight evenly across their paw pads. It helps them keep their grip on slippery or tough surfaces. Yes, it also helps them dig, but there are methods for dealing with unwanted behaviors like digging in furniture.

Furthermore, dog nails and paw pads are attached to a complex network of nerves, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, joints, and bones. Disrupting the natural balance in their paws and legs puts unnatural strain on joints and ligaments, leading to torn tendons, osteoarthritis, and many other severe issues.

This is why taking care of our dog’s paws by moisturizing the pads, trimming the hair between toes, and trimming the nails is vital.

Why would you declaw a dog?

So given all this, why declaw a dog at all? As we said, many people want to do it to stop their dogs from digging or destroying furniture. Some people may also struggle with dogs with long nails scratching them.

In some cases, pet parents may think it’s the best option if a dog has severe nail issues like peeling nails or nails that are extremely overgrown. However, these are usually issues that can be fixed.

In Diagnosis and Management of Canine Claw Diseases, Ralph Mueller, DVM, outlines one for dog declaw surgery. This is for a rare fungal claw disease called onychomycosis that needs aggressive treatment. Another example of when it may be medically necessary is when a bacterial infection in the nail spreads to the and infects the bone (osteomyelitis).

Dogs may also have other life-threatening conditions, such as carcinomas under the nail that may also mean the a vet needs to remove the toe.

Is declawing dogs illegal?

Declawing generally refers to cats, and most laws overlook declawing dogs. In Maryland, the anti-declawing law only applies to cats, as it does in New York. Plenty of cities, such as Austin, Beverley Hills, Pittsburgh, and others, do not allow cat declawing, but the legislation does not seem to refer to dogs.

This means that technically, like ear cropping or removing dew claws, it may be legal in the US to have your dog declawed when it isn’t medically necessary.

However, many vets across the country already refuse to declaw cats, so if an owner wants to declaw a dog for an issue like scratching or digging, they may have a problem finding a vet who will agree to do the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you declaw a dog in Texas?

The law in Austin, Texas, does not allow anybody to declaw cats. However, it does not mention dogs, so technically, it may be legal in Austin and the rest of Texas. However, if the procedure is not medically necessary, any reputable vets will probably refuse.

Can you declaw a dog to stop digging?

No reputable vet will declaw a dog for digging, regardless of whether they legally can. Positive reinforcement training, exercise, and behavior modification can reduce digging without resorting to cruelty. Declawing a dog yourself would make you liable for charges of animal abuse.

Can small dogs be declawed?

Small dogs can be declawed if there is a medical reason they need the procedure, such as a severe infection in the bone, certain nail diseases, or cancer. This procedure is an amputation of vital parts of a dog’s body that they need for moving and standing.

No responsible veterinarian will declaw a small (or large) dog for scratching, digging, or damaging floors, carpets, and furniture.

Final Thoughts

A dog may need to be declawed if they have a severe claw disease, such as an infection in the bone attached to their nail. For this reason, be sure to take your dog to the vet for issues like redness, swelling, discharge, or nails turning black so that you can catch any infections or diseases early.


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.