How many toes does a dog have? Can they have extra toes?

If we examine the number of toes in animals, we can see the common pattern of having four or five toes at the end of a limb, as humans, elephants, primates, weasels, dogs, and all kinds of reptiles have five fingers and toes. The expressive eyes of my furry companion once captivated me, leading me to ponder the question: “How many toes does a dog have?” This question probably struck a chord with curious pet owners and dog enthusiasts.

In this canine anatomy review, we’ll explore the intricacies of a dog’s feet, uncover the mystery surrounding the number of toes, and answer this paw-something question!

How many toes does a dog have?

Did you know that most dogs have 5 toes on each front leg and 4 on each hind leg? It’s true! The front legs have 4 normal toes and marine claws, while the hind legs have 4 normal toes. So, dogs have a total of 18 toes! However, some species have several toes and one or two marine claws on the hind or soles of the feet. Interestingly, some veterinarians or breeders choose to remove shark sea claws. This is up for debate, as some people think it’s unnecessary and cruel, while others think it could be beneficial to the dog in the long run.

Read Also: Do Birds Have Ears?

Dewclaw Mystery: The Enigmatic Fifth Toe

How many toes does a dog have?
How many toes does a dog have?

A dewclaw is a unique toe found on a dog’s leg that doesn’t touch the ground like the other toes. It’s like a small thumb with a nail. Some dogs have dewclaws on their front legs, some on their rear legs, and some don’t have them at all.

But if wolves, the ancestors of dogs, don’t have dewclaws, how did dogs end up with them? This is an interesting question, and the answer probably lies in the interaction between humans and their working dogs. Humans likely played a role in encouraging the growth of dewclaws to help dogs perform their tasks more effectively.

Dogs needed to climb, dig, and make quick turns while running. Having dewclaws probably gave them an advantage, making them more likely to survive and reproduce. As a result, almost all dogs are now born with dewclaws.

Today, dogs use their dewclaws for various purposes. They can grip and handle objects like bones or toys, dig into surfaces like ice, use them to pull themselves out of water, or even gently scratch an itchy eye. So, if dewclaws are so useful, why do some people choose to have them removed?

Well, dewclaws are located higher up on the leg, which means they can get caught on things and get torn, causing immense pain to the dog. To prevent this from happening, some people opt to have the dewclaws removed. Breeders may also remove dewclaws shortly after a dog is born for cosmetic reasons or if they don’t conform to the breed standard. However, some people view this as cruel and are against it. Exploring the presence or absence of dewclaws adds an extra layer to our exploration of “How many toes does a dog have?”

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Which Dog Breeds Have the Most Toes?

Different dog breeds have varying numbers of toes. The breed of a dog determines the number of toes it has, with some breeds naturally possessing more toes than others. Take the Norwegian Lundehund, for instance, which has six toes on each foot! These extra toes even have additional joints that assist the dog in maintaining a secure grip while climbing rocks to hunt puffin birds. It’s a fascinating example of how evolution has enabled these dogs to perform their tasks more efficiently.

Another breed that possesses extra dewclaw toes is the Great Pyrenees. Renowned as guard dogs and requiring agility when chasing after something, these dogs excel in their roles. Being robust mountain dogs, they utilize their unique extra toes to enhance their traction. Once again, the presence of these additional dewclaws serves a specific purpose.

Example of dog breeds that have extra toes

Here are a few more examples of dog breeds that possess additional toes:

1. Briard:

This particular breed hails from France and has double dewclaws positioned low on its legs. The breed standard for Briards mandates double dewclaws on both of their rear legs.

How many toes does a dog have?

2. Estrela Mountain Dog: Originating from the Estrela Mountains of Portugal, this large breed is primarily bred for guarding herds and homesteads. Estrela Mountain Dogs can have either single or double dewclaws.

3. Beauceron: A sizable French breed, the Beauceron has rear dewclaws that are situated close to the ground. These dewclaws assist the dog in walking effortlessly on snow and ice. The breed standard for Beaucerons requires double dewclaws on both hind legs.

4. Anatolian Shepherd Dog: This giant breed hails from Turkey and almost always possesses a pair of double hind leg dewclaws.

5. Saint Bernard: One of the most well-known and beloved dog breeds worldwide, Saint Bernards were originally bred to aid people stranded in the snowy Alps. While they can have single or double dewclaws, it is not a requirement according to the breed standard.

6. Icelandic Sheepdog: Iceland’s sole native dog breed, Icelandic Sheepdogs are bred for their herding and guarding abilities. They can have either single or double dewclaws, although the breed standard does prefer double dewclaws.

7. Portuguese Sheepdog: This intelligent and lively breed is dedicated to guarding and herding livestock. Portuguese sheepdogs can have either single or double dewclaws.

As you can observe, numerous dog breeds possess extra toes. However, even within these breeds, it is not guaranteed that every dog will have additional toes. Some dogs may have no extra toes, while others may have single or even double extra toes. Therefore, the number of toes can vary widely, and there is no right or wrong when it comes to the number of toes your dog has.

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Is it necessary to trim my dog’s dewclaws?

How many toes does a dog have?

Absolutely! It is crucial to trim your dog’s dewclaws if they have them on either their front or rear paws. Just like their regular nails, dewclaws can become overgrown if not properly maintained.

Neglecting to trim them can lead to potential injuries, such as getting caught on something or growing back into the dewclaw pad or leg, causing immense pain for your furry friend. To prevent any discomfort, it’s best to include dewclaw trimming as part of your regular nail care routine.

What is the timing for removing dewclaws?

Dewclaws are typically removed when puppies are between three to five days old. If done at home, the breeder can use scissors or nail clippers to clip them off. However, it is recommended to have a veterinarian perform the procedure under local anesthesia, using clamps and a scalpel.

Ensuring the removal of all bones prevents any regrowth of the nail. A vet performing the procedure is also safer for the dog, as they can ensure it is done without causing any harm or pain. After this early stage, veterinarians should only remove dewclaws when the dog is sedated, considering it an amputation. In some cases, this procedure can be done simultaneously with spay or neuter surgeries.

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Is it cruel to remove dewclaws?

How many toes does a dog have?

Removing dewclaws is a topic that sparks debate among dog owners and veterinarians. While the removal of front dewclaws is generally considered unnecessary, there are instances where it may be medically justified. For example, if a dewclaw is severely injured or affected by a disease like cancer, removal may be necessary. However, this procedure should only be done under general anesthesia and with proper post-operative care, including pain medication and bandage changes.

It’s important to note that there are potential risks associated with dewclaw removal, such as infection and scarring. In some cases, the dewclaw may even regrow. Additionally, removing front dewclaws can potentially lead to issues later in a dog’s life, such as ligament stretching and tearing in the carpal region. This can result in laxity, arthritis, and added stress on other joints.

On the other hand, removing rear dewclaws is often recommended if they are only attached by skin and tend to dangle. This can help prevent injuries caused by snagging or tearing on objects and reduce the risk of ingrown nails. If rear dewclaw removal is necessary, it can be performed during the same time as spaying or neutering, taking advantage of the general anesthesia already being administered.

Ultimately, the decision to remove dewclaws should be made in consultation with a veterinarian, considering the individual dog’s health and specific circumstances.

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How much time does it take for dewclaw removal to heal?

Typically, it takes about two weeks for a dog to heal after dewclaw removal. If the procedure is done when the dog is just a few days old, the wound should heal in approximately three days without the need for suture removal. However, if a veterinarian and sutures removed the dewclaws were used, the vet will usually remove the sutures between 10 and 14 days after the procedure.

During the healing process, it’s important to change your dog’s bandages daily for both the front and back dewclaws. This helps prevent infections. Keep an eye out for signs of pain or discomfort, such as limping, constant licking or biting at the area, or if your dog avoids being touched. Additionally, check for any swelling or bleeding. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s best to contact your veterinarian right away.

How many toes does a dog have? Frequently Asked Questions

Can Dogs Have More Than Four Toes?

Absolutely! While four toes are the norm, polydactyl dogs may sport extras, adding a dash of uniqueness to their paw-drobe.

Do Dewclaws Count as Toes?

Dewclaws, often misunderstood, are a vestigial digit that may or may not touch the ground. While they aren’t fully functional toes, they’re still part of the paw ensemble.

Are All Toes Created Equal?

Not quite. Dogs’ front and back paws may have slightly different toe arrangements, showcasing the subtle yet intriguing variations in their anatomy.

Can Toe Count Indicate a Dog’s Health?

In some cases, abnormalities in toe count could be linked to genetic factors or underlying health issues. Regular paw inspections during grooming sessions can help detect any anomalies early on.

Are extra toes in dogs common?

No, extra toes are not common, but certain breeds, known as polydactyl, may have more than the standard number of toes.

How Many Toes Does a Puppy Have?

Puppies typically have the same number of toes as adult dogs, but the size and proportions may differ as they grow into their paw-tential.


So, there you have it – the ins and outs of canine toes laid bare for your curious mind. The answer to the timeless query, How many toes does a dog have? is a delightful 18. From the primary digits to the mysterious dewclaw, each toe contributes to your dog’s agility, balance, and, let’s be honest, their irresistible charm. Next time you find yourself gazing at your furry companion’s paws, remember the intricate design that aids them in their daily adventures. And if someone ever asks you, “How many toes does a dog have?” you can confidently answer, “Eighteen – the perfect number for a perfect paw!”

How many toes does a dog have? Can They Have Extra Toes?
How Many Toes Do Dogs Have?

Title: How many toes does a dog have? Can They Have Extra Toes?

Description: Explore the intriguing world of canine toes! Learn how many toes a dog have, the mystery behind dewclaws, and discover breeds with extra toes. Find answers to FAQs, including the importance of dewclaw trimming and the healing process after removal.

Start date: February 4, 2024

Author: Muhammad Ali

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In summary, most dogs typically have five toes on each front leg and four on each hind leg, totaling 18 toes. The presence of dewclaws, a unique fifth toe that doesn’t touch the ground, adds an interesting aspect to a dog’s anatomy. Dewclaws can have practical uses, but their removal is a debated topic among dog owners and veterinarians. Certain dog breeds, such as the Norwegian Lundehund, Great Pyrenees, Briard, Estrela Mountain Dog, Beauceron, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Saint Bernard, Icelandic Sheepdog, and Portuguese Sheepdog, may have extra toes, each serving specific functions related to their breed’s activities. Regular trimming of dewclaws is essential to prevent potential injuries, and the decision to remove them should be made in consultation with a veterinarian, considering the individual dog’s health and circumstances. The healing process after dewclaw removal typically takes about two weeks. Frequently asked questions cover topics like polydactylism, the role of dewclaws, variations in toe arrangements, potential health indications, and the consistency of toe count in puppies compared to adult dogs. Ultimately, the canine toe anatomy contributes to a dog’s agility, balance, and charm, making it a fascinating aspect for curious pet owners.

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