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A dewclaw is a vestigial toe that grows on dogs as well as certain other mammals, reptiles and birds. A dewclaw is non-functional, though there is some research that suggests that dewclaws help with traction when gripping something or running. A dewclaw is high on the leg and doesn’t normally touch the ground. The term dewclaw is first seen in the 1570s, though the exact etymology is unknown. One theory is that the name comes from the fact that a dewclaw never touches the ground but only brushes the dew on grass. Another theory speculates that a root word for dewclaw is teue-, an Indo-European root which means to swell. In truth, no one knows for sure. Dewclaw is usually spelled as one word, though one finds it spelled as two words about twenty-five percent of the time.


If the nail of the dewclaw is not routinely clipped, it can continue to grow so long that it curves around and begins to penetrate into the skin. (The Capital Gazette)

They have large, rounded ears to regulate their body temperature, and they are the only dog species to not have a dewclaw. (Headlines & Global News)

Matty was covered in sores, had an abscessed tooth, a torn dewclaw and was in heat. (The San Jose Mercury News)

The cat may start slowly, stalking prey, then accelerate to a blazing 60 mph within three seconds, switch directions in an eye blink, and thrust a paw quick as a lightning bolt to knock down a gazelle or hook it with a dewclaw. (The Houston Chronicle)

“If a dog has dew claws, a lot of times if they go on crusted, icy snow, they can tear that dew claw right off,” Storey said. (The Spectrum)