This is a question that is being asked with more frequency. The dewclaw is the “fifth” little claw that grows higher on the leg than the others. Unlike the other four claws that have constant contact with the ground this claw sometimes seems to remain off the ground when the dog is standing. It does, however, make contact with the ground while the dog is running.
Some Havanese breeders will have a vet remove the dewclaws from their puppies when they are just a few days old as part of their general health procedure. These breeders and their social circles have tried to label this as a healthy and responsible practice.
The reason for this is that dewclaw removal has been perceived by some to offer both health and safety benefits for the dogs. Dewclaws have been seen as a weak claw that can sometimes become loose and rip partway off or catch on objects while the dog is running. The logic is that the removal of the dewclaws eliminates these hazards. There is still a large and very legitimate debate, however, as to the validity of the claim that dewclaw removal is healthy for your Havanese.
As a dog breeder of over 14 years I have personally never had any negative issue arise from dewclaws. It is my opinion that the dewclaws should not be removed as a general practice. There are always situations where the removal of the dewclaws may be necessary for particular dogs but as a universal practice it may ultimately cause more harm than good.
In fact, new research is showing that by removing the dewclaws you may be causing long term harm to your Havanese and promoting health problems such as joint laxity and arthritis.
The following excerpt from Dr. Zink is very applicable to the Havanese breed since Havanese are well known for their “run like crazy” activity and are commonly used in agility competitions…
“….The dewclaws have the important function of reducing the torque that is applied to the front legs, especially when dogs are turning at a canter… Without the gripping action of the dog’s “thumbs” there is more stress on the ligaments of the carpus. This may cause the ligaments to stretch and tear over time, resulting in joint laxity and ultimately, in arthritis.” (excerpt from “Dogs in Canada” article by Chris Zink DVM.,Ph.D)
For more information on Havanese dogs please visit KASE Havanese at http://www.kasehavanese.com