Why Does my Dog Have 5 Toes on its Back Feet?

Why Does my Dog Have 5 Toes on its Back Feet?

Have you ever wondered how many toes a dog has? Perhaps you've never noticed. Dogs have 5 toes on their front legs and 4 on their hind legs. However, there is an exception.

To learn why your dog has 5 toes on their back legs, keep reading this AnimalWised article. We will explain genetic malformation and hereditary diseases linked to this, as well as what you can do to help.

Common breeds that have 5 toes

Certain breeds have a genetic malformation with 5 toes on their back feet. Don't be alarmed if your dog is affected. Dewclaws or extra toe on the back feet of dogs are due to the genetics of certain breeds that have adapted to the environment around them.

Both the Mastiff and Saint Bernard dog breeds can present this abnormality. These breeds originate from the mountains and other extreme environments, where a good tread is essential. It is believed that this extra claw could give greater support. However, this fifth toe is actually weaker. It differs from the rest as it offers less support, so there is uncertainty about its actual use.

Although in some cases there is a genetic explanation, many dog breeds that have these dewclaws, are considered to have a genuine malformation, a genetic fault in the breed. This extra toe should be removed when the dog is a puppy. That said, it should only be removed if it is recommended to you by your vet.

German Shepherds, Rottweilers and even small breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers and Poodles can have this toe on their back feet.

Problems of dewclaws

The problem with this fifth toe is that it is not attached to the paw in the same way as the other toes are. The fifth toe is only attached through skin and muscle, there is no bone. This can cause possible health problems:

  • Tearing: In the absence of a bone to attach the fifth toe, it could get ripped off in many different ways causing a lot of damage.
  • Growths: The extra toe never has contact with the ground so it can't be worn or filed down while the dog walks. This causes a growth that can continue to grow and become embedded into the skin. This is a serious problem that is painful for the dog. It can also lead to limping, and, in extreme cases, a possible amputation of the leg. If, at the time, amputation is not financially possible, you must ensure that you cut the nail regularly and keep an eye on it to avoid serious consequences.

If your dog has certain qualities that make it a possible show breed, you should keep in mind that:

  • With the exception of Mastiffs and Saint Bernards it is prohibited to register dogs with dewclaws.
  • Amputation of the toe is recommended as it has no use.

What to do if your dog has 5 toes on its back feet

When your dog is still a puppy it is highly recommended to go to the vet as soon as you detect an extra toe, so it can be removed. Then future problems are avoided and it will be less traumatic for the puppy.

  • It is a simple operation.
  • It lasts approximately 10 minutes.
  • It is not a painful operation.

For dogs over 6 months old, this operation is not mandatory. If you see no obvious discomfort and decide not to operate, you must keep an eye out for any developments on the fifth toe. If the toe becomes a problem then an operation will be required at the vets, however:

  • The post-operation recovery is slower.
  • The dog will try to scratch and lick the area so it will have to wear a cone collar.
  • It may walk strangely.

Finally, we advise all owners to be especially careful, by paying attention and looking after your dog so this problem doesn't become serious and have painful consequences. Maintaining a watchful attitude and going to the veterinarian whenever needed will improve your dog's quality of life, and ultimately give you a healthy and happy dog!

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does my Dog Have 5 Toes on its Back Feet?, we recommend you visit our Hereditary diseases category.

  • Milne, Emma Goodman.The Veterinary Record; London Vol. 162, Iss. 26 (Jun 28, 2008): 868. DOI:10.1136/vr.162.26.868-a