Monday, April 04, 2011

INFORMATIONAL POST: Post Dew-Claw Removal: All is Well

The sweet little squiggle squirts had a stressful day today, but all is well.

Leaving Momma Elsie behind (to spare her the stress of hearing her pups yip), I loaded the litter into the warming box and drove them over to the vet's office to have them examined (all look fabulous) and to have their dew claws removed.

Dew claws are the extra digits dogs have on the inner side of their front legs (some have them on the rear legs, too, though we've never had a pup born with rear dew claws). No, they are not thumbs (they are not opposable; they're more like a toe that never touches the ground high on the inside of the leg).

Not all breeds need to have them removed, and plenty of dogs do just fine keeping them. 

We choose to have the dew claws removed in our pups because Labs are an active breed often used in fields and brush and outdoor settings where dew claws can catch and tear, or even break at the joint (like a broken toe). When this happens in an older dog, treatment is significantly more involved and requires general anesthesia (always a risk).

The dew claws of a neonate, however, are attached to a joint that's only loosely held together (bones, joints, and connective tissue aren't nearly solidified yet). We usually have the procedure done when the pups are three days old, but we had to wait an extra day this time for the two who were born a day after the rest 

I won't mislead you. The procedure is painful for the pups, but it is not invasive nor is it risky. It's more like cutting a very thick toenail with surgical scissors than the surgical joint removal it becomes when the dogs are older and injure them.

We consider neonatal dew-claw removal a smaller, necessary, low-risk "ow-ee" that prevents a much bigger, more complicated "ow-ee" later on.

Just so you know, Ridge (who came to us as a three-year-old and is now nine years old) has his dew claws in tact, and they've been a challenge for him (and us) over the years. Though we haven't seen one break at the joint, we have seen bloody tears where the claw caught on brush or a branch or some such thing while he was running. And that has been far more uncomfortable for him than a two-minute procedure he could have had done as a neonate. We've elected not to have his removed as an adult because of the risk involved in general anesthesia (necessary for adult dew-claw removal).

Before you jump all over us for putting the pups through this, please know that we do this because we're convinced it's the best approach for active Labs (after much research) and to spare them issues and potential complications later on. In some ways we feel it would be irresponsible not to do this for a dog who's going to spend time running in the woods or fields or streams where it's likely dew claws can be torn.

So, they were traumatized this morning. But they were completely over it almost by the time we got home (maybe an hour after they were done). They each have one small stitch at each removal site which will dissolve on its own.

All of the pups are squiggling and doing their salamander crawls uninhibited, and they're nursing and sleeping as if nothing ever happened.

In the next post, I'll put up pics from today since their "surgery" this morning. And you'll see they're all doing fine. :)

And so it goes.

It's almost bedtime for me here; I sleep from 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (about 5 hours) so I can do the 11:30 p.m. through the night, through the morning and afternoon, through to 5:30 p.m. shift of puppy-watch duty (about 19 hours).  DH puts in his full day at work, then comes home and does puppy duty while I sleep.  We'll do this until the pups are about 10 days old, just to make sure they don't get squished.

So I'm off to bed soon, but I wanted to let you know how things went. :) 

There you have it!  Please know that all is well.

Until next time,


JuliaR said...

The Guide Dogs here, for whom I raised pups, also had dew claws removed as a matter of course, and for the reasons you stated. Maybe you could compare it with human male circumcision! That's something that is a choice with parents and I don't care who they think they are fooling, it hurts the baby. Maybe more than dew claws, so there.

As far as Elsie being traumatised by the pups yipping, I am not sure she would, after watching that video of Miss Pink trying to get a teat!

Joan said...

It's a good analogy, Julia.

LOL...the Elsie girl has consummate patience with "I'm hungry" cries and "milk isn't coming fast enough" yips.

And we did try taking her once when dew claws were removed, but she was distressed by their cries, even in the next room (they really do squeal -- just for about 2 seconds, but they're clearly in pain). We had to take her outside to get her to relax. :)

So we try to insulate her from that if we can. We were only gone about an hour in total, so it worked out well.

And everybody's fine. :) Yay! :)

And no one is worse for the wear (well, except me: I don't like their squeals much either!). :)

Khyra And Sometimes Her Mom said...

We recall seeing Mike Rowe help Martin Buser remove dew-claws when his Dirty Jobs took him to Happy Trails Kennels -

When Khyra and I went to visit our Tervuren pals in Eden Prairie MN last November, she tore one of hers the first night we were there - no problems until they went romping in the park a few days later - due to the snow on the ground, when it reopened it looked like she was tracking a moose or something!

I've done successive transports with a Great Pyr gal who had some as well as Sunday's special Sally - hers were some of the wildest I've ever seen - one comment on the blog mentioned something about bear claws!

Thanks for excellent informational post!

From Mary's Pen said...

Aww poor little beans. :(

But I think you are an awesome caretaker, and certainly can't argue the very good reasons for having them taken off now rather than allowing them to become a problem later on.

Beautiful pups, congrats again!

Rejoicing in the day,

Laura said...

I appreciate you taking the time to explain why you have the puppies' dew claws removed, Joan. I think that when you know your dog is going to be in the brush or anywhere that might give them trouble then it seems the most practical thing to do. My Lab, Jed, still has his but then he's not going to be flying through fields like yours do. He was bred to show, didn't meet the breeder's high standards, and so I lucked out with an incredible dog. He's never had trouble with his, even on the hikes we've done. There are different courses of "treatment" for different types of dogs. You do the potential Lab owners such a tremendous service by explaining your rationale for everything you do. Thanks!

Cyn said...

Thank you for posting this topic. I personally feel (after much thought and my own research ) that it is a GOOD thing to have the dews removed.

Not all Labs are fielders, some are just house pets, however even as a house pet one wrong chase over rocks and brush, the dew can rip and tear. Its much easier on the pups to have it done than really tramatize your best friend as an adult.