Whippets are born with dewclaws, thumb-like digits, on their front legs. Dewclaws on whippets are often amputated in countries other than Europe.
Arguments FOR amputating dewclaws include: - Possible injury to or by a dewclaw; Possible neglect to trim dewclaw nails; Fashion; Tradition; Peer pressure; Lower cost if removed before a few days old.
Arguments AGAINST amputation include: - Botched procedures; Exposure to infection; Pain; Trauma; Loss of dexterous use of a digit; Scarring as 'unsightly' as the dewclaw; & significantly chronic carpal arthritis and risk of damage to other joints such as elbow, shoulder and toes associated with dewclaw removal, as explained and cited in the following article : -
by M. Christine Zink DVM, PhD, DACVSMR
I work exclusively with canine athletes, developing rehabilitation programs for injured dogs or dogs that required surgery as a result of performance-related injuries. I have seen many dogs now, especially field trial/hunt test and agility dogs, that have had chronic carpal arthritis, frequently so severe that they have to be retired or at least carefully managed for the rest of their careers. Of the over 30 dogs I have seen with carpal arthritis, only one has had dewclaws.
If you look at an anatomy book (Miller's Guide to the Anatomy of Dogs is an excellent one – (see Figure 1 on right) you will see that there are 5 tendons attached to the dewclaw. Of course, at the other end of a tendon is a muscle, and that means that if you cut off the dew claws, there are 5 muscle bundles that will become atrophied from disuse.
Those muscles indicate that the dewclaws have a function. That function is to prevent torque on the leg. Each time the foot lands on the ground, particularly when the dog is cantering or galloping (see Figure 2 on right), the dewclaw is in touch with the ground. If the dog then needs to turn, the dewclaw digs into the ground to support the lower leg and prevent torque. If the dog doesn't have a dewclaw, the leg twists. A lifetime of that and the result can be carpal arthritis, or perhaps injuries to other joints, such as the elbow, shoulder and toes.
Remember: the dog is doing the activity regardless, and the pressures on the leg have to go somewhere.
Perhaps you are thinking, "None of my dogs have ever had carpal pain or arthritis." Well, we need to remember that dogs, by their very nature, do not tell us about mild to moderate pain. If a dog was to be asked by an emergency room nurse to give the level of his pain on a scale from 0 o 10, with 10 being the worst, their scale would be 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Most of our dogs, especially if they deal with pain that is of gradual onset, just deal with it and don't complain unless it is excruciating. But when I palpate the carpal joints of older dogs without dewclaws, I frequently can elicit pain with relatively minimal manipulation.
As to the possibility of injuries to dew claws. Most veterinarians will say that such injuries actually are not very common at all. And if they do occur, then they are dealt with like any other injury.
In my opinion, it is far better to deal with an injury than to cut the dew claws off of all dogs "just in case." [end]
VACCINATIONS & Other Links:
Australian Veterinary Association policy - surgical alteration - natural state animals
"Not Every Dog Has His Day: The Treatment of Dogs in Australia"
side of a dog’s left front leg demonstrating the five
tendons that attach to the dewclaw.
--from Miller’s Guide to the Dissection of the Dog
Figure 2. In this galloping dog, the dewclaw is in touch with the ground. If the dog then needs to turn to the right, the dewclaw digs into the ground to support the lower leg and prevent torque.
- Dewclaw removal is not a show requirement for whippets
- Dewclaw removal is not a breed standard requirement for whippets
- The only dewclaw reference in a Whippet Breed Standard is under 'feet' in the USA Standard stating 'dewclaws may be removed'.
- I removed dewclaws in the past but am now persuaded against doing so, as not only a justifiable consideration of the animal but preferable in respect of educated opinions.
- Consultation with senior kennel club members, vets and colleagues, found unanimous authoritative advice was not to alter the natural state.
- Whippets with dewclaws are shown successfully in Australia and overseas in conformation and performance.
My pups are vaccinated to age requirement, regularly wormed and begun on heartworm preventative asap.