How Many Toes Do Dogs Have? It’s Complicated.

The little toe on your dog's front paws may prompt you to ask, "how many toes do dogs have?" The mystery deepens when its hind limbs don't have any toes like that.

The little toe on your dog's front paws may prompt you to ask, "how many toes do dogs have?" The mystery deepens when its hind limbs don't have any toes like that.

This guide will show you whether it's normal for your dog to have toes located in unusual places like that and whether it needs any treatment.

How Many Toes Do Dogs Have?

Typically, the front paws of these pets have five digits, while there are four toes on the hind paws. The fifth claws on the front legs don't touch the ground like the other four. These dewclaws, as they are commonly called, act like the thumb of human hands.

The most popular theory explaining the difference between those paws comes from the evolutionary perspective. Their hind limbs used to have another toe as well, but it was lost during canine adoption to new environments.

 How Many Toes Do Dogs Have? It’s Actually Complicated.

 A typical front paw

But as dogs evolve, these digits lose their function and are leftovers from earlier times. Made of mostly soft tissues, they aren't jointed and barely help a dog with anything.

If you are looking at your dog right now and find only four toes on their front feet, it doesn't necessarily mean something unusual about the dog.

He or she is probably born with five toes on the front feet like other dogs. But the dewclaw was removed at birth to prevent it from catching on things or simply for a cleaner look.

Dog Breeds That Have Extra Toes

There are two main types of occurrences when a dog is born with extra toes. They may result from either rare genetic conditions or intentional breeding to display this trait.

The answer to "How many toes do dogs have?" depends on the breed. Some naturally have dewclaws on their hind paws. In science, this restoration of those extra digits is called canine preaxial polydactyly, or more simply, polydactyly.

Some breeds that feature one (or even two) extra toes on their hind paws are:

  • Great Pyrenees

  • Catalonian Sheepdog

  • Yorkshire Terrier

  • Beauceron

  • Standard Schnauzer

  • Cão Fila de São Miguel

  • Portuguese Sheepdog

  • Belgian Malinois

The polydactyly in those breeds is associated with the mutation in the intronic region of the LMBR1 gene, which has an influence on limb development.

However, the king of extra digits is the Norwegian Lundehund - a small breed from Norway. It has fully developed six toes on each foot, all completely formed, muscled, and joined.

Two of them point inward like human thumbs. They provide the Norwegian Lundehund with more grip and traction when navigating through slippery and steep peaks and rocks of its Nordic homeland.

 Norwegian Lundehund

How To Verify How Many Toes Do Dogs Have?

In general, extra digits are noticeable when a dog is born. They often make the puppy's feet look bigger.

If your pet has this condition and they have no difficulty in limping or walking, polydactyly isn't an issue for them. You can talk to a vet and book an X-ray to examine how the extra toes are attached to the feet.

Problems Caused By Extra Dewclaws

In most cases, dewclaws are situated higher than normal claws and don't touch the ground when the dog is walking or running.

They only cause problems when the nail gets caught on something and hinders your dog's movement. Those incidents can stop them suddenly and even injure them, such as torn toes and muscular damage.

This can happen when your dog runs on rough terrain or through a bush. Playing sports like flyball can also increase the risk of injuries, especially when the dewclaws are floppy and not held tightly onto the paw.

 How Many Toes Do Dogs Have? It’s Actually Complicated -A dewclaw

 A dewclaw

The quicks (the tender flesh below the nails) are attached to several blood vessels. As a result, the dog may have a lot of bleeding from a torn-off dewclaw.

There is another reason you should keep an eye on them. Those toes don't come into contact with the ground, meaning the nails don't get worn down while walking or running. Overgrown nails occur more often, which can grow into paw pads.

What To Do If A Dog Has Extra Toes On Their Back Feet

If our answer to "how many toes do dogs have" couldn't assure you, there are many things you can do about your dog's irregularity.

Talk To A Vet

If your dog often injures its dewclaw or you worry about this possibility, consult a vet.

For injuries, they may only trim off the broken nail or cut off the dewclaw completely. The dog may need some antibiotics and medications to prevent infections.

Those injuries aren't the most serious. But if your vet may advise caution and recommend dewclaw removal when those toes are loosely held off the feet.

In some places, this procedure is quite common and usually done at birth in a preventative manner.

It is best to remove those extra digits when the puppy is a few days old, and the dewclaws haven't been attached to muscle or bone tissue. However, this removal can be done on older dogs as well.

Benefits And Risk Of Dewclaw Removal

It is totally your choice as this polydactyly treatment has its both advantages and downsides.

Removing dewclaws can reduce the risk of injuries and ingrown nails. However, it is still a surgery that involves a general anesthetic, which has some risks of its own too.

 How Many Toes Do Dogs Have? It’s Actually Complicated - Dewclaw removal isn’t risk-free.

Dewclaw removal isn’t risk-free.

The trouble of dewclaws may not be worth the trouble of putting your dog through a medical procedure like this. Some muscle bundles can get atrophied, while arthritis isn't always a remote hazard.

On top of that, not every dog finds no use for its dewclaws. Some have grip things or rub their eyes with these extra toes regularly.

Trim The Nail Frequently

When you decide to keep the dewclaws of your dog in place, you should keep their toenail to reduce injury risk.

Use clippers or scissors that are made for trimming dogs' nails. You should separate the dewclaws from the leg and make sure to not cut into the skin or the quicks (internal nail areas).


The question of "how many toes do dogs have?" may bother many pet owners. You can relax as most dogs actually have four toes on the rear feet and five on each front paw. The fifth digit on the forelimb is called the dewclaw, which grows higher on the leg than the rest of the paw.

Some dog breeds naturally have extra toes on their feet. And due to genetic mutation, a dog of any breed can have dewclaws on its hind limb as well.

Those extra toes can lead to tearing and nail-overgrowing. Trimming can be enough to keep them in check, but you can consider dewclaw removal too.

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Kenneth M Heim
Kenneth M Heim
I am a writer and editor for Got Omnia. I love road trips and good food, but take pictures of my food instead of eating it.