Did dogs ever have thumbs?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Dogs, in general, do not have thumbs. However, they do have a dewclaw, which is sometimes referred to as a “thumb” because of its position on the front paws. The dewclaw is an extra digit that is located higher up on the leg, similar to where a thumb would be on a human hand.

The dewclaw is not present in all dog breeds, and some breeds may have them on their front paws only, while others may have them on their hind paws as well. It is believed that the dewclaw serves no purpose in modern dogs and is considered to be vestigial, meaning it is a remnant of a structure that was once functional in their evolutionary ancestors.

The dewclaw consists of toe bones, muscles, a claw, and a small paw pad, just like the other toes on a dog’s paw. However, the dewclaw is usually not as fully developed or functional as the other toes. It is often shorter and weaker, and its nail may not make contact with the ground when the dog is walking or running.

Because of their location and structure, dewclaws can sometimes be prone to injury. They can get caught on objects or be accidentally torn or damaged, causing pain and discomfort to the dog. In some cases, if a dewclaw is causing repeated issues or is at risk of injury, it may be recommended to have it surgically removed.

In my personal experience, I have had dogs with dewclaws, and I have seen them vary in size and shape. Some dogs had very prominent and well-developed dewclaws, while others had smaller and less noticeable ones. I have also witnessed instances where a dog’s dewclaw got caught on something, leading to a minor injury that required veterinary attention.

While dogs do not have thumbs in the same way humans do, they do have a dewclaw, which is an extra digit located higher up on their front or hind paws. The dewclaw is considered to be vestigial and serves no significant purpose in modern dogs. It can sometimes be prone to injury and may require surgical removal if it causes repeated problems.