dog paw anatomy

This month is all about paws and boots, so to “kick off” the month, we thought we’d start with the basic anatomy of a dog paw.

The dog paw has five basic parts: (A) the claw, (B) digital pads , (C) metacarpal (on the front paws) and  metatarsal (on the rear paws) pad, (D) dew claw, (E) carpal pad.

The metacarpal, metatarsal, and digital pads function as the load-bearing, shock-absorbing pads.  The carpal pad helps with skid and traction on a slope or while stopping.

The claws create traction and help a dog dig and tear at prey.  The purpose of the dew claw remains a mystery, though it is believed to have been more useful historically in dog breeds.  Not all dogs have dew claws, and they can be on the front legs or less commonly, the rear legs.

12 comments

  1. I have noticed that some on this page have commented saying that their dogs used their dew claws for bones etc… these foreleg digits are normal…Dew claws on dogs are located on the inside of each foreleg. They are the first of five digits that naturally occur on all canine breed forepaws. Some dogs have vestigial dewclaws on their hind legs as well, but these are not common nor an actual bony structure of the leg and foot and most breeders have the them removed…

  2. Regarding back paw flipping. My vet explained to me that indicates a nerve issue. My dog has a bulging disc so we give him medication to reduce inflammation. That seems to correct the problem, if it gets worse they will give him a cortisone injection into his spine.

  3. Want in formation regarding crista ubgularis in dog.

  4. debbysdelights · ·

    Has anyone seen this problem? I noticed my elderly neighbors dog today and his back foot has flipped over so when he puts his leg down he is stepping with his leg bone instead of his paw. I ask her about it and she said they took him to the vet but it didn’t help. I didn’t want to press her but it really bothers me Have u ever seen or heard of anything like this. It would be like mine or your foot flipping backward at the ankle and every time we took a step our leg bone was what touched the ground and our foot was flopping behind us. It really bothers me but she has kids who should be helping her so I don’t want to get to nosey, but if I had some facts I might have an idea of what I should do next.

  5. hi i have a problem regarding a street dog. He met with an accident and his claws and digital pads were broken. but now the claws has come but he doesn’t put his weight on digital pad thats why his fore leg is rubbed with the ground and injured frequently. can it be a problem related to pad or can it be nerve paralysis as once someone suggested. Pl help me out as I am very worried and want him to be alright and running around freely. are artificial legs available for dogs. Pl tell me the solution

    1. tarareynvaan · ·

      Hello,
      Thank you for writing in!

      Although we’re not sure about artificial legs for dogs, we’d recommend you contact a vet in your area to help with your questions.

      Thanks!

      Tara

  6. my dog has 2 dew claws. should i be concerned?

    1. tarareynvaan · ·

      Hi Brynn!

      This sounds like another perfect example of how dogs are unique and special just like their human companions. With that said, we find that although paw anatomy is certainly a big part of our product development, the best expert advise can be often found with your local vet. Although it sounds like just a special quirk that makes your dog stand out from the pack, we recommend asking your vet :)

      Thanks!

    2. Usually not a problem unless they are loose, then they may get damaged.

      -3rd Year vet student.

  7. i have a litter of mutts i found.one has the dew claw on the back legs and the other 2 dont. anyone know y?i know for fact that they have greyhound,chow chow,german sheperd,and mini dobie in their blood.could that b y,Bcuz there true mutts.

  8. Krystofer · ·

    My dog has always used his dew claws for holding onto bones, almost like a thumb.

    1. TRACY MCCHESNEY · ·

      Mine does too! I’ve heard people suggest having them removed but she uses them to grip her toys and to grab a hold of my arm when she wants attention. I couldn’t imagine her without them.

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