Regular nail trims and maintenance are vital parts of your dog’s overall health, and there are several reasons why dog nail trimming is important. Nails that are allowed to grow too long can grow into the dog’s footpad, causing pain and the possibility of infection, and broken nails can be equally painful and susceptible to bacterial infection as well. Before discussing the reasons why trimming your dog’s nails is important, we will first look at the anatomy of the dog toenail.
Nail anatomy of the dog
The anatomy of the dog nail consists of what is called the “quick,” which is covered with an outer material called the “shell.” The quick provides blood flow to the nail and runs through the core of the nail. Nerves also run through the quick, and if a nail is broken or cut too close, it can be painful and cause bleeding. Regular nail trimming can help shorten the quick and make it easier for you to trim your dog’s nails without the fear of causing pain or bleeding.
Six reasons why trimming your dog’s nails is important
When dogs spend a good deal of time outdoors, running on various hard surfaces, including concrete and blacktop, their nails are gradually worn down, and they have less of a need for formal nail-grooming sessions. But some dogs don’t have that opportunity and running mostly on soft surfaces such as lawns when they are outdoors, this welcome friction is often absent in their daily lives.
Here are six reasons why trimming your dog’s nails is important:
Reduction in the occurrence of broken nails
The longer the nail, the greater chance of your dog getting that nail snagged on something and breaking it.
Reduction of splayed foot formation
A splayed foot happens when the nails get very long, so long that they reduce traction and cause your dog to slip on wooden floors and other smooth surfaces. When nails are so long that they constantly touch the ground, they exert force back into the nail bed, creating pain for the dog (imagine wearing a too-tight shoe) and pressure on the toe joint. Long term, this can realign the joints of the foreleg and make the foot looked flattened and splayed.
Reduction of chances of foot malformation
Long nails can also cause a lot of strain, and wear and tear on the tendons of the foot over time, and when the long nails hit a surface, the pressure created by the nails puts force on the foot and leg structures.
Reduction of the chances of injury
Compromising your dog’s weight distribution and natural alignment can leave her more susceptible to injuries, and make walking and running difficult and painful. This is especially important in older dogs, whose posture can be dramatically improved by cutting back neglected nails.
Reduction of ingrown toenails
Another complication to long nails is the development of ingrown toenails, especially the dewclaws. This is where the nails grow long, and curve inward, potentially puncturing and growing into the footpad. In extreme cases, overgrown nails can curve and grow into the pad of the foot. But even if they are not that out of control, long nails can get torn or split, which is very painful and, depending on severity, may need to be treated by your veterinarian in Antioch.
Your dog will get used to nail trims
Getting your dog used to nail trims is important, not only because it will grow into a no-stress ordeal for both you and your dog, but it gets your dog used to having their paws and nails handled, so you can avoid the drama.
How do I trim my dog’s nails?
Before embarking on trimming your dog’s nails, it’s important to have the right tools. There are several types of dog nail trimmers, including scissors, grinder tools specifically designed for dogs, and guillotine types. You can use whatever type you are most comfortable with, or whatever works best for your dog. As far as nail clippers are concerned, most veterinarians recommend the scissors-type nail trimmer as they do not tend to crush your dog’s nails like the guillotine type trimmers. Kwik Stop or styptic powder is a yellow powder that is used to stop nail bleeding if you happen to cut your dog’s nails too short.
You want nail trims to be a positive experience for your dog, so positive reinforcement is always a good idea. Below are listed the steps involved in trimming your dog’s nails, and some ways to make nail trimming a positive experience for your dog.
First, pick up your dog’s paw gently but firmly, place your thumb on the pad of a toe and your forefinger on the top of the toe on the skin above the nail. Make sure none of your dog’s fur is in the way. If your dog doesn’t like you touching their feet, get them used to it first before you start the trimming process. You could do this at various times during the day by rubbing or gently squeezing their paws.
Second, while holding your pup’s foot, push your thumb gently up and backward on the footpad, while pushing your forefinger forward to extend the nail.
Third, start by clipping the very tip of the nail, cutting straight across. You can do this in small increments, shaving a little bit off at a time. If your dog has dewclaws, don’t forget to trim them as well, and they tend to curl back on themselves and grow into the pad.
Finally, try to avoid “cutting the quick,” making the nail bleed because it’s been trimmed too short. Many dogs who have pink nails make it easier for you to see the quick (it looks like a pink, or gray spot), but with dogs with dark nails, it’s more challenging. For dogs with dark nails, trim a little bit at a time until you can see a black dot in the center of the nail: That means you are close to the quick. If you accidentally cut the quick and the nail starts to bleed, pat the area with a styptic powder or in a pinch, cornstarch.
Tips for stress-free nail trims
Treats and lots of praise
To make grooming a stress-free experience, start with short sessions and reward your dog with treats. For example, train your dog to sit or stand still while you brush them, and if they are still, reward them with treats and praise.
Keep calm and clip on
It’s also a good idea to keep calm and practice as little restraint as possible to help your dog relax. You may have to start with short sessions to get your dog used to being grooming, brushed, or sit still for nail trims, but the goal is to keep things stress-free.
Trim nails regularly
Perhaps the biggest challenge for pet owners is nail trimming, especially since most dogs don’t like their feet touched. Regular walks on sidewalks and paved roads can help wear down your dog’s nails, but most dogs will need a nail trim eventually. Without regular trimming, nails on small dogs can curl back and cut into the paw pads, and if you can hear your dog’s nails click-clacking on your hardwood floor, it’s probably time for a trim. Try to get your dog used to you touching their feet, their pads, and nails, and start slow, trim one or two nails each session, and gradually trim more nails if your dog lets you. You can invest in a Dremel-like nail filer, however, these tend to be noisy and a plain-old clipper is usually faster.
Still have questions about trimming your dog’s nails? Call Antioch Veterinary Hospital at (925) 757–2800.