Do You Trim Your Nails?

dog-toenailsWe humans regularly trim our finger and toenails, but what about our dog’s toenails?

I’m always finding myself talking to my dog whispering and grooming clients about how important it is to keep their dog’s nails trimmed short. Unfortunately, for most humans, they find the task of clipping their dog’s nails too daunting, so they just leave them long until the next grooming session.

Also, when you do not regularly keep your dog’s nails trimmed short, the vein or quick that grows in the nail will grow longer into the nail, which will then prevent you from trimming the nails as short as they need to be for your dog’s good health.

Nail clipping is really a task that you should not leave only to your groomer because many dogs require their nails to be clipped every week or two, and most full grooming sessions occur every six weeks. This means that many of the smaller dogs that spend much of their time indoors have toenails that are too long for most of their life.

A dog that is not regularly walked on hard surfaces, but spends most of their time playing on a grass covered back lawn or running about inside on carpet or hardwood flooring simply will not naturally wear down their nails. Also, many dog’s have dew claws that never touch the ground, and these will grow until they actually cut into the dog’s leg.

When a dog’s nails are too long, it adversely affects how a dog carries themselves. Toenails that are too long place undue stress upon the dog’s joints, bones and their entire skeleton because long nails cause a misalignment that begins in the bones of the dog’s toes and travels all the way up to the spine.

Conscientious dog guardians really need to begin trimming toenails when their puppy is very young because this way they will not learn to fear it when they get older. If you do not slowly introduce toenail trimming at a young age, you will have set your dog (& yourself) up for a lifetime of stress and trauma every time their nails need trimming, or even worse, because your dog has learned to hate the process, both of you will be so stressed by it, that you may just decide to not do it at all.

If you currently have a dog that is fearful or nervous of having their toenails trimmed, you need to spend the time to slowly desensitize them (& yourself) by working slowly and gradually until your dog no longer fears the process and will calmly allow you to trim their nails every week or two. Start by just holding their paw and giving a treat. Then hold a toenail and give a treat. Next, hold the clipper next to a toenail and give a treat. Once your dog is accepting of this preparation before actual clipping, go online and watch all the videos you can find about the proper way to clip a dog’s toenails. There are many that are very good and will give you the confidence you need.

You will only need to purchase a professional type of nail clipper once, because the best ones never need sharpening and will last you a lifetime. They can be purchased at just about every pet store and are not an expensive item. This is the “Miller’s Forge” or “Plier” type of clipper, which comes in small, medium or large sizes, depending on the size of your dog.

Also, in case of accidentally cutting too short and making the nail bleed, you need to buy a container of Kwik Stop powder. Before beginning the process, tap out a small amount of the powder into the cap and if you accidentally cause a nail to bleed, simply tap the bleeding nail into the Kwik Stop, which will almost instantly stop the bleeding. Alternatively, you can wet the end of your finger, dip it into the powder and apply it to the end of your dog’s toenail with a little pressure.

I also like to use a powered sanding tool or nail file after clipping to round off the sharp edges that are left after clipping, and some dogs actually fuss less when their nails are trimmed with a rotary sander, and this is a perfectly acceptable way to trim a dog’s toenails if you are really nervous about cutting too much nail and causing the quick to bleed. The rotary sander (such as a Dremel 7300-PT designed for dog nails) can be a less stressful alternative for both dog and human. NOTE: do NOT use a regular Dremel from your tool box because these are too high speed and will burn your dog’s nails.

No matter whether your dog tolerates nail clipping or hates it and screams and wails each time it needs to be done, and each time you clip a nail your dog yelps so loudly that you have a minor heart attack, what is most important is that you do not use your dog’s dislike of the process (no dog really likes having their nails trimmed) as your excuse for simply not doing it. If you cannot bring yourself to learning how to do this important grooming task, be kind to your dog and hire someone to regular do this for you every 2-3 weeks.

Regular nail trimming will help to ensure your dog will have a steady, even gait and will eliminate the pain associated with a misaligned skeleton that can also lead to a higher incidence of bone fractures. If you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on hard surfaces when they walk, chances are that their nails are too long.

The nails on the back feet are almost always shorter than the front nails as the back nails push off of surfaces and propel the dog forward when walking or running. Also, many dogs scratch the ground with the back feet to mark territory after they do their business.

Until our canine companions master the skill of speaking English and can tell us when their long nails are causing them shoulder, back, neck or headache pain, it’s up to us humans to make certain that this ongoing grooming maintenance is carried out as often as is necessary for our particular dog to be healthy and pain free.

The left side image in the diagram shows the correct alignment with a short toenail, whereas the image on the right side of the diagram shows the angled misalignment caused because of a toenail that is too long. (Image provided by Dr. Lisa Kluslow)

^..^ Asia Moore
Author, Dog Whisperer, & Groomer
85+ dog breed books and counting!
MustHavePublishing.com
K-9SuperHeroesDogWhispering.com

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