Caring for your dog’s nails

Caring for your dog's nails

Clipping your dog’s nails isn’t just about preventing damage to your home. It’s also important for her health and comfort.

Regular nail maintenance contributes to your dog’s comfort and well-being in so many ways. And it saves your floors too! Here are five good reasons to keep her “mani-pedi” up-to-date:

1. Provides better traction

This is especially important for growing puppies, dogs with orthopedic problems, and elderly pets. Many of our canine companions live indoors with us where floors can be slippery. Overgrown claws can force the dog’s foot up, allowing less of the pad to come in contact with the surface he’s walking or running on. This can lead to slips and injuries, not to mention scratches in your hardwood!

2. Reduces risk of injury

Dogs with long claws can injure themselves while scratching. Long nails are also more likely to get caught in things, or to snap, causing pain that may require veterinary attention.  Nails that are not properly maintained can cause injury to people and other animals as well.

3. Prevents claws from growing into the pad

If left unattended long enough, nails can actually grow into the pad of the dog’s foot.  This causes a great deal of pain and can lead to infection. Dewclaws (claws located on the upper side of the foot) are more likely to do this, but depending on your dog’s anatomy and exercise level, it can happen with any neglected nail.

4. Helps lessen orthopedic problems

Long nails can actually force a dog’s toes to spread, twist or lift when walking. This unnatural position can cause temporary discomfort or permanent structural issues, and even lead to arthritis. Keeping nails as short as possible will allow the dog to walk on the pads of her feet as intended.

5. Decreases damage to property

Of course, maintaining your dog’s claws can prevent him from doing damage to furniture, flooring, doors, clothing, car interiors, etc.

Nailcare FAQs

How do I know when I should trim his nails?

Every dog is different and will require a different nail care schedule. Heavier, active dogs may wear their nails down faster than a smaller dog who is not as active. Some indications that your animal might need some foot attention include:

  • Claws clicking on the floor
  • Nail biting
  • Claws catching on carpet or upholstery
  • Visual signs that nail needs a trim, or if it has been more than a month since the last

How do I get my dog used to having his nails trimmed?

Most animals are sensitive about their feet being handled so start touching them as soon as possible. When your dog is in a calm state, begin to desensitize by simply touching her toes and feet. Massage and reward with treats or praise when she remains calm and receptive. Move on to tapping the nail with the clippers, and rewarding when this action is well received. After the claws have been clipped, follow up with a grinder or file to smooth edges. Make it a positive experience for you and your dog. Sometimes having a second person to provide comfort is all it takes to get the job done!

What if my animal is still stressed about nail clipping?

Dogs can sense when a person is nervous, so make sure you approach the situation with confidence. Give your dog a break between claws if necessary. Try to have her stand while you lift her feet, trimming like a blacksmith would a horse’s hooves — this can give you more control, allows you to see the quick easier from the underside, and can be a more comfortable position for your dog. Be careful not to manipulate her legs or force her through the process. Practice, patience and time will be required for your dog to grow comfortable with nail maintenance.

When should I call a professional?

If your dog gets aggressive or opposes trimming to the point of injuring herself, it might be best to leave her nail maintenance to the professionals. Consult your veterinarian or groomer if either you or your dog is uncomfortable with the nail trimming process.  Regular nail trims with a professional are not usually expensive.

What if I cut a nail too short?

The vein located within the nail is referred to as the “quick”. If you happen to cut too far down the nail and it starts to bleed, remain calm. Often, your dog will barely notice your mistake. Simply place some styptic powder on the bleeding nail and add pressure. Repeat until the bleeding stops. Avoid exercise for the next few hours to prevent the nail from bleeding again.