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Importance Of Trimming Your Dog's Nails

Human hand holding a dog's paw

In thinking about caring for a beloved dog, many people forget about trimming the nails. Yet keeping your dog’s toenails trimmed is an essential part of the dog’s health, and trimming should be done at least once a month. If your dog’s nails can be heard on the floor when he walks, or if he’s beginning to limp, that means it’s time to trim.

A dog’s walk can be drastically affected by its nails, since dogs walk and run on their toes. This is a stark difference from humans, since our nails are not used for walking or providing balance. If you’re in doubt about how often to trim the nails or how short they should be, keep these two principles in mind. The nails should not protrude over the pads of the dog’s paws, and they should not touch the ground.

When the nail is too long, walking can become awkward and even painful. Long nails can also contribute to hip and back problems, splayed or deformed feet, punctures that open the skin to infections, and bone trouble. Long nails can also begin to split or bleed into the pad of the foot. This will cause the dog to walk slowly, limp, or not walk at all.

There are two ways to trim nails: with a standard toenail clipper or with a dremel. A standard clipper works well, as long as the person is careful not to take too much off. If the clipper cuts to the quick of the nail, it damages the tender vein that runs through the nail. This will cause even more pain for the dog, along with some light bleeding. On the other hand, the dremel is a gentle sander that can round the edges of a nail without cutting to the quick. In light-colored nails, the quick is easy to see. If your dog has dark or black nails, you may want to use the dremel simple to avoid hitting the vein.

Of course, regular trimming should be part of your dog’s care since puppyhood. Yet if you adopted the dog when it was older, there may be an adjustment period as the dog becomes accustomed to the monthly routine. Dogs can often be frightened simply because they don’t know what to expect. Trusting the process to a professional at your local animal shelter or veterinarian may be the best choice simply because that person is skilled at calming down animals in distress. If you opt to trim the nails at home, make sure to involve someone whom the dog trusts, and reward his good behavior with a treat afterward.

Many dogs, especially younger ones, will wear their nails down simply by playing. Inactive or older dogs, though, will prefer to walk on grass or other soft surfaces, and their nails will not be worn down naturally. Check your dog’s nails periodically until you have a sense of how quickly they grow. No matter what your dog’s breed, lifestyle, and health history are, nail trimming should be a regular part of his care.

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  •  License: Creative Commons image source 
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This guest article was written by Eva Kettler, an animal enthusiast who often writes for the LaPorte Animal Clinic & Supply. Besides writing, Eva enjoys renovating her 60-year-old home and making peach jam.