Tips on nail trims for dogs
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Comfortable feet are very important for the day-to-day activities of dogs. Proper toenail length contributes to balance and gripping when moving on uneven surfaces. Also, nails need to be short enough that they will not cause the toes to splay outward or turn sideways when the pet is standing and moving.
Abnormally long nails can contribute to gait problems. Long nails are also more at risk for tearing and creating a reason for an emergency trip to the veterinarian.
The dog toenail grows from the third bone of each digit. The horn-shaped claw that we see is attached to the ungula process of that third bone. Between the claw and bone is tissue rich with blood vessels and nerves, which is why it can bleed so heavily and cause pain when the tissue, also known as the quick, is accidentally cut. It is good to have one of the special nail powders on hand that helps stop bleeding quickly if this should happen.
For tools some people prefer the pliers-type trimmers for bigger dogs, but many like the guillotine type. Always have sharp blades since dull ones will crush nails as they cut, causing pain. Some dogs will accept the Dremel-styled rotary grinding tools that give a smooth finish. These grinders can also be used when you just want to take off a little of the nail.
If you are just starting out with a new dog or puppy, you can help make your pet more accepting of foot work by handling the feet and giving praise and a treat each time. Also show the dog the clippers, give a treat, and then start making noises with the clipper or Dremel while giving treats. Gradually the dog will be less and less foot- and noise-phobic, and this will make the nail trim a more pleasant experience for all.
Do not wait until you hear the “click, click” of already long nails to begin trimming. The best schedule for foot maintenance depends on your dog’s activities, but once or twice a month clipping at home is typical.
When cutting nails the goal is to leave about 1/8 of an inch beyond the quick. You can see the shadow of the quick in light nails, but dark nails are a bit trickier. For additional help on how much to cut, you can consult the professionals. Both groomers and veterinary services are happy to show you how to keep your pet’s feet healthy.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.