A Stress-Free Way For Trimming Your Dog’s Toenails
The most common reasons for avoiding nail trims are that the owner is afraid of “quicking” the dog, or that the dog fusses and creates bad feelings around the procedure.
Nail cutting becomes an event surrounded by angst and drama. For very active dogs who run all day long on varied surfaces, cutting nails may not be necessary. High mileage wears them down naturally.
But among city or suburban dogs who are lucky to get a mile or two walk daily, excessively long toenails are more common than not.
Consequences Of Long Toenails
So what’s the big deal ?
The first consequence of long toenails is painful feet. When a dog’s toenails contact hard ground, like a sidewalk or your kitchen floor, the hard surface pushes the nail back up into the nail bed. This either puts pressure on all the toe joints or forces the toe to twist to the side.
Either way, those toes become very sore, even arthritic. When the slightest touch is painful to your dog, he will fuss when you pick up his paw to cut nails.
The second consequence of long toenails is more serious. All animals rely on information from nerves in their feet to move through the world and process gravity accurately.
For millions of years, wild dogs have run long distances while hunting and worn their nails short. The only time their toenails would touch the ground was when climbing a hill.
So a dog’s brain is evolutionarily programmed to associate toenail contact with being on a hill, and he shifts his body posture accordingly: leaning forward over his forelimbs, up the imaginary hill as reported by his toes.
Since the hill is not real, a secondary compensation with his hind limbs is necessary to avoid a face plant.
This abnormal compensatory posture can be called “goat on a rock,” because it brings his paws closer together under his body. Normal neutral posture is a nice show dog “stack,” with vertical legs like a table.
Recent research shows that standing with limbs “camped-in” is hard work to maintain. These goat-on-a-rock dogs get over-used muscles and eventually over-used joints, especially in their hind limbs, making it difficult to jump in cars, climb stairs and even hard to get up from lying down. Sounds like a lot of older dogs we know!
Cutting toenails short can be like a miracle cure for your dog whose hind end has become painful, weak and over-used.
Tools Of The Trade
– Use only “scissor” type clippers. Guillotine style clippers crush the toe, which is painful. Never put the whole nail in a clipper.
– Use small size clippers for better control. Only giant breed dogs will need large ones.
– Keep your tools sharp: either replace or sharpen your clippers regularly.
– “Pedi-paws” type grinder: Smooth out your trim afterwards with a rotating emeryboard.
– File only the insensitive nail around the top and sides of the quick: “Sharpen the pencil” where the nail is the wood and the quick is the lead.
Why should you not use a human nail clipper on your dog ?
You should never use a human nail clipper on your dog because human nail clippers are often not powerful enough to cut through thick dog nails. While human nail clippers may work for small dogs with thin, clear nails or puppies, it’s still advisable to use a nail clipper that is specifically designed for dogs instead of a human nail clipper.
Nail clippers for dogs come in a variety of different styles, but with the same purpose of trimming your dog’s nails so that they don’t get too long and cause your dog pain. Long nails can also break easily, alter the way your dog walks, and eventually contribute to arthritis. Clipping a dog’s nails regularly is important for his overall health.
Human nail clippers should not be used because they can easily fracture the dog’s nail, causing pain and splintering in the nail. Cuts to the dog’s nail should be precise and done quickly. A human nail clipper most often times will begin to puncture the nail, but not have enough force to finish the cut. This will just cause pressure on the nail, an uneven cut, and discomfort for the dog.
How Often Should I Cut My Dog’s Nails ?
Just like us humans need to cut our own finger nails regularly, dogs needs to have their nails trimmed from time to time as well.
How often should you cut your dog’s nails? On average, most dogs will need to have their nails trimmed every 1-2 months. You can also tell that your dog’s nails need to be trimmed if they are clicking on the floor when your dog walks.
Dogs’ front nails tend to grow faster than back nails, so you may not need to trim your dog’s rear nails as frequently as the front nails.
However, as with so many things, how often you need to cut your dog’s nails usually depends on a variety of factors, such as :
Dogs that walk regularly on pavement will naturally have their nails worn down, so they won’t need their nails trimmed as often.
Dogs who are older tend to be walking less often, which might mean they’ll need more frequent clippings than dogs who have their nails naturally worn during walks.
Even if your dog is very active and goes on lots of walks, if he or she is walking on dirt or grass, your dog’s nails won’t be worn down the way they would be if your dog was walking on asphalt, sidewalks, or other rough surfaces.
Some dog breeds have nails which will grow more quickly than other breeds, so they may require more frequent nail trimmings. Small dogs like Chihuahuas that spend the majority of their time indoors will definitely need to have their nails cut short.
– Nail Length.
If your dog’s nails have managed to get quite long, you’ll want to cut the nails every 2-3 weeks to help wear down the quicks (cutting close to the quick encourages the quick to shrink back). Extra long nails have to be cut a little bit at a time and should not be cut short all at once.
When You Don’t Cut Nails :
When you don’t cut your dog’s nails, your dog may become very uncomfortable, with long nails sometimes causing joint and bone issues.
Longer nails can also result in snagging and breakage, which is very painful for your pooch and in some cases may even require a trip to the vet for sedation and repair or removal. Some dog’s nails will curl under their feet and grow into the dog’s foot pads, which hurts and can become infected.
Common Problems With Cutting A Dog’s Nails
1. Dog Anxiety.
Many owners have issues keeping their dog calm during the nail cutting process, and it’s not unusual for dogs to be terrified of getting their nails cut (usually due to a past bad experience). My previous dog never growled at me – except when I would try to cut his nails. He really hated it !
Dogs have a blood vessel that runs through their nails, which is called the quick. If you cut too much of your dog’s nails, you might accidentally cut into the quick, which will cause the nail to bleed. This is not fun for your dog and can be frightening for owners as well. If you cut into the quick, don’t panic! Wipe away the blood, grab some styptic powder, and pat the powder around the nail area and bleeding should stop.
3. Dark Colored Nails.
While the quick is easy to see (and avoid) on light-colored nails, it can be much more difficult to see on dark colored nails. Ideally, you’ll want to cut 2-3 millimeters from the nail quick. When cutting dark nails, since it’s so difficult to see the quick, it’s better to be safe than sorry. While the narrow tip of the nail should be fine to cut, you’ll want to be very careful when you begin to cut the wider section of nail. Only cut 2mm at a time, and after each cut, look at the nail. When you begin to see the center of the nail turn a white or grey flesh-like color, stop cutting.
4. Squirmy Dogs.
Some dogs really dread getting their nails cut and will squirm the whole time. You may want to try to get help to keep your dog still. However, if your dog really won’t stop squirming, it might be best to leave the task to the pros. You certainly don’t want to cut the nails of a moving dog, since this will increase chances of injury and cutting the painful quick area.
5. Bad Experience Leading to More Fear.
Unfortunately, if you mess up and cut into your dog’s quick a few times, he or she will be much less receptive to future nail cutting sessions, making the situation even more difficult.