Proper nail care ensures your pup can walk, run, and move around comfortably and without pain. Today, our Mandeville vets share tips for how to trim your dog's nails at home, including how to tell when they are due for a trim.
Nail Care for Dogs
If your dog spends a lot of time outside on hard, rough surfaces, they will naturally have their nails "filed" for them by the ground. However, in most circumstances, you will have to trim your dog's nails from time to time.
When you let your dog's nails get too long it can cause them problems when walking. This is because long nails create an unnatural angle for your dog's foot that creates unequal pressure on the toes and can cause the nail beds to become sore. When your dog has nails that are too long, particularly if they are senior dogs or have arthritis, it can cause them to slip on surfaces such as hardwood floors.
Long nails are also more likely to split or splinter. This is a painful experience for your dog and puts them at risk of an infection developing in the nail bed. If your dog does have a hangnail it is best to get it removed professionally by your veterinarian. They will use the appropriate pain medications and bandage your pup's foot to prevent infection.
How can I tell if my dog's nails are too long?
There are a few ways to tell if your dog's nails are too long. One surefire sign is that you can hear their nails clicking when they walk across a hard surface. Some other indicators that it is time for a nail trim include:
- Your dog's nails are protruding over the pad
- Your dog's nails touch the ground while they are standing
- Your dog looks like they're tip-toeing
- Your dog's nails scratch you when they paw at you
- Your dog is unstable or looks like they're sliding on the floor
How do you know how short to cut dog nails?
Trimming your dog's nails at home might seem intimidating, but with the right tools and advice, it can be done. If you don't feel comfortable trimming your pup's nails at home, you can always bring them to a professional groomer to have the job done.
For at-home nail trims, you’ll want to be sure you are using clippers that are appropriate for your dog’s size or you might cut off too much of the nail too quickly. Begin on your dog's front paws. Firmly but gently hold their paw and determine where you want to make the cut. You should always be sure to cut at least 2mm above the quick (see below for more information on the quick). When you cut the nail you should cut perpendicular to the nail direction—avoid cutting the nail at an angle. When you get to their back paws, have your dog lie on their side to make it easier for you to access and hold their back paws.
If your dog doesn't like nail clippers, you can alternatively try a dog nail file. Nail files usually have a small rotating wheel that grinds or files down your dog’s nail tips. Nail files work on thick and thin nails and trim without leaving sharp edges.
It's always best to cut too little rather than too much. You can always return later to cut more. Be sure to have a few treats on hand to give to your dog throughout the process so they associate nail trimming with a positive experience.
The quick is the part of a dog's nail that contains nerves and blood vessels. This part of the nail should never be trimmed as it can cause bleeding and pain. Part of the reason it is important to keep your dog's nails regularly trimmed is because as your dog's nails grow, so does the quick. This can make it more difficult to cut their nails when they become long. If your dog's nails are curling under themselves it is best to have the job done by a professional groomer.
For dogs with clear nails, the quick is easier to spot. Look for the faint pink line in their nail. For dogs with darker nails, it can be more difficult to spot the quick. When trimming, go slowly and look for a dark spot in the center of the newly clipped nails—this is the start of the quick.
If you accidentally cut the quick, remain calm. If you panic your dog might form a negative association with the nail trimming process. Have a styptic powder on hand, dab some onto your finger, and press onto the bleeding nail to help stop the bleeding. Afterward, give your dog a treat and reassurance.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.