Nails

April 12, 2012

Many owners know that their dogs need their nails trimmed, but they aren’t sure when or how. Trimming a dog’s nails can be a little nerve racking but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Once dog owners know what to look for and what needs to be done, trimming the toe nails can be a short and simple process every couple of weeks!

Why Is It Important to Keep the Nails Trimmed?

A lot of pet owners know that nail trimming should be done but they don’t realize that it is not something they can ignore. Like people, animals have some basic needs and having their toe nails trimmed is one of them for many breeds of dogs. Many dogs that get regular exercise on a rough surface will not need their nails trimmed, but others will need to have their trimmed once every three to four weeks without fail.

You know that it is time to cut your dog’s nails when you can hear them clicking on the floor or if they are getting caught in the carpet. When you look at your dog’s feet their nails should just barely touch the floor when they are standing with their full weight on their feet. If you hear clicking this is a good indication that your pet needs a trim!

If you do not trim your dogs nails there are going to be a lot of different things that can happen to them as a result. There may be ingrown toenails, which can be quite painful and expensive to remove. Your dog can also suffer from torn toenails, infections in the nail beds, irritated pads, and even trouble walking or placing their full body weight on their feet. Just like people, when a dog’s feet are not in good working condition their whole body can suffer from sore feet, knees, legs, hips, and back. This is why it is so important to keep your dogs nails trimmed.

Facts About Dog Nails

Many people are afraid to trim their dog’s nails because they simply don’t know enough about them. When you look at your dogs nails you will find that they are not unlike your own. In fact, if you cut them back too far it will hurt, just like it hurts when you cut too far back into your foot. Take some time to become familiar with your dogs foot. You will find when you look at their feet that your dog has four very distinct toes with a nail at the end of the each of them. Dogs are unlike cats in that their nails do not retract, so you can see them in plain sight, though you may have to move some fur out of the way. There is also a fifth nail that you cannot forget about, which is the dew claw, which can be compared to the thumb of a human because it is found higher up on the foot than any of the other nails.

The dew claw is very important to watch out for because it does not touch the ground, which means that it may need to be cut more often than the other nails because even with exercise it is not going to be worn down. Not finding a dew claw? In some breeds the dew claw is removed so you shouldn’t be alarmed if you cannot find a nail there at all and in other breeds such as St. Bernard’s you will find that they have two sets of dew claws! Be sure you look carefully for a nail around the back or side of the foot. If you do find a nail be sure that you trim it regularly to keep it from growing into the pad and becoming infected.

Before you cut into the dogs nails you need to make yourself aware of something referred to as “the quick” in the dogs nail. The quick is actually the blood vessels and nerves that bring the blood to the toenail; this can be likened to the nail bed of a human. If you cut into the quick it is going to bleed and cause pain for the dog, which may cause him to be afraid of having his nails cut in the future. You will want to cut within 2 millimeters of the quick but no closer.

Signs of Nail Problems, Prevention of Problems, and What to do When Problems Arise

Just about every dog owner of any length has had a nail that tears or has even cut into the quick of their dogs nail accidentally. Accidents do happen, but there are some things that you can do to limit the potential of your dog hurting themselves. The more you know the better able you will be to prevent problems.

One of the most common problems is ingrown toenails. If you find that your dog has an ingrown toenail you will likely need to see a veterinarian to have it removed. The problem is that once the nail becomes imbedded in the foot it often needs to be surgically removed and then treated with antibiotics so that the wound does not become infected. It is better to be safe than sorry, so be sure to bring your dog to the vet straight away should you find an ingrown toenail.

When you look at your dogs feet, some of the things that you should look for include redness, swelling, sore toes, and sore footpads. When you look for these things each time you clip your dogs nails you can prevent an ingrown toenail or infection by catching it before it becomes a big problem. Like people, dogs will often stub their toes or catch their toe nail on something and like people if the issue is dealt with right away the doctor and further problems can be avoided.

If you are clipping your dogs nails or you catch them hobbling or limping on one of their feet and you find discharge coming from one of the nails you’ll want to wash it with warm water and soap and see if you can ascertain what the problem is. Many times a small irritation will turn into a festering wound that if you just keep it clean and put some antibiotic ointment on it, it will be fine. Try washing it out daily for three to five days and applying the ointment to the nail. If there is a torn nail you should clip it and if there is an ingrown toenail it is a good time to call the vet and see when they can get you in to remove the problem nail from the skin. Many pet owners try to remove ingrown toe nails themselves, but this can be dangerous as many dogs will bite because of the pain that they experience. This is why if there is a problem that you don’t know how to fix that it is just a good idea to bring the dog in to be seen by a professional.

Not sure when you should go to the vet? It’s really quite simple to decide when you should go to the vet and that is when you cannot fix the problem yourself, your dog is snarling, biting, or growling when you try to tend to the wound, or if your dog is running a temperature or seems to generally not feel good due to the wound. When soap, water, antibiotic ointment, and a pair of nail clippers won’t solve the problem you need to see the vet. Remember that it is better to be safe than sorry, so if you are in doubt you should bring your beloved dog into see a professional.

How to Trim Your Dogs Nails

Now that you have learned a little bit more about your dogs feet and what to look for when cutting and when to visit the vet you can learn how to actually cut the nails and what you should cut them with. You may be surprised to find when you go to buy a pair of nail clippers that there are several different types to choose from.

First, there is the guillotine type of nail clippers that you can use for your dog. These are the easiest to use in most dogs because they give you more of a guide than the other types. With this type you put the nail between two different pieces of metal, one which moves and the other which braces the nail ensuring a good cut. These stay sharp for a long time and the blade can be replaced when it doesn’t seem to be cutting as easily.

In addition to the guillotine type of nail clippers there is also the scissors type of clippers. These are a bit more difficult for the average person to use, but they do work well, especially on nails that are curling into a circle or growing into the skin. The scissor type is two blades that come together, just like a pair of scissors. If you are just learning how to cut your dogs nail it may be a better idea to start with the guillotine style of nail clippers.

You can also use nail files or grinding tools. If you use a grinding tool you will want to be sure that you purchase one that has a very slow speed. If you use a tool that grinds too quickly it will heat up the nail bed and actually cause pain. It takes some practice to use the grinding tools, so you may want to get some experience with the clippers first so you know how far back to grind. You can always use nail files to smooth out the cut edge of the nail. Both guillotine and scissor type clippers can be used in large and small dogs, you may just need to buy bigger or smaller sets according to the size of the dog.

When you look at a dog with white nails you will be able to see the quick as it will be pink in color while the rest of the nail will be white or yellow. If your dog has dark nails you will have a difficult time determining where the quick is, so you should make several smaller cuts. As you cut back you will begin to see a gray to pink oval appearing within the nail, this means that you are getting close to the quick and you should stop cutting. Remember, always cut with caution as it is better to make several smaller cuts than to cut into the quick and cause your dog pain.

Accidents do happen, especially when you are cutting your dogs nails every three to four weeks. Chances are at some point that you are going to hit the quick and cause your dog to bleed and perhaps even cause them pain. When you buy your clippers you should also be sure to buy some styptic powder, also called coagulant pencils, or clotting powder. This can be applied to the nail and will stop the bleeding almost immediately at which point you can give your dog a pat and let them know that you are not mad at them and you are sorry for the pain.

If you have ever hit the quick before or you have a dog that just doesn’t like to have their feet touched you may find that clipping the nails can be a bit of a challenge. Don’t rush into cutting your dogs nails. The first thing you should do if your dog is hesitant is leave the clippers out where they can see them and smell them. Then, while you are watching television have your dog come lay down next to you and let them drift off to sleep. When they are fully asleep place your hand on their paws lightly. If they wake up disturbed simply remove your hand and, without looking at your dog, pretend as though nothing happened. Do this over and over again over a few days or weeks, leaving your hand on the dogs paw for longer periods of time, working all the way up to kneading their pads, running your fingers between the pads, and touching their nails. When you can do this without them being worried you can take out the clippers and cut their nails.

Once you are able to clip the nails you may only be able to get one or two done at a time. After each nail in the beginning you should pet your dog, give them a treat, or give them praise that you typically use. You shouldn’t talk in baby talk or hushed tones; let them know that what you are doing is good. Eventually you’ll get to the point where you can wean then off of the praise until you are done with all four feet! In time, you may find that both you and your dog look forward to this time spent together.

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