Nail Care for Dogs
If your dog spends a lot of time outside on hard, rough surfaces, they will naturally have their nails 'filed down' for them by the ground. However, for the most part, you'll have to trim your dog's nails from time to time.
When your dog's nails grow too long, it can affect their mobility. 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, which is both painful 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 do I know 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 like a wood or tiled floor. 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 come into contact with the ground while they are standing
- Your dog looks like they're on tip-toe
- 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 should book an appointment with 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 do well with nail clippers, you can 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 far better to leave nails slightly longer than to cut them too short; you can always return later to trim 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 has nerves and blood vessels. Never trim this part of the nail, as it can cause bleeding and pain to your pet. Part of the reason it is important to keep your dog's nails regularly trimmed is that the quick of a dog's nails grow as the nails grow. 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 light-colored, 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, take your time to go slowly and look for a dark spot in the center of the newly clipped nails—this is the start of the quick. Don't trim any more after that.
If you accidentally cut the quick, remain calm. If you panic your dog might form a negative association with the nail trimming process and resist having their nails done in the future. Keep 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.