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I know, I know, the majority of us hate trimming our dog’s nails, especially if they are resistant to it. I want to try to shed some light on why we shouldn’t let those fears and discomforts of ours, or our beloved pets’ fears, dissuade us from this important care. I’ll do my best to explain why nail maintenance is important, give some general tips and guidance on trimming, and suggest some tools that I have found useful. Having worked at a kennel, I saw many dogs come through with poorly maintained nails, even from some of the more diligent pet owners. I think that this was the case because people are just not aware of the damage this can cause their beloved pets. This isn’t intended to attack dog owners who are neglecting this task; I’m just trying to educate us all to provide the best possible lives for our furry friends and family.
Let’s get right into the ‘why’. A dog’s nails are too long if they are touching the ground, often you’ll hear them tapping or scraping as they walk around. This isn’t a purely cosmetic issue. When a dog’s nails are touching the ground, pressure is constantly applied to the nail beds, which in turn causes pain, affects weight distribution, and can make them more susceptible to injuries. This will often affect your dog’s posture as they hunch over to relieve the pain. Nail splitting, bent toes, and flattened paws are also common side effects. If these symptoms get too severe, veterinary treatment may be a necessary solution. These issues are more frequent among older dogs and dogs that aren’t often on hard, gritty surfaces, which can help wear down their nails and keep the length in check. Getting into a routine maintenance schedule is never too late and helps alleviate these symptoms.
I’m not going to go into immense detail on the techniques you should use when trimming your dog’s nails, but it might help if I explain the basic anatomy and goals of nail trimming. The major goal of trimming your dog’s nails is to get them off of the ground, removing the pressure from the nail bed. If you haven’t had your dog’s nails trimmed in a while, reaching a healthy length can take a little longer. Inside your dog’s nails there are blood vessels and nerves, called the quick. If your dog has white nails, the quick is easier to see, making them easier to properly trim than black or darker nails. As your dog’s nails grow, the quick does too, extending further and further out from the nail bed. When you trim the nail, you want to get as close to the quick, without cutting into it, as possible. Then as your dog walks around, the quick will slowly die back, at which time you can trim the nails again.
Getting into a routine trimming schedule will allow you to drive the quick back to an acceptable length, relieving your pet of unnecessary pain. Don’t forget to trim the dewclaws too! If you accidentally cut into the quick, it will cause pain and bleeding, but don’t panic; most pet stores carry a variety of products to stop the bleeding, such as styptic powders and pencils or even just cornstarch can work. You should have one of these products within reach before you start to trim your dog’s nails. It’s important to stay calm and to quickly apply one of these remedies to stop the bleeding. If the bleeding persists, you may need to consult your veterinarian.
There are many tools out there to trim your dog’s nails, but I recommend using a grinder. Although it’s a little more expensive, it is generally safer for your dog. Using a grinder makes cutting into the quick much more difficult than if you were to use pliers style trimmers. Before jumping right into using a grinder for your pet, you should slowly introduce them to the noise and vibrations. To keep your pets trust you may need to give them extra affection or rewards. There are many pet specific grinders out there, such as the Dremel 7300-PT, which is the product I currently use and is very affordable. These pet specific grinders have safety accessories and are often cordless allowing for ultimate flexibility. It's also easy to replace the sanding bands when they wear down. While working at a boarding kennel that offered some basic grooming options, we got a little fancier and used the Dremel 3000 Variable Speed Rotary Tool with the Dremel 225-01 Flex Shaft Attachment. The corded grinder gives consistent power, rather than relying on a battery, and the variable speed is convenient if you have multiple pets that may have varying nail hardness or reactions to the grinder’s noise and vibrations. The flex shaft attachment increases tool flexibility and is easier to maneuver into tight spaces while working with your potentially squirrely pet. If you aren’t comfortable trimming your dog’s nails yourself, most pet groomers, veterinarians, and boarding facilities offer this service at an affordable rate.
All in all, I just want to emphasize to everyone that keeping your dog’s nails at a proper length is important for a healthy lifestyle and routine trimming is key to keeping the quick maintained. There are many tools out there for at-home nail trimming suitable for both beginners and more advanced pet owners, but if fear or discomfort is keeping you from doing this task yourself, there are plenty of facilities capable of doing it for you.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me directly or leave them in the comments section! If you found this post helpful or informative, please give it a share, let me know if you have any suggestions for future content, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @Painted.By.Light to keep up with my latest adventures!