Trimming Your Dog's Nails - Health, Safety & Comfort Benefits of Doing It Right

Nail trimming is one of those things that even the best dog owners can often fall behind on. While some dogs rarely seem to need their nails trimmed, others seems to have nails that grow like weeds! Even in a place like Wilmington, where there are many options for finding a groomer or vets office to do this affordably, this can pose a challenge for many owners. The act of remembering to make an appointment, driving the dogs there (and hopefully not stressing them out), and then actually finding a place that does it CORRECTLY can be a frustration and the task quickly goes by the wayside in our day-to-day lives. 

 Despite what many people think, if your dog's nails can touch the ground while they're standing, they are   too long.

Despite what many people think, if your dog's nails can touch the ground while they're standing, they are too long.

Whether I'm doing training sessions or visiting a house to meet new walking clients, I frequently notice that almost every dog I see has nails that are too long. Even one of my own dogs, until I learned to do their nails myself, had nails that were far too long. Like many people, I originally thought that as long as my dogs' nails weren't curling around, scratching people or damaging the house, they must be fine, right? WRONG! Here are some of the most important points I've learned about nails and how they relate to your dog's health, safety & comfort over my years of experience:

  • If their nails are touching the ground when they're standing still, this is too long.
  • Nails that are this long will change how your dog walks, affecting their posture and how they stand, and can cause flat feet and joint issues - even bone deformity. If you have an older dog that already has joint issues, this will lead to them being less comfortable and increase their discomfort from arthritis as well as making them less steady on their feet.
  • Overgrown nails can get caught in carpeting, crates, bedding, etc, and possibly rip out. If the dog panics when this happens, they could bite you or another pet in the house. Additionally, this usually leads to them needing a rather unpleasant visit to the vet's office.
  • Long nails means that the blood vessel inside is longer, larger and closer to the ground. This means that if part of the nail breaks or cracks, contamination can get into the blood stream and lead to infection.
  • If your dogs nails become too long and/or sharp, they can hurt people that they jump on or paw at, as well as themselves. Just as a sharp nail would break the skin when they scratch a person, it can also break the skin when they scratch themselves. This is especially of concern when they scratch at their ears or face. This can be uncomfortable or painful, as well as another potential source of infection.

So how long should your dog's nails be? How often do you need to trim them?

Well, the nails should be just a tad longer than the toes, but you must use caution in trimming to prevent bleeding and pain for your dog. If they are already too long, it's important to understand that it will take MULTIPLE TRIMMING SESSIONS to get the nails back to the appropriate length safely and comfortably. If you look at the diagram below, you can see that nail lengths you may have thought appropriate are all too long, but with appropriate trimming you can get them taken back a little at a time, which encourages the quick to recede. However, when clipped incorrectly it will actually encourage the quick to continue to grow further out, making it more difficult to get back to the appropriate length.


 Appropriate vs inappropriate nail lengths, and how to get the nail back to the correct length.

Appropriate vs inappropriate nail lengths, and how to get the nail back to the correct length.

In order to get your dog's nails to the correct length and help maintain them there, it's important to be trimming your pups nails regularly. While working to get the kwik to shorten so you can get the nail back to the correct length it's important to do a little at a time every week. Once they are at the desired length, trimming needs to be done roughly once a month to maintain this. If you have been paying to have nails trimmed regularly but find that they are still too long, have a conversation with your groomer or vet's office about this. If they don't see anything wrong with what's been done or why it is so important to correctly maintain the appropriate length, it may be time to consider changing who you go to.