Dog grooming is an essential part of dog ownership. Just as your pup needs to be bathed regularly, he needs his nails trimmed on a regular basis, too. Many dog owners wonder why their dog’s nails need to be trimmed, assuming it is simply an aesthetic improvement; but it is much more.
Nails are part of a dog’s anatomy. They provide traction and increase your dog’s ability to walk, run and jump without slipping. Many dogs don’t get enough exercise to keep their nails worn down naturally. When this happens, it’s time to trim your dog’s nails.
Nails that are too long can cause a number of problems. Long nails affect the way that your dog walks. They cause the bones of the foot to flatten which puts pressure on the joints, strains the leg muscles, and torques the spine. Think about the difference between wearing high heels and running shoes. Running shoes are designed to provide support and prevent injury. Would you rather spend a day on your feet wearing running shoes or high heels?
It’s hard to imagine but if left untrimmed, nails can grow around and into the bottom of the foot. Nails that have grown into the pads or legs (dewclaws) may need to be surgically removed.
Long nails are more easily torn or broken than short nails. Broken or torn nails can easily become infected.
The quick extends longer in nails that are left untrimmed. The quick contains nerves and blood vessels making it impossible to trim your dog’s nails to the proper length without cutting the quick. As you can imagine, cutting the quick is very painful.
DIY or leave it to the Pros?
I know. I have just struck fear into the hearts of most readers. “Trimming my own dog’s nails? No way!” If you have never done it before, certainly you will want to proceed with caution. If your dog’s nails have never been trimmed and you’re looking at them now thinking they should be, I would recommend having a professional do it the first time. They can give you tips for maintaining shorter nails.
White or light-colored nails are easier to trim since typically you can see the quick and avoid hitting it when trimming. Black or dark-colored nails can be more of a challenge for trimming, as can thick nails.
Often, when you take your dog in for grooming, the groomer will offer either clipping or grinding. Grinding is done with a power rotary tool that will sand down your dog’s nails, with no pain at all. This is also a technique you can learn to do at home.
If you have just brought home a new puppy, certainly there are things you can do now to make nail trimming less traumatic for both of you. (Read 5 Tips to Prepare Puppies for Grooming.)
Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is one of the most important things you can do for his overall health.