Nail trimming... a job most owners do not enjoy and some struggle to get done. Why is this task so difficult? Well, there is anxiety about trimming the nails too short and making the dog's nails bleed. There is also the screaming that occasionally happens when you trim the nails and of course this scare tactic on the dog’s part generally works into scaring you to stop the nail trim. Checking your dog's feet, touching them and dealing with nail trimming is an activity that should be done monthly to ensure healthy feet and nails. This not only makes the dog comfortable but it also makes you comfortable. With trimmers, a grinder, and kwik-stop powder, you can do this job on your own.
Here are a few tips to hopefully help you in your next nail trim session.
I've shared several diagrams in this blog to demonstrate what short, regularly cut nails look like as well as nails that are not regularly trimmed. Once your dog's nails begins to grow and if they are not properly trimmed, the vein in the center of the nail, also know as the kwik, will begin to get longer and longer making your trimming sessions much more challenging. Now this doesn’t mean if you skip one trimming you will not be able to trim the nails. Monthly trimming ensures the quick remain at a short level in the nail. Should you go many weeks and possibly months, depending on your breed of dog, the quick will work its way down the nail and soon you will be able to remove less. Now if you're looking to get on a more regular nail care program it’s never to late to work the length of the kwik closer to the foot. Trimming and grinding twice a month will then allow you to work those kwiks back making your dog’s feet healthy and stress free.
I have heard from several people who tell me they don’t make nail trimming a regular part of their routine because their dog is on pavement very regularly. Walking on pavement does work really well for your dog's nails and depending on your dog's activity may keep them from needing regular trims. That said, the process of handling your dog's feet is something I would still encourage. Your dog may be healthy and active now, but that doesn’t mean he will be as he ages. Making your dog comfortable while you play with his feet will work a life time to make trimming easier.
The nails will continue to grow at the rate they do when your dog is a puppy. Starting young will make it an easy process for both of you. When an older dog is unable to cooperate for trimming and the nails get over grown, this can lead to many other possible challenges. If the nails are too long, they can cause the feet to splay (spread out) creating discomfort and possible deformation of the foot. Nails can actually curl under the foot and pierce the pads at the bottom of the feet and require a trip to the vet.
Dew claws are the nails that looks like thumbs and never hit the ground when your dog walks. Some dogs have them removed at birth which makes it easy for the owner. Some dogs have them in front and some have front and back dew claws. Specific breeds actually are bred with rear dew claws for specific reasons. For example, the Great Pyrenees are bred with a rear dual dew claw. Why you ask? Well, being this dog is one of the oldest working breeds, the idea behind those extra claws are that they work like a 5th toe for better traction. Make sure the dew claws are trimmed regularly like the other nails because they will grow back around and into the ankle.
The best way to begin is to take your nail trimmers and trim off a thin piece of the nail. Look inside the nail. Is it dry and easy to trim or it dense and moist? Moisture means your blood supply could be close. If you can see a well defined circle in the middle of the nail that is your kwik. Stop trimming and use your grinder on low speed to file off any additional nail and smooth it out removing rough edges from trimming. Your dog may not like this tool as it vibrates and makes noise. Be patient and turn it on touching your dog’s foot with it. Don’t try using it yet, just let them realize its not a painful thing. Should you make your dog bleed, here are two things to keep in mind. One, remember your reaction can make the dog's reaction worse so remain calm. Two, if you find this task to be too much for you then take your dog to see a groomer or vet to have them tend to your nail trim.
Here are a few final tricks to get your dog to relax and be ok with this process. One, be positive! Your energy level will play a big part in this process. You can also provide treats and positive reinforcement for complying with your wishes. Two, make sure you try this task when your dog is tired! A nice walk or run will help your dog burn off some pent up energy making them much more relaxed. Lastly, pick a quiet time of day in your home, your chances are greater for success if you do.
Good Luck and happy nail trimming!!