Toenails… every dog has them

When you have a dog, you become very familiar with the need for nail trims.  That clicking sound on your hardwood floors or getting puncture wounds when they jump up on your lap… you know when your dog needs a nail trim!

 

Consequences Of Long Toenails

So what’s the big deal if my dog’s nails are long? The first consequence of long toenails is painful feet. When a dog’s nails contact hard ground, like a sidewalk or your kitchen floor, the hard surface pushes the nail back up into the nail bed. This either puts pressure on all the toe joints or forces the toe to twist to the side. Either way, those toes become very sore, even arthritic. When the slightest touch is painful to your dog, he will fuss when you pick up his paw to cut nails.

The second consequence of long toenails is more serious. All animals rely on information from nerves in their feet to move through the world and process gravity accurately. For millions of years, wild dogs have run long distances while hunting and worn their nails short. The only time their toenails would touch the ground was when climbing a hill. So a dog’s brain is evolutionarily programmed to associate toenail contact with being on a hill, and he shifts his body posture accordingly: leaning forward over his forelimbs, up the imaginary hill as reported by his toes. Since the hill is not real, a secondary compensation with his hind limbs is necessary to avoid a face plant. This abnormal compensatory posture can be called “goat on a rock,” because it brings his paws closer together under his body.

Normal neutral posture is a nice show dog “stack,” with vertical legs like a table. Recent research shows that standing with limbs “camped-in” is hard work to maintain. These goat-on-a-rock dogs get over-used muscles and eventually over-used joints, especially in their hind limbs, making it difficult to jump in cars, climb stairs and even hard to get up from lying down. Sounds like a lot of older dogs we know! Cutting toenails short can be like a miracle cure for your dog whose hind end has become painful, weak and over-used.    -Karen Gellman DVM PhD

What can you do?

Maintenance

Nail maintenance requires a trim every two or three weeks, just like maintaining human fingernails. If you can hear nails clicking on your kitchen floor, they are too long.

At the Hydrant, all pets nails are trimmed during the grooming process.  However if you’d like to get your pets nails trimmed in between visits, we’d be happy to help.  There is NO APPOINTMENT needed for just nail cutting.  Our groomers are available for nail trim “walk-ins” Monday thru Friday from 8:30 AM until around 4:00 PM and on Saturdays from 9:30 AM until 12 Noon.

Sometimes your pets nails just aren’t short enough or they may be a little sharp after they are cut, therefore we also offer nail grinding.  There is an additional charge for nail grinding when you request this service with your pet’s grooming appointment or with your pet’s “walk-in” nail trim.

 

nail image

What’s inside your dog’s toenail? (image above) 

The interior structures are shown, along with the suggested angle to cut the nail while not harming the sensitive nail bed or quick as it is often called (aka the part that bleeds).  Our groomers can ONLY cut the nail to the point just before where the quick is located within.  Unfortunately that nail bed grows with the nail.  With regular maintenance, the quick will dry up and recede. This will allow our groomers to cut your dog’s nails even shorter.

(Illustration by Michael A Simmons MFA)

Doing it yourself? Here are some tips…

  • If you cut the quick, use corn starch to stop the bleeding.   It’s easiest if you use a small container with tightly packed powder.
  • Remember, no dog ever died from a quicked toenail.  If you “quick” your dog accidentally, give a treat right away.  Keep things positive.
  • Make nail trimming fun… always associate nail cutting with cookies and praise.
  • For maintenance, cut every two weeks.  To shorten, cut every week.
  • Start on the hind feet, because the nails tend to be a little shorter and less sensitive than the front.
  • You can’t make an accurate cut on a moving target so if you’ve got a squirmy dog or a drama queen, you might be better off to let a groomer take care of your pet’s nails.