Quick guide to nail clipping

Quick guide to nail clipping

Nail clipping; we don’t love doing it, but it’s something every dog owner needs to get done. Even if you send your pup to the groomer’s for an occasional pamper day, we highly suggest knowing the basics around clipping your buddy’s nails. Often owners avoid nail trimming out of fear of “nipping” the dog, or because their dog becomes too fussy and difficult. Nail cutting quickly becomes a task surrounded by angst and stress. But have no fear, hopefully this article can give you a paw.

If your dog is very active, cutting his/her nails may not be a priority. High mileage wears them down naturally. However, among less active dogs who prefer couch surfing to trail running, excessively long nails are pretty common.

What if I dont clip ‘em?

Long nails = painful paws. When a dog’s toenails contact hard surfaces such as sidewalks, hardwood floor, etc. the surface pushes the nail up into the nail bed. This can either put pressure on all the toe joints or force the toe to twist to the side. Either way, unclipped, those toes become very sore, and in some cases could even cause arthritis. If the slightest touch is painful to your pup, he/she will cry when you try picking up his/her paw to cut the nails.

Another interesting fact is that a dog’s brain is evolutionarily programmed to associate toenail contact with being on a hill. He or she shifts his/her body posture according to the way his/her toenails come in contact with the ground: leaning forward over his/her limbs, up the so-called “hill” as reported by his/her toe nerve endings. Since the hill is not actually there, a secondary compensation with his/her back legs is necessary to avoid “falling forward”. This abnormal compensatory posture can be called “goat on a rock” because it brings his/her paws closer together under his/her body whereas a normal and neutral posture is stable with vertical legs right under their torso, just like a table.

Recent research shows that the odd goat-like posture is hard work to upkeep which causes overused muscles and then eventually overused joints, especially in their back legs, making it difficult to jump into cars or climb up stairs. So all in all, cutting your dog’s toenails shorter is a very important part of contributing to his/her long term muscle and joint functions.

Now that we’ve covered WHY you should trim your pup’s nails, here are some useful guidelines as to how to do it safely and effectively :

  • Use only “scissor” clippers, guillotine-like clippers crush the toe, which is painful.
  • Use small size clippers for better control, only giant breed dogs like mastiffs or Great Dane’s will need larger ones.
  • Use a dremel or emery board to smooth out your dog’s trimmed nails afterward.
  • Trim nails outside or in a well lit room, so you can see exactly what you’re doing and be precise.
  • Don’t squeeze the toe – that hurts! Instead, separate the toes for clipping and hold the paw gently.
  • Make nail trimming an enjoyable experience : always associate nail cutting with treats and praise. (Lots of cuddles and positive reinforcement go a long way!)
  • If you clip too far and your dog starts bleeding, don’t panic! Apply pressure to the toe and use a starch-like substance to stop bleeding. (Styptic powder, cornstarch or flour)
  • If your dog is impatient, try clipping one or two nails a day.
  • For maintenance, cut every two weeks. To shorten, cut every week.

Keeping your dog’s toenails short is important for his/her health and comfort. If you dislike clipping your dog’s nails, he/she will also dislike the experience! Learn how to be a good actor, whip out the natural peanut butter for moral support and make it fun for you both. If cutting your dog’s nails is really a nightmare, don’t be afraid to hand it over to the professionals and make sure you take your dog in to get clipped every two weeks.

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