Are Your Dog’s Nails Too Long? Find Out If They Are and What to Do About It

Can hear your dog’s toenails clicking on the floor as he walks? If not, your dog’s nails are the right length for his health and longevity. Keep up whatever activity is keeping them worn down. If the answer is yes, and you can hear them clicking on the bare floor, then your dog’s nails are too long. Is this a big deal? Yes, at the very least, it causes pain for your dog and a possible vet bill. At the worst, it can cause arthritis and premature death for your dog.

It is a common misconception that just clipping the tips of a dogs nails once or twice a year is enough. If you can hear clicking, it’s not doing the job. Just as in humans, dogs’ nails never stop growing. But, unlike humans, their quicks (the part supplied with blood) keep growing out. If the nails are not clipped or ground down naturally by the dog on a regular basis, the quicks get longer and longer, and eventually this will cause the dog to step on his feet incorrectly and/or can cause the nails to grow directly into the pad of the dog. Nails that grow into the pad can cause a painful infection, that left untreated, can take the dog’s life. Long straight nails cause an incorrect step, throwing the hips and back out of alignment and causing premature aging and arthritis. How many old dogs have you seen that have super long nails that cannot walk or get up normally? These dogs suffer terribly, and if they can’t walk, they soon die.

You have three choices when it comes to clipping your dog’s nails. You can start to exercise your dog on asphalt or hard surfaces to grind down the nails naturally. You can clip your own dog’s nails at home. Twenty percent of dog owners are able to keep their dog’s nails clipped at home. Most likely, you are part of the 80% of owners that take their dog to a professional groomer or vet to have the nails trimmed. If you have a dog with nails that curl (like a cocker spaniel or shih tzu), exercise will not be enough if your dog has dewclaws. The dewclaws have the highest probability of actually growing into the pad or skin of the dog. If your dog has straight growing nails (shepherds, boxers, labs), then exercise alone can do the trick. There are a number of types of clippers( and dremels) that you can choose from to clip your dog’s nails at home. If you do hit the quick and the nail is bleeding, you can use styptic powder (available from the groomer), or starch or flour packed on the nail to stop the bleeding. Whichever method you use, it is helpful to know that the quicks of the dog will recede from the edge of the nail by 1/8 to ¼ of an inch naturally within days of being clipped. This is why dogs that run everyday never have bleeding nails and never need their nails clipped back.

How do you get the nails to the right length humanely? Have the nails clipped back (that means ¼ inch in front of the quick) every 5 to 10 days until the nail length is back where it should be – not clicking on the floor when the dog walks. It is a normal occurrence for the groomer to clip the nails too short if the goal is to get more than ‘just the tips’. It is better for the longterm health of your dog to have a groomer that consistently clips too short, versus the alternative.

Clicking nails are an easy telltale sign for all dog owners to judge whether or not their dog has optimum nail length for his long term health and happiness. It is up to the owner to take action for the well-being of their four-legged friend. Once your dog’s nails have receded to the optimum length, keep your dog’s nail length maintained. The average maintenance schedule for the average dog owner is monthly clipping. Each dog has a different growing pattern and exercise habit. Remember, be a conscientious dog owner, enjoy long life and optimum health from your dog – listen for the clicking.

Copyright 2010 DuAnn Lustig-Chambers

Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you print ‘about the author’ information and keep all links active.