Trimming your dog’s nails is an important part of their grooming routine. Left unchecked, overgrown nails can be painful for a dog; it can result in splitting or breaking of the nail, and cause an irregular gait that can lead to skeletal damage.
A lot of people ask us how often they should cut their dogs nails. As a general rule, if your dog’s nails are touching the ground when standing and you can hear their nails ‘clicking’ on the floor when they walk it is time for a trim. Dogs who are regularly walked on hard surfaces can naturally wear their nails down so they may not require as frequent trimming as those walked on soft surfaces. However for dogs that have dew claws, as these do not touch the ground they have to be regularly trimmed to avoid the nail curling around and potentially growing into the dew pad.
Before cutting your dogs nails it is important to understand the structure of the nails so as not to cause your dog pain when trimming. A dogs nail consists of the quick and nail shell. The quick is a live blood supply in a dogs nail, as the nail grows so does the quick. If nails are not cut on a regular basis the quick will continue to grow with the nail, which if left too long, results in problems when trimming. If the quick is cut when nails are trimmed this will cause the quick to bleed. If your dog has long quick’s, clipping a little off the nails every week or so will cause the quick to recede with the nail. Doing this on a regular basis will allow you clip the nails shorter over time resulting in better overall nail and paw health.
Cutting the nails
When cutting your dog’s nails always clip from the side taking a little off at a time to ensure you are not cutting into the quick. Cutting from the side rather than from the top avoids squeezing down on the dogs nail which can be painful. The quick is identified by seeing a pink spot (on white nails) and a black spot (on black nails) at the centre of the clipped nail. When you see this spot you should stop cutting. If you accidently cut the quick try not to panic; there will be a sudden rush of blood so it is important to help stop the blood flow. This can be done by using a coagulating powder or corn starch powder pressed against the bleeding nail and holding it there for approximately 3-4 minutes. This should stop the nail from bleeding. Don’t wipe the powder away from the tip of the nail as this aids the coagulation process. Once the bleeding stops try to keep your dog off its feet for at least 30 minutes to avoid the quick for starting to bleed again. If you cut deep into the quick and find that the blood does not stop after 20 minutes then contact your vet immediately to determine why clotting is not happening. If your dog’s toe becomes swollen or irritated after cutting the quick you should also consult your vet. Try to file your dog’s nails after trimming to remove some of the sharpness, this avoids you getting scratched if your dog jumps up on you post nail clipping. If you are uncomfortable cutting your dogs nails your groomer can provide this service, you should visit them once a month or as your dog requires.