Taking good care of your dog's nails and feet is an important step in assuring overall good health of your dog. A dog's nails that are too long can cause lameness and even an unwillingness to move, painful walking or moving, plus can also be dangerous to humans and other animals, not to mention flooring and furniture. Nails that are trimmed too short will also be extremely painful for the dog and may result in the same type of dog behaviors as found in situations where the nails are too long.
Most dogs' nails do not grow as fast as human nails, but each dog will have their own nail growth rate. It is often very dependent on the type of food that the dog is eating as well as the areas that the dog naturally exercises.If your dog has lots of time walking on hard, abrasive surfaces such as cement sidewalks or floors, gravel areas or hard, packed ground he or she may keep their nails naturally filed or worn down just through their movement. Dogs that are typically walking and playing on soft surfaces such as lawns and grass, carpet or even linoleum flooring will need to have their nails trimmed as there is just no natural wear. Typically most dogs will need their nails trimmed or filed every three to five weeks, with some being slightly longer between sessions.
Nail Clippers for Dogs
There are three main types of nail clipping devices for dogs. These include the guillotine type trimmers, the slotted scissor type and nail files. In addition a good coagulant powder to stop any bleeding should you accidentally cut into the quick is a good idea.
Guillotine type nail clippers look very similar in design to a one-hole paper punch. These clippers are available at pet stores and groomers in almost every area. The end is a loop or circle into which the nail is placed. When the handle is squeezed a sliding blade moves down across the nail, clipping it in a straight, horizontal line if the trimmer is held in the correct position. The benefit of these types of trimmers is that they are strong, durable and cut cleanly and quickly when operated correctly. It is very important to get a good quality guillotine style clipper with a sharp blade. A dull blade will result in splinters and a painful procedure for the dog, something you should avoid at all costs. Guillotine style clippers come in different sizes for different sizes of dogs. Use the right size for your dog to avoid only cutting through part of the nail or having the nail too loose in the slot.
Slotted scissors are typically only recommended for smaller breeds of dogs with thinner, smaller nails. Unlike the guillotine style that uses a spring mechanism to increase the force of the clipper, scissor clippers require the person to provide all the strength in getting through the nail. In most medium to giant sized breeds the average person will not have the hand strength to evenly and quickly clip through a hard nail. The slotted scissors have a notch on the bottom blade that the end of the nail rests in and the scissor blades extend past this to provide the cutting action.
Nail files are needed to gently file any rough edges left by clipping or to clean up the nails if any splinters occur if the nails are dry or brittle. In addition files can be used for some dogs that really fight the clippers or scissors, it will just be important to file routinely and not allow the nails to get too long.
How To Clip A Nail
If you look closely at the dog's nails you can see that they are very similar to human nails with a dead, hard end and a tender center. The tender center is known as the quick, just like the cuticle in humans, and contains nerves and blood vessels. In dogs with white nails the quick appears as a pinkish center part in the nail extending from the pad to about midway down the nail. It is absolutely essential to never cut into that quick. If you do it will bleed profusely and will be very painful for the dog. In black nailed dogs the quick is not visible, but the underside of the nail will have a groove that is deepest at the tip and gradually tapers out as you move up the nail. Where the groove changes to a shallower indent is typically where the quick ends. Staying well down the nail on dogs with black nails is highly recommended to avoid clipping into the quick.
The key to clipping your dog's nails successfully is to do it calmly and quickly. Start with the dog seated and calm, pick up one paw and place your thumb on the top of the paw and one or two fingers supporting the bottom of the pads. Place the nail clipper at a 45-degree angle to the curve of the nail so when the paw is placed on the ground the trimmed edge will be flat and level with the ground. Check to ensure that you are well below the quick and then simply squeeze. Usually the dog will pull back at the sound of the clippers so have a quick treat ready. Repeat the process. For most dogs nail clipping is a two-person job, one to hold the dog and provide reassurance and one to actually do the clipping. For some dogs they are fine with the front feet, but don't like the back feet to be touched.
If you do accidentally cut into the quick apply a styptic powder or coagulant that is available in all pet stores. Simply dip the nail into the powder and within seconds the bleeding will stop. If, by chance, the bleeding is profuse or doesn't stop, take the dog to the vet.
Clipping nails isn't difficult, but if you are very nervous you wish to leave this chore up to a groomer or your vet. Typically a groomer will trim nails during the regular grooming routine anyway.