Have you ever notice your dog walking around and you can hear all their toe nails tapping the floor with each step? This means their nails are too long and if you take time to closely observe you will often see that your dog will show slight or sometimes very pronounced signs of being sensitive or even uncomfortable (often older dogs) when walking? Trimming your dogs nails is an important part of their health and wellbeing. Often when dogs nails are long they can get them caught in things like carpet, floor boards on a deck, debris out in the woods, etc. Obviously this causes pain and the possibility of a break in the nail down to the nail bed causing a great deal of pain and bleeding. It can even cause serious damage to the nail bed itself and sometimes require surgery to remove the actual nail bed. Ultimately long nails on dogs cause stress on the toe joints and damages soft tissue in the structure of the paw. Eventually this will lead to arthritis causing excessive pain while walking, running or just standing.
Trimming nails can be an uncomfortable process for you and your dog and that’s why I would like to share some suggestions to help you have a more positive experience when nail trimming. If you are blessed to began your relationship with your dog from puppy hood we encourage you to gently play with your dogs paws and message their little toes and pads. Help them to become accustom to you touching their feet and trust in you that it is not something to be fearful of or uncomfortable about. When you get to the time in your puppies life where nail trimming needs to start, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of the game! Always use treats when working through nail trimming. Use small tiny nibbles to work through the sometimes challenging aspect of nail trimming to give your dog encouragement through the process.
You will want a specific dog nail trimmer. This is a tool made for just this purpose. Sometimes a dremel, another nail trimming tool is useful for trimming your dogs nails as it can take off the nail little by little and is sometimes safer and easier to handle. Both of these tools need to be carefully used as they can injury your dog if you are not careful. A dog’s nails are delicate and when trimmed to short you are cutting the nail bed OUCH!!! This causes lots of pain and bleeding due to a nerve and lots of blood vessels being located in this area.
As you probably have observed, dogs have white and black nails. White nails are much easier to trim as you can visibly see where the “nail bed” ends and the nail material grows out past the bed of the nail. The bed of the nail is sometimes referred to as “the quick.” You do not want to put your clippers to close to this area. You must be knowledgable and mindful when you trim your dogs nails. Just like human nails, it is important to pay close attention to where the nail bed or quick is. Not only does it hurt and causes great anxiety for your dog making them not want to run and hide, (do you blame them?!) but as mentioned it will often make quite a bloody mess. Occasionally we will cut a nail too close unfortunately! Quick stop powder is a product that all dog owners should have as part of their dog first aid kit. This is wise to have near by if you happen to get a little too close and nick the nail bed or the quick. Hopefully you wont have to use it but if you do, just apply a little powder to a wet cotton swab and hold it against the nail for a couple of seconds. With black nails it is much more challenging to see the nail bed. We suggest to gently examine the under part of the nail to find the end of the nail bed. Do this at a different time, not during the same time you will be trimming the nail. Once you have found the end of the nail bed from underneath take silver marker (can find at a craft store like Michaels) and mark a line on the side of the nail as to where it is safe to cut the nail. Make sure to always leave enough “grace space” so the nail clippers are not getting too close to the nail bed. ALWAYS start by trimming a very small amount at the very tip and work your way up to the line that you made with your silver marker or where you can see the nail bed and can estimate a safe distance to cut. With each small trim stop and observe how much you have trimmed and how much there is to go. Give your pup small breaks, treats, and praise them for working through this with you. Remember they don’t understand what you are doing. You will have to practice patience as this is often not a fast process. The sooner you understand and respect this the more successful you will be at planning for the right time and a good amount of time to work through the process. Sometimes arranging to do it with a partner so they can help with treats or distractions makes the project of nail trimming shorter and more successful!
A couple of small additional tips…When cutting your dog’s nails check if you can see a tiny white circle inside your dogs nail where you just trimmed it, that small circle in the nail indicates you’re approaching the nail bed, the nerve and blood vessels. If you see this STOP THERE! This white circle is not always visible so best to find the end of the nail bed by looking for it and knowing where to cut to. If you have a dremel you can use it instead of the clippers or just use it for the last couple of cuts as it is sometimes a easier tool to control. It also leaves a nice smooth filed end of the nail! Important to note, the dremel is an automatic file. It can operate by plugging it in or by battery depending on the kind you get. Dremels are nice tools but powerful. If you are not careful and observant the dremel can file too close to the nail bed too and cause pain by actually burning the nail bed and ultimately making it bleed. Nails are a tender and vulnerable areas on all animals. Be mindful, understanding, and patient with this process.
Be an educated dog lover. As mentioned above, start your dogs young with the understanding that the touch of their paws and toes is a good thing. Even if your dog is a rescue and is older, you can still slowly and gently help them to understand this. Can’t encourage the use of treats enough. This gives dog a small break and helps them to work through the process in a more positive frame of mind. If you can only trim 1 or 2 nails a day then start there and let it be! Make time the next day to do a couple more and so on and so forth. You don’t want to force it and have it become a scary or traumatizing experience. Over time and multiple nail trims, you and your dog will become more comfortable with the situation and it will be an easier process for the both of you!
Below i will share an at home DIY paw wax that’s helpful and good for your dogs paw after a nail trim! No paw pedi is complete without a moisturizing dog safe lotion. Which can always be useful before going out on a cold winter day as it will soothe cracks on the paws when walking on snow, ice and salt covered sidewalks and keep them safe during the hot days on pavement.
3oz Beeswax, 3Tbsp Calendula oil, 3Tbsp Avocado oil, 3Tbsp Coconut oil.
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on low heat until liquified and combined. Then pour the liquid into a container and let it sit and turn into a solid. Then you can place your dogs paw directly into the container and rub or scoop the wax onto your fingers and massage into their pads!
Information in this blog provided by Dr. Karen Becker from The EssentialDog Magazine on “The Pawfect Pedi”!
Happy paws are happy feet!