I recently asked a group of dog owners which dog care chore was their least favorite.
Most of them said trimming toenails was the chore they liked the least and several added that this chore scared them. Not one dog owner said this chore was easy, and a few mentioned they disliked the chore enough to pay the veterinarian or groomer to trim their dog’s nails. It’s too bad this necessary chore is such a problem; however, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Get to Know Your Dog’s Nails
Your dog’s nails are made of keratin just as ours are. Our nails are flat with a slight curve and located on the top end of our fingers and toes but your dog’s nails are oval and grow out of the end of each toe. The dog’s nails are different from ours, too, in that they come to a point. If the nails don’t wear off the point or the nails are not trimmed, those pointed nails can cause a great deal of damage.
Dog nails continue to grow at a fairly constant rate if the dog is in good health, as ours do, and often at a similar rate. One difference is your dog’s nails are often in contact with the ground and wear down especially if he runs and plays on hard, rough surfaces.
Many dogs have a toe with a nail on the inside of the leg above the paw. Some dogs have these dew claws on all four legs, some just on the back legs, and some just on the front. Some breeds, including Great Pyrenees, have multiple dew claws on the back legs. These dew claws need to be trimmed regularly. If untrimmed, the dew claws can actually grow in a circle, curving back into the leg, causing a painful wound.
Nails are either clear or black. Clear nails are easier to trim as you can see the quick. If your dog has a clear (or white) nail, take a look at it. See the pink area that is in the center of the base of the nail? It extends part way through the length of the nail. If the nail is short, the quick will be short too. However, if the nail has been allowed to grow too long, the quick will have extended farther into the length of the nail. If the nails are trimmed regularly, usually the long quick will recede. However, if the quick extends the length of the nail, you may need to have the veterinarian trim the nails short, cutting both the nail and the quick, and then you can keep the nails trimmed in the future.
If your dog has black nails, you’ll see that you cannot see the quick. However, if you look at the nail from the side, see where the outer end of the nail has a curve? It’s usually safe to trim the curved end off.