Going on walks, especially on hard surfaces such as pavements, will naturally ware down nails however most will still need some trimming. If nails are left to grow long they can split, crack and even get caught causing bleeding or become ingrown. This will then cause serious complications such as arthritis in the feet, discomfort and infection.
How often should you trim nails?
It depends on the dog and lifestyle. It is much better to take smaller pieces more regularly but regular checks of the nails will allow you to know when the nails are becoming too long. Most vets will check nails at your annual check-up or if you use a groomer this will usually be part of the service. One tip some people use is when the dog is stood still the nails should not reach the ground. If you are comfortable to trim nails yourself there are a few things to consider:
Know what to do – If you unfamiliar with the process or what you should look for then please take a tutorial from your vet or groomer.
Be prepared – have all of the tools needed and if necessary some treats on standby. Use trimmers specifically designed for dogs nail, ensure they are sharp and well maintained.
Ask a friend to help – If your dog is not comfortable with nail trimming it may be best to have someone help you distract, provide comfort and hold their feet steady.
Find a position suitable for the size of dog – larger dogs may find it easier to lay down and you work around them, whereas smaller dogs may be better to sit close to you or on your lap.
Relax – Make sure the dog is relatively relaxed and avoid fussing over them too much and you can make them more anxious. Dogs will also pick up on your feeling so getting stressed yourself will not allow the dog to calm down.
Be as quick as you can – If a dog is stressed by the experience then quick and confident movements are a must, pulling backward and forward will prolong the time and cause more anxiety.
Don’t forget the dew claw! – This is located on the inside of the leg, these claws are used for gripping, you can see this when dogs hold toys while chewing, this claw is particularly important to keep trimmed to prevent them growing in the soft tissue.
The quick is the soft part of the nail inside the outer hard shell which contains nerves and blood vessels that when nicked will bleed easily. It is important not to damage this. In dark nails can be more difficult to trim as it is difficult to find, take smaller cuts and if you see a black dot in the centre of the nail stop immediately as you have reached the quick.
White nails are easier to cut as the quick is more visible, of course if you are unsure please seek advice from your vet. If this is caught and bleeds don’t panic, apply a cloth and wait for the bleeding to stop, if this doesn’t stop within a few minutes please see seek veterinary help. For older dogs, try using a nail file to take small amounts off brittle nails.
Regular checks from a young age will help teach your dog there is nothing to fear; even pretend trimming routine will help avoid any anxious behaviour. Reward after the session to make it a positive experience, also extending the paw trick to hold their paw will also help this to become a normal sensation.