how to cut overgrown dog nails

Overgrown toenails! Have you ever taken a look at people’s toes and noticed long, ragged, overgrown toenails? Somehow it is just not…right! Besides the aesthetics, long nails tear and hurt like anything! The same applies to our best four-legged buddies, unfortunately. Dogs with long, overgrown nails end up with serious problems.

The same applies to our best four-legged buddies, unfortunately. Dogs with long, overgrown nails end up with serious problems.

The importance of a dog’s nails

Unlike cats that use their claws for fighting, dogs need their nails to run and walk properly. Their nails grip whatever surface they are running on, giving traction. Due to the various surfaces they either run or walk on, most dogs’ nails usually file down naturally. Most dogs, not all.

Housedogs tend to walk on carpets, hardwood floors, tiles, or vinyl. These surfaces in no way file down their nails. The end result is a dog with long, overgrown nails.

Overgrown nails harm your dog’s health

Typically, a dog’s nails need cutting when you hear them click on the floor while walking. There a few reasons why this is important.

  • Long nails affect his stance
    • Long nails on a dog affect the way your dog stands, walks, and runs. They force his foot into an awkward position that causes long-term damage if not rectified. Long, overgrown nails are also uncomfortable!
    • Long nails inhibit his walk and run
    • A dog in motion relies on his nails to grip surfaces. When running, for example, his nails dig into the ground, balancing him, when he turns corners. When dogs have long nails when running they have trouble digging in or dig in so much it compromises his movement.
  • Long nails break or tear
  • The problem with long nails? They hook onto things. A broken or torn off nail is quite common with long nails. Torn off nails need special care as do those torn into the quick (the nerve part of the nail). It is a painful experience. Just think how you feel when one of your nails is torn off. Painful, is it not?

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Care for torn nails

If you notice your dog limping or favoring one of his paws, the chances are that he has hurt himself.

Signs that your dog has a hurt nail

  • Does he lick the paw all the time?
  • Does he hold it up instead of walking on it?
  • Do you notice blood on his bedding or the floor?
  • Is he limping?
  • Does he allow you to touch it?

If your answer to the first four questions is yes, and the last one is no, the chances are good he has a damaged nail. This means you need to do something about it.

What to do about a damaged toenail

The easiest is when the nail breaks off completely. This kind of bleeding quickly stops – normally. Disinfect the area. Keep your ‘Fido’ as calm as possible, as excitement or stress ups his blood pressure and thus more bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop, take your dog to a veterinarian.

A partially torn nail, i.e. one that is dangling loosely, is a different matter. If it is very loose, you could try removing it and treating the problem yourself. In most cases, however, your dog needs a veterinarian’s help. Take him to one. A loose nail hurts!

The last kind of damaged toenail is where it is cracked and bleeding. The pain goes on and on. Do not attempt treating it yourself. Rather, load him in the car and take him to the veterinarian. Sedation and pain medication are both needed in this instance before the offending nail is treated.

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Cutting your dog’s nails at home

It is easy to look after your dog’s nail grooming needs at home. You just need to follow a few quick, basic steps. Many people shy away from cutting their dog’s nails themselves, however, and prefer that a veterinarian or someone from a doggy parlor do the job. Veterinarians and doggy parlors do not charge too much for this service.

A step-by-step guide to cutting your dog’s nails yourself

  • Have the right tools. Tools for cutting human nails are unsuitable.
  • Remember to be gentle with your dog. Do not scare him in any way. A steady hand is needed when holding the paw.
  • Trim the nails in three movements. Once at an angle to the left, once at an angle to the right, and lastly, trim the tip. Do not trim into the quick. This is painful and bleeds.
  • Dewclaws are easily trimmed as they are attached by a piece of skin. Move them to the side when clipping.
  • Apply pressure to the affected area in case of bleeding and remember to disinfect.

Keep your dog’s feet in tip-top condition

Check his feet and nails regularly. The more often you clip those nails, the easier and less painful the experience for your pet.

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Other problems associated with a dog’s nails

Dogs, like humans, have other toenail problems. These include fungal and other infections.

Lupoid Onchodystrophy:

  • This is a condition caused by an immune problem. It usually occurs in adult or older dogs. German Shepherds and Rottweilers often develop this problem. The malformed nails associated with this disease eventually fall off. Treatment is ongoing and lasts between six weeks and six months, depending on the severity. The nails usually grow back in the end, although malformed nails for the rest of your dog’s life are a common occurrence.

Bacterial infections:

  • These are usually secondary symptoms and the result of trauma. Certain diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, certain immune issues, and hypersensitivity to certain foods or medications also cause such problems. Treatment is by removing the affected claw and treating the infection. The claw usually grows back.

Yeast infections:

  • Yeast infections occur mainly during the summer. When affecting the paw area, the constant chewing and licking made by your dog ensure it spreads to the nail area. It is not a common infection in dogs. A veterinarian removes the loose nails and the dog put on treatment for up to three months.

In conclusion

Clipping your dog’s nails is an essential part of the grooming process. Do not neglect them. Neglecting their nails causes broken, cracked, or torn nails that, if left untreated, results in infection.

Treat your dog with the same respect you give yourself and you will have a healthy canine friend and champion for years!

Before you go cut all the nails in the hood, take a couple of minutes to watch this relative video: