A dog’s paws are often an area of the animal that gets overlooked by the owner, even when they think they are doing a great job. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen this in my clinic. It’s very important to know how your dog’s paws work and how to look after their nails if you want your dog to be in its best condition.
Healthy paws are an essential part of an overall healthy and happy dog so it is vital you know about how walking your dog trims the nails. It is important to take care of paws and claws as it will help to avoid injuries and other health problems occurring in your dog later on.
Dog paws are essentially made up of 5 different parts working in conjunction with each other. A dog’s claws are also referred to as nails and they are attached to digital pads. These are strong areas and get toughened up with exercise. You will notice if you have had your dog from a puppy, that these pads are softer and paler in young dogs.
How Many Claws does a Dog Have?
Most dogs have 4 claws and an additional dew claw higher up, although this is not true for all breeds. Don’t worry if your pet does not have one. In the place heel in humans, dogs have a pad called a carpal pad the dog will use this to put a stop to their motion when running think of it like a brake in a car.
Why You Should Take Care of Your Dog’s Claws
The pads of a dog’s claw a very important for shock absorption think of it as the suspension in a car. Your dog’s paws undergo a lot of strain when they are walking and it’s very important to keep them in good condition, especially during the winter months when cold can cause the digital and metacarpal pads to dry out and crack. A dog’s claws are as important as any other part of the paw. If they are too long or too short this can cause your dog discomfort, so it’s very important to pay attention to their condition.
There is a very big difference between walking your dog on a hard surface and walking them on a soft surface. If you have a hard floor in your house or apartment such as laminate flooring you will know whether a dog needs its paws trimming as they will make a very distinctive clicking sort of noise when they walk. This is a sure sign your dog needs to have his nails trimmed.
I Walk My Dog Regularly – Why are Their Claws Long?
If you walk your dog primarily on soft surfaces such as grass or sand then it is important to trim your dog’s nails at the right length. You can keep your dog’s nails trim by walking them on hard surfaces such as concrete or pavement. This is why it’s good to have a good balance of terrain to walk your dog on regularly. This keeps your dog fit and works different muscles. It also helps to file a dog’s nails naturally without having to trim them with clippers.
In the wild, wolves and other wild dogs would be outside all day long and this would naturally wear down their nails. This is why wolves and other canines don’t have the problem of long nails. If you allow your dog’s nails to get too long then they may start to nibble and mess with them, especially if they are causing them discomfort.
My Dogs Nails are Too Short From Walking
Your dog’s nails may be too short from walking them either on a hard surface or for too long on the wrong type of terrain such as a sidewalk. If you walk your dog primarily on pavement or a concrete surface then this cause, in some cases, nails to become too short and this can also lead to discomfort in your dog. This is why it’s important to pay attention to your dog’s paws just as you would any other parts of your dog. This is rare, but the answer is to take your dog for walks on more neutral ground such as rough open grass or fields. Country lanes may also wear down canine claws too quickly.
My Dog’s Nails Are Being Worn Down Too Quickly
In some cases, you will find your dog’s nails are too short and this may cause bleeding. You will be able to find a styptic pencil or clotting powder at your local pet shop or animal store. All you have to do is apply this powder to the claw or you can even press the nail into some powder which is in a container or even into your hand. This is an inexpensive way to heal your dog’s bleeding claw.
It is important to treat this type of entry as it may lead to infection in the future. If you find this problem occurs regularly, then you should try and walk your dog on softer surfaces such as grass or soft open ground.
How Long Should Dog Nails Be?
The right length for a dog’s nails will be when they walk on a hard surface and you don’t hear them making a noise. The correct length claws should not extend further than the pad and should not touch the ground when they are standing up normally.
Similarly, it’s very important that your dog’s nails are not cut too close to the quick. Many dogs will have clear-colored nails and it’ll be easy to see this area. Take extra care if your dog’s nails are black or dark-colored.
How to Cut Your Dog’s Claws If They Are Too Long
You will know when it is time to cut your dog’s nails as they make that tell-tale clicking noise as they walk across a hard floor. Typically a dog will need to have his claws trimmed anywhere between 3 to 9 weeks. This will vary by breed, however.
It is possible to get your dog’s claws trimmed at your local vet or at a dog grooming establishment. I have to trim dog claws often in my surgery. If you plan to do this at home, then start by getting your dog in a comfortable position.
- You can do this in their bed or on the sofa. Ideally, you would do this in a familiar area where your dog is relaxed. If your dog is nervous and it is difficult to cut their nails, then have a helper nearby who can distract them with treats or even their favourite toy.
- Make a clean cut at the very tip of the nail do not cut higher as the longer a dog’s nails grow, the more extended the quick becomes. It may be beneficial to trim your dog’s nails more regularly until the quick reaches a shorter length.
- Remember also to trim the dew claw which may not be visible very easily and some dogs due to the fair growth if you do not cut this call then this can become an ingrown nail such as it would a person this may also cause your dog discomfort if your dog does not like having his claws trimmed and then take a break and try again another time. Don’t allow your dog to be distressed.
Learning how to cut dog nails is a skill and one that you will need to master as a responsible dog owner. It is important to keep on top of it to avoid problems occurring in the future.
Filing Your Dog’s Nails Instead of Clipping Them
If you or your pooch become too nervous about clipping, then you can acquire a dog nail file instead. Many people want to know how to keep dog nails short without clipping and filing is a great alternative. These files are great little devices that eliminate the risk of cutting a dog’s claw too close to the quick and causing bleeding.
You can get manual or battery-operated devices. Follow the tips above when using these things and make sure your pet is comfortable and happy before you start. Filing nails instead of clipping may be a great idea for animals with dark claws where it is too difficult to see the quick. This can help to prevent bleeding or cutting the quick to short in breeds such as Bulldogs and Mastiffs.
Split Dog Nails
If you find that your dog’s nails split, then you may need to take them to your local vet. This is something I come across quite frequently and is not too much of a cause for concern, but some discomfort may ensue in your dog. In certain cases in my clinic, split nails may be a sign of claw disease. Always check with your local veterinarian if you are worried.
A sign that your dog’s nails are bothering them is if they bite or fuss around with them frequently. If your dog licks the fur of their paws, then this is usually not related to the claws, but rather due to boredom. Try finding ways to entertain your dog and keep him or her mentally stimulated.
To Sum Up
You can use exercise and regular walks to trim your dog’s nails naturally. Walking your dog on concrete or other hard surfaces is a great way to keep dog nails short without clipping them. If you have a difficult dog that doesn’t want his or her nails cut, then try the recommended steps above. Always follow your pet’s lead and pay attention to their cues. They will let you know if they do not like something but do not make grooming a chore that they will not look forward to. Most dogs love getting personal attention whilst being groomed and will lap it up.
The key thing to take away here is to keep an eye on your dog’s claws and nail length as this is just as important as making sure they have a healthy coat. Your dog will not enjoy walking and may even drag their claws if they are too bothered by their length.
Emma Charles, DVM, was born and raised in Brownwood, TX. She leads the editorial team at FunDogFitness.com where she shares some of the vast amount of personal and professional expertise she has gained over the years on the subject of dog care. A proud graduate with a doctorate from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University, she now shares her advice online for anyone who owns, or is considering, a dog.