Overgrown nails on a dog are not a good sign. The dog can hurt itself while walking or playing. Or it can hurt you, trying to scramble onto your lap.
Nail grooming in dogs is not just a cosmetic procedure. Nail trimming should be a part of your pet’s routine as it can help avoid issues such as broken nails, splayed feet, or irreversible damage to the dog in rare cases.
In the case of dog nails too long, surgery might be an extreme option you will have to consider. It would be best if you first tried to make nail trimming a positive and safe experience for the pet. But, if the pet is too scared, moves around, or does not let you near its paws, consult with your vet about surgery.
- What is the Anatomy of a Dog’s Nails?
- What Issues Do Overgrown Nails Present?
- When Does Dogs Nails Too Long Surgery Become the Only Option?
- How Well Does a Dog Recover from Nail Removal Surgery?
- What Tools Are Required for Nail Trimming?
- How Can You Safely Trim a Dog’s Nails?
- How Can You Get a Dog Comfortable with Nail Trimming?
What is the Anatomy of a Dog’s Nails?
You cannot just cut your dog’s nail right in the middle. Doing so can be painful for the pet, and it may not let you near its nails again. So before you go nail trimming, understanding the anatomy of the dog’s nails can be helpful.
The nails of your furry friend consist of two main parts. First is the quick. It is a network of nerves and blood vessels. It is responsible for supplying the nail with blood. It runs through the core of the nail.
The second part is the hard outer shell. This is the only part you should be cutting during the grooming session, as the dog does not feel any pain on the outer surface.
The quick is a living part of the dog’s body. If you cut through it, the nails will start bleeding. The key is to identify where the quick is situated.
For example, white nails and light pink-colored quick are found on most dogs. So, you need to stick to the white part while trimming. However, the dog’s nails will be completely black in some cases. If it is so, it will help to stick to the outer edges while cutting. If you see the pet flinch, step back because you may be getting too close to the quick.
What Issues Do Overgrown Nails Present?
If you do not follow a regular nail grooming routine, or the dog does not allow you to do so, it may lead to painful issues. Here are some of the problems that overgrown nails can present.
1. Ingrown Nails
Dog nails do not grow straight as human nails do. Instead, they have a distinctive curved shape to them and taper toward the end.
With no grooming, the nails will overgrow and may start curling back. In severe cases, the nails can bend all the way back and start digging into the footpad.
This condition can be quite painful for the dog, as you can imagine. It will have difficulty performing simple tasks such as walking.
Overgrown nails are more prone to injury. For example, the pointy end of the nail can get stuck in the carpet, furniture upholstery, or worn-out blankets. The nails can also get stuck and break while playing outside.
In the case of senior dogs, their nails can become brittle and break easily. Again, broken nails can hurt and bleed. Even in the case of no bleeding, your dog will start to excessively lick the area or not put pressure on the foot to soothe the pain.
3. Splayed Foot
Many factors can cause this condition. Overgrown nails are one of them. The long nails will not naturally let the dog’s feet fall on the ground. It will reduce the amount of traction the dog gets typically.
The unnecessary pressure on the foot can injure the tendons and lead to foot deformation. A splayed foot means that your dog’s toes will start separating. You will see a visible gap between them.
Your dog uses its paws for activities like gripping and digging. If it has sensitive paws and does not let you clean, dirt can quickly accumulate under those claws.
Unsanitary conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. In addition, overgrown nails can be unhygienic. When gnawing and licking a treat the dog is holding between its paws, it can also ingest the dirt under its nails.
So, nail trimming is necessary to maintain the overall health of your furry friend.
When Does Dogs Nails Too Long Surgery Become the Only Option?
Your dog’s nails are too long and possibly injured if it shows symptoms like:
- A creaky noise when walking on hard floors
- Change in walking style
- Excessive licking of toenails
- Hanging nails
If you see that your dog is in pain and suffering and still will not let you anywhere near its paws, you will have to consider surgery as the last option.
Depending on the condition of your dog’s nails, the vet may trim down the nails, remove the damaged part of the nail, or in extreme cases, remove the nail altogether. As the procedure can be painful, the vet will administer local anesthesia.
Not all dogs respond well to anesthesia. The side effects from local anesthesia, though uncommon, can still occur. Some of these side effects are:
- Blurry vision
- Respiratory difficulties
In some cases, surgery may be unavoidable, like a damaged or infected nail. But, if the dog’s nails are healthy and their length is the only problem, surgery should be the last option on the treatment list.
Talk to professional groomers or your vet. They can typically restrain your dog with additional help from staff and trim down the nails quickly.
How Well Does a Dog Recover from Nail Removal Surgery?
Once the nail has been partially or entirely removed, the vet will bandage the area. This is necessary to keep infections away. Also, you do not want the pet licking the surgical site. The vet may also prescribe pain relief medications and antibiotics.
Even if the nail is completely removed, a new nail will grow in the nail bed. But, this can take multiple weeks. The pain should subside a day or two after the surgery.
As a pet owner, you should monitor the nail growth and foot condition. If you see irregular nail growth, bleeding, or pus discharge, it would be best to book a follow-up appointment with the vet.
A dog can recover pretty well from nail surgery. If the wound needs cleaning and dressing, ensure you keep up with the visits to the vet’s clinic. If you are dressing the wound at home, ensure your hands are clean and have appropriate disinfectant materials.
What Tools Are Required for Nail Trimming?
Surgery is a relatively safe option to fix the issue of overgrown nails. But is it wise to get a surgery done every time your dog needs a nail trims? Well, maybe not. The price of surgery is another factor you should consider.
If the dog gets too squeamish during a grooming session, there are ways you can calm them down and make them feel comfortable. Let us start with the basics and go through the tools you will need for nail trimming.
You will first need a nail clipper or scissors to cut the dog’s nails. You can pick the right size of cutters depending on your dog’s size. For example, scissors will do fine for a puppy, while nail clippers are specifically available for small, medium, and large-sized dogs.
A nail grinder or a filer can smoothen out the rough edges of a freshly clipped nail. Some people also use grinders to trim nails, but it can be time-consuming. On the other hand, it is a safer option if you are concerned about getting to the quick of the nail.
Lastly, you need styptic powder. If you do happen to nick the quick of the nail, the powder can be used to stop the bleeding. You can also stop the bleeding using flour or cornstarch.
How Can You Safely Trim a Dog’s Nails?
It is best to seek the help of a family member or friend for this task. They can restrain or keep the pet calm while you go about trimming its nails.
Gently but firmly grip the dog’s paws. Identify where the quick is. Your job is to keep away from the quick and trim the nails that grow above it.
Start by cutting only 1 to 2 mm of the nails at the top. As their nails are slanted, follow the 45°degree angle along the lines of the nail’s natural growth. Sticking to the angle helps you trim the nails shorter while staying clear of the quick.
You can finish off the trim by using a grinder or a filer. This ensures the rough edges of the nails do not get stuck in your clothing or blankets.
If your dog has declaws, the nails present slightly above the paw, which also needs to be trimmed. As that nail does not come into contact with the ground, it can often get ignored. But, those declaws can overgrow and start curving backward.
How Can You Get a Dog Comfortable with Nail Trimming?
Dogs can be really sensitive about their feet. So if you have a puppy, make touching its paws a normal routine. Be cheerful when you do so. Or give the puppy small treats when it lets you touch its paws. This will help the puppy understand that you touching its paws is a good thing.
Let the dog see and smell the tools you will be using. Next, touch the tools to their nails. Finally, perform the action of using the tool. If the dog remains calm, reward it with a treat. The whole point of the exercise is to familiarize the dog with the tools and have positive associations with them.
Next, cut a tiny bit of the nail and praise the dog. Continue the process for a few days until you get through all the nails. The method may seem time-consuming, but once you get the pet comfortable with the experience at the start, trimming nails in the future will be much more convenient.
You can try the same techniques for adult dogs that may have had a bad memory with nail trimming. However, it will take a lot more time because the dog already views nail trimming as a harmful activity. So, turning the activity into a positive one will require significant patience from you.
If you cannot get the dog to calm down, take the dog to professional groomers. Surgery is an option if the dog’s overgrown nails have torn, damaged, or infected. However, you can avoid surgery by keeping up with a regular grooming routine.
Long nails can be pretty problematic in dogs. They can lead to ingrowths, tear, injury, infection, and splayed foot. As a result, your dog can face difficulty walking and running around.
If dog nails are too long, surgery will be the treatment method recommended by the vet. Depending on the wound or infection, the vet will remove the nail partially or entirely. The dog will be under local anesthesia during the procedure.
After the nail removal surgery, you will have to keep the nail pad area clean, give the dog its antibiotics and monitor the site for any abnormal symptoms.
To avoid surgery, ensure you trim your dog’s nails and keep them short. If the dog gets uncomfortable, please seek help from professional groomers or the vet.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.