Is it Necessary to Trim Dog Nails: A Vet Reveals the Truth

If you have a breed of dog that tends to have nail problems, you will want to ensure that you determine when it is necessary to have its nails trimmed. Most breeds that have long nails will develop problems while walking and also, they will tend to leave claw marks on expensive hardwood flooring.

It is necessary to trim dog nails? It is necessary to trim your dog’s nails on a regular basis. If you do not do so, there is a greater chance of ingrown nails, nail trauma, and even bacterial infections occurring.

According to Dr Jangi Bajwa, a certified veterinary dermatologist, you must trim your dog’s nails. If you fail to do on a regular basis, it is possible that ingrown nails can occur. The nail will curve in such a way that it will penetrate in the pad of the foot. This opening in the foot pad can become infected which could harm your dog even further.

Also, some dog owners do not realize that as a dog ages, the rate of nail growth will increase. Nail trimmings will need to happen more often.

If you are curious as to whether your breed of dog tends to readily develop nail problems when maintenance is not performed on the nails, please check out the following chart that was derived through data found on forums that are related to owners of dogs:

Dog Breeds that Tend to Develop Nail Problems Mostly Due to the Lack of Nail Trimmings

Dog BreedPercentage of total mentions of nail problems – ranked by Breed
Labrador 8.3%
Great Dane25%
German Shepherd16.7%
Data derived from Dog Forums

What happens if you do not cut your dog’s nails?

According to Dr. Jason Nicholas, a graduate of the Royal Verterinary College in London, dog owners should ensure that the maintenance of the nails of dogs is important. In the wild, the ancestors of the common domesticated dog were traveling far distances for food which would wear down the nails. Domesticated dogs need to having trimmers or aliments can occur. Plus, the damage that can happen to furniture and even to the dog owners.

Here is a brief list of problems that will surface if you refuse to trim your dog’s nails:

  1. Furniture can be damaged because of the long nails that will scratch leather or that will get caught in the fibers of upholstered furniture causing tears.
  2. Since dogs are walking in areas within cities that are mostly concrete, trauma can occur to the nail beds because of the nail ends hitting the hard surfaces. Each step could be causing pain to your dog.
  3. The likelihood that a nail can be pulled off is there if you fail to cut your dog’s nails. Long nails can become stuck on a surface and then your dog will instinctively pull its foot away, tearing the nail out the nail bed. This will cause great pain to your dog and a lot of bleeding.
  4. A likely situation is that of an ingrown nail if dog nails are never trimmed. The nail will spiral as it grows and become embedded into the paw pad. The germs that are trapped under the dog claws will then have access to below the skin which can cause an infection.

Now that you know that is crucial to perform maintenance on your dog’s nails, how are supposed to know when it is time to trim?

How to know when to trim your dog’s nails

You know that your dog is in need a nail trim is if you notice that a nail is touching the ground as your dog is walking. This is not normal since it means that the nail is causing pressure on your dog’s paw. In the wild, this access nail would come into use while running in dirt or the forest. Dogs, especially dog dwellers, are walked on many concrete surfaces which is going to cause problems when the nail can touch the ground in the front of the pad.

Another method to know when trimming is required for your dog’s claws is if your dog is having trouble balancing on some concrete surfaces. The paw pads signal to the brain the position that a dog is to the horizon according to Dr Leslie Woodcock, DVM, a graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph. If the nail is interfering with this communication from the pad to the brain, then there is a chance that your dog is going to walk off balance from time to time on a solid surface.

You should cut your dog’s nails as soon as you can hear a clicking sound as they walk. A good surface is that of hardwood flooring. The clicking sound will be loud if the nail of your dog is touching the floor.

To avoid misreading when to cut your dog’s nails, try to cut them on a regular basis, every two weeks is suitable period to trim them. If you dog is older, you may have to trim their nails more often.

Does simply walking your dog trim their nails?

Simply walking your dog is not going to trim their nails. There are dog breeds that have nails that grow straight out which means that excessive exercise on hard surfaces is not going the wear down the nails.

According to the Kingsley Veterinary Hospital in Florida, you need to trim your dog’s nails since you should not depend on constantly walking your dog on solid surfaces to naturally wear down their nails. Also, hard surfaces are just going to cause pain to your dog even if they are a breed that has more of a curled nail. Dogs have not evolved to walk on concrete. They need to be walked on various surfaces so that they will feel constant pressure in the paws due to nails that are touching concrete surfaces.

Nevertheless, if you are exercising your dog in wooded areas, they will more of a chance to wear down somewhat their nails in such a way that they will not experience the pain of having their nails pushed up due to walking daily on concrete.

Another beneficial surface for dogs is sand. It is abrasive and it will wear down a dog’s nails. So, if you have a chance to throw a ball or a frisbee on the beach with your dog, you should do so. Plus, inspect their nails once a week or so to check to see if trimming is required.

Once you know that a trimming is required, you need to trim in such a way that you do not cause bleeding by trimming into the quick.

How to cut dog nails that are black

There are breeds of dogs that have black nails making it hard to trim their nails. With the dark surface, it is impossible to see where the quick begins. When you cut into the quick of the nail, bleeding can occur when scares most dog owners.

Dr Julie Buzby, DVM, that holds a certificate in the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, states that you need to trim black dog nails more often and very carefully.

To cut dog nails that are black, cut them so that the end will be vertical to the ground. Trim away slowly into you see a black licorice like tissue in the center of the nail. This will mean that you are close to the quick. Now shave off with the trimmers, the sharp edges so that the end of the nail is smooth.

Here are the steps for cutting dog nails that are black

  1. It is better if use two types of clippers:
  2. The guillotine types. The Master Grooming Guillotine is available on Amazon, click here for pricing.
  3. The Scissors type (click here to view the Boshel clippers on Amazon).
  4. The guillotine clipper will be helpful if the nail is long. It will remove a bigger piece safely.
  5. If the nail has a large curve in it, the scissor clippers should be used.
  6. Make sure to trim slowly until you can feel the meaty lighter material in the center of the nail. Any further you will cut into the quick.
  7. Do not forget to trim the dew nails that are on the sides of the paws when grooming your dog.
  8. The nails that are in rear will take less cutting since they tend to be shorter in length.
  9. If you accidentally cut into the quick, use styptic powder to stop the bleeding. I recommend Miracle Kwik Stop Styptic Powder which is available on Amazon (click here).
  10. Just dab on the powder to absorb the blood and to stop the bleeding.
  11. Untreated the bleeding should stop on its own after about five minutes.

Below is a video that shows how to trim the black nails of a dog safely without causing bleeding.

If you are trimming the black nails of your dog, you will quickly realize that is necessary to have a trimmer schedule since it is harder to see the quick on pigmented nails. I conducted research in numerous forums to find out what timing works best for the average dog owner. Here are the results that I had found from the everyday dog owners.

How often to cut dog nails?

Dog Nail Trimming FrequencyPercentage of Owners That Trim at this Timeframe
14 days44%
30 days22.2%
60 days22.2%
90 days11.1%
Analysis of Data from Popular Dog Owner Forums

The period of 14 days seems to work best overall for dog owners according to the above data set. If you have an older dog, I suggest that you trim the nails every week since the nails are going to have a longer length than a younger dog grow because of the lower level of exercise. Exercise can wear down the nail making it appear as if the nail is growing more slowly.

Now that you have an idea on when to trim the nails of your dog, you may be wondering how short to cut the nails.

How short can you cut dog nails?

You should try to trim a dog’s nails 2mm from the quick to prevent bleeding from occurring. The quick is a pinkish color that signifies the start of the blood supply and nerves begin the dog’s nail. If you are trimming a dog nail that is black, you will need to trim off less of the nail.

When trimming a nail, the main goal is to ensure that you do not cut into the quick. Styptic powder nevertheless can suddenly stop the bleeding if it occurs. If you notice that you are constantly causing bleeding, then you need to trim the nails not as short the next time. How short to trim them is going to vary from breed and to breed. In other words, it will take a few trims to determine how short that the nails should be for your dog.

IF you trim the nail often enough, you will start to be able to trim them even shorter. The quick’s length is based on the length of the nail. When you trim close to the quick, the quick will back up because it is not needed to be so close to the end of the nail.

You should also have short dew nails. They might seem pointless since they usually do not touch the grow even when too long, but they are an important claw to trim. If they are too long, there is a chance that the dew nail will become stuck into something that your dog had been walking through. IF this nail is trapped and your dog continues to walk, there is a chance that it will be pulled off which will cause a lot of pain to your dog.

Also, if you notice that your dog is scratching you, this is sign that the nail is not short enough. When the nail is trimmed and filed down, you should be not be able to feel them on your skin.

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