Pedicures for pets are important because overgrown nails can cause painful infections. Some dogs are active enough to wear their toenails down, but if you can hear a clicking noise when your dog walks across a hard floor, his nails are probably too long. For most dogs, nail trims once a month are best. Many dogs do not like having their feet handled, but if you start trimming your dog’s nails while he is still a puppy he might get more used to it.
A dew claw is a “fifth” toe located in the thumb position, which may or may not be present. If your dog has dew claws then they need trimming too. When dewclaws overgrow they curl inward and can grow into the skin causing painful infections. They are also easily snagged and torn.
(NOTE: Nail trims are important. Start with young puppies so they learn to accept them.)
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
* Don’t use regular scissors to cut nails, they are not strong enough and can cause the nail to split. Use a clipper designed specifically for dog nails which can also be used for dewclaws. Two different styles, primarily Guillotine and Roscoe, are available commercially and both work well as long as the blades are sharp. A metal nail file helps smooth edges down after the trim.
* A blood vessel runs down the center of each nail that will bleed if the nail is cut too short. The vessel is easiest to see on the white nails so start with a white nail and use it as a reference for the dark nails. Just trim the tip that curves downwards so the nail remains parallel to the toe.
* In case your trim a nail too short, have a styptic pencil (as sold for shaving cuts) or silver nitrate stick on hand to stop the bleeding. Flour, cornstarch or baking soda along with pressure will also work.
* Each nail also contains a nerve called the quick. If you hit the nerve it is extremely painful. Professional groomers often use electric nail grinders. They let the quick recede which results in a shorter nail and a tighter paw.
* Check the footpads and trim excess hair between the toes. A pair of scissors will work for this.
* It is best to have dewclaws removed when puppies are just a few days old. They can also be removed later along with some other surgical procedure such as neutering or spaying.
* Your vet or a professional groomer is best qualified to trim nails in nervous dogs or in those extremely apprehensive about having their feet handled.
Check your dog’s nails as part of his regular grooming routine. Problems can develop at the base of the nail that are easy to miss. They tend to become infected and are uncomfortable. Epsom salt soaks can provide symptomatic relief but in most cases, your vet will need to intervene. Nail bed infections often require long-term antibiotic and/or antifungal therapy.
(NOTE: Guillotine clippers are very strong and are best suited for nail trims on large and giant breeds.)