The importance of trimming dogs’ toenails

The importance of the canine nail trim cannot be understated. At Astoria Animal Hospital we counsel our clients that dogs should have their nails trimmed every 2-4 weeks, to keep them at optimal length.

The canine nail adheres very tightly to the last bone of the toe and when the nail is too long it causes the last bone to be pushed up when the foot strikes the ground. This logically affects foot placement and can lead to misalignment and incorrect positioning with each step, which can aggravate arthritis and cause pain.

The nail continually grows and has a curve, which allows the tip to eventually hit the ground. There is soft tissue that is attached to the top of the nail that when the dog is young can hold the nail off the ground when they walk but as the dog ages the soft tissue weakens and stretches and the nails often hit the ground. Many people think that by walking the dog on the concrete or pavement it will wear down the toenail and keep it short.  This concept is false. The author would rather people compare the overly long dog toenail to overly long human toenails hitting the end of the shoe. OUCH!!

To trim the dog toenail, it is best to use canine nail trimmers. Many people use human fingernail trimmers but they tend to crush the nail and hurt the dog, which causes the owner to have trouble trimming their dogs nails. The canine nail trimmers come in two fashions—a Guillotine type and a scissor type. The Guillotine type are very commonly used but because the nail can’t be visualized very well it often leads to too much being taken off in one cut, which then leads to bleeding. At Astoria Animal Hospital we use the scissor type and whittle the nail down gently and slowly. No matter what type of trimmer you use, it must be maintained in good repair and sharpened often.

Having someone else trim your dogs nails often is a good thing, as owners can’t always hold their dogs still to trim nails. Around the north coast area there are many skilled people including vets, vet assistants, and groomers to help keep your dog’s nails at the correct length. Trimming nails is a learned skill that requires a lot of practice, so be prepared to pay a fee for this service.

All in all, if your dog’s nails haven’t been trimmed in a while this author recommends that you take him/her somewhere and have them trimmed for your dog’s comfort.

Dr. Dannell Davis
Astoria Animal Hospital