A dog’s nails, if left unchecked, can cause spine and posture issues. A general rule of thumb to follow is if your dog is standing with his front legs under his shoulders and his nails touch the ground, it’s time to trim them. If you can hear his nails clicking, it’s time for a trim. A piece of paper should be able to fit between their nails and floor. Also, front paws are more likely to get overgrown than rear nails.
The general recommendation is to trim your dog’s nails every two weeks for ideal nail length and to cause the blood vessel to retreat further back. However, there are many factors that could sway this frequency one way or another. The main constituents include genetics, breed, feeding habits, your dog’s activity level, and the ground they are walking on. If they are generally walking on soft ground, such as in parks, their nails will grow more. If they walk more on hard ground like concrete or asphalt, their nails will probably get filed down a bit.
Nail trimming can be done by a veterinarian, a groomer, or at home. If done at home, nails should be clipped a little at a time at an angle parallel to the bottom of the nail. If your dog has clear or light colored nails, you’ll be able to see the blood supply in the nail. A flashlight can help you see the blood in darker nails. Clipping the wrong spot can be painful and bloody. If there happens to be some blood, don’t panic. Try to stop the flow by applying a styptic powder or pencil available at most pharmacies. If you don’t have any of these on hand, you can apply ice cubes to try to reduce blood flow in an emergency. Avoid dirt getting in the wound as this can cause an infection. If bleeding continues for 30 minutes, contact your veterinarian.
If you feel like your dog’s nails have become extremely overgrown, contact your vet. Some may allow you to send a picture, to see if they are comfortable giving you instruction on trimming the nails at home. The vet may feel more comfortable having a groomer or a tech in the office trim these nails if they are too overgrown.
When finished trimming, you can apply paw balsam to soften the skin around the nails. This can be comforting for your dog after the clipping.
Overall, just take a peak at your dog’s nails about every two weeks and you’ll begin to notice a general trend in the frequency they may need their nails trimmed. Overgrown nails significantly decreases the quality of your dog’s life, including difficulty walking, lameness, or other serious injury.
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