Canine Health Information
Care of Terrible Toenails
CANINE HEALTH INFORMATION
Breeder-Judge on trimming or grinding toe
nails to prevent foot damage which judges
see as neglect. Learn how and why to cut toe nails.
pet owner dreads the chore of cutting toe nails. Believe me! Your dog
dreads it more. Preparing your puppy for this “intrusion” upon his
personal space will make the experience less traumatic.
Buyers welcome a pet into their home at
approximately eight weeks. A
reputable breeder starts trimming toenails from the “get-go”. This gives
the new owner a “jump start”. This is done so the puppies will not
scratch the mother when nursing. Teeth and toenails are one reason
females wean puppies early.
Puppies become accustomed to being held for nail trimming. They
understand what to expect at an early age. After purchase, it is up to
the new owner to trim the nails periodically. Toe nails grow at a rapid
In the wild, coyotes and foxes wear their nails down digging and running
across hard ground, so this problem doesn’t exist. Pets rarely leave a
carpeted area or couch today. They may be allowed to run in a yard, but
usually time is limited. Feeding a raw diet and giving raw bones will
increase the rapidity of nail growth.
Do NOT cut toe nails on a grooming table if the dog is intended to be a
show prospect. Most dogs consider table grooming an acceptable and
enjoyable procedure. On the other hand, trimming toe nails on the table
has the adverse effect! Smaller dogs are more difficult than larger dogs
and can jump out of your hands and injure themselves! Using the table to
trim nails can cause quite a commotion. From that day forward, the dog
will view being “tabled” as a traumatic experience and will hear you
pick up the clippers from a room away
Hold a small dog under one arm to trim nails. If the dog objects, whirl
about one time and disorient the dog. Trim quickly. One might try
placing a larger dog on its side on a towel on the floor. If the dog
objects, place your body gently over the dog and say “Stay” firmly. This
places YOU in the “alpha” position. Your dog, realizing the inevitable,
will hopefully submit. Have someone talk to your dog as a distraction,
but NOT in a sympathetic tone of voice. Remain calm!
Grip the “ruff” on a long coated dog and hold the foot in the same hand.
This connects the head to the foot and it is harder for the dog to pull
away. One might trim hind feet from the back of the foot.
Some dogs are tolerant, others choose to fight. With determined or
aggressive dogs, contact a groomer or veterinarian and let them do the
“dirty deed”. They have less sympathy and are more efficient. It’s a
nasty job but someone has to do it for the dog’s health and safety. If
you take the dog to the vet or groomer, DO NOT stay and watch the
procedure. Like children, they sense your presence and it makes nail
trimming more difficult.
The downside of NOT trimming nails is a crippled dog. Picture never
cutting your own toe nails. Front feet will break down in the pasterns,
the toes will splay out and the feet will become flat. Long rear
toenails will cause the feet to turn out and as in the pasterns, can
cause arthritic changes. Weight adds to this condition and spreads the
rear feet. Some dogs may attempt to chew toe nails down (or they will
start licking their feet) if they become too uncomfortable. If this
point is reached, there is a serious problem.
The larger the breed, the tougher the toe nail. The tougher the nail,
the larger the tool. For small dogs, “cat nail clippers” are good and
quick. Human toe nail clippers splinter the nail. Some people prefer to
use a grinding tool. Small hands cannot control a large apparatus and a
squirming dog at the same time. Purchase a small grinder, a “Dremel”
tool for easier handling. One might file the nails, but patience is
required. DO NOT force the issue when doing an older dog as it may cause
injury. Leave this chore to a professional.
White toe nails are the easiest to cut. The vein is visible. Cut up to
the vein in the toe nail. Darker toe nails are more difficult because
you can’t see the quick. Cut just to the curve of the nail. IF you
“quick” the dog, there is blood stopper (styptic) powder and pencils to
stop the bleeding. NO, your dog will not die if the nail is cut to the
quick. Often some dogs will bleed for a longer length of time. This is
normal. Excessive bleeding could indicate Von Willibrands Disease but
most breeders test for VWD and eliminate such dogs from their breeding
The more one trims nails, the more the quick recedes. Persistence will
get those feet back into shape quickly. Some breeders deliberately cut
the nail beyond the quick, and then pack it to present a tight foot.
This is painful to even think about and opens the door to possible
Usually breeders remove puppy dew claws at birth. There are several
methods. Hemostats may be used for a bloodless removal at 2 days.
Surgery such as cutting into the bone and stitching for complete removal
is done by veterinarians. Scabs will form over these wounds. They must
be monitored closely to insure infection doesn’t set in. Soak the scab
and keep the area clean... Remove the hardened scabs once they soften
and gently clean with a soft cloth. This will be required more than one
time. Serious infections can require foot removal. Other methods are
used, depending upon preference.
Some Veterinarians remove dew claws on older dogs. This is terribly
painful to your dog. (Picture cutting off your own thumb or toe) A valid
reason should be given if your dog is to suffer this procedure. Granted,
dew claws may be a detrement regarding hunting dogs due to rough
terrain, briars, and brush. Removing them could eliminate injury.
AKC Breed standards address removal or acceptance of existing dew claws.
The Great Pyrenees, Briard, Beauceron, and Norwegian Lundehund are
breeds requiring dew claws to assist in their function. Other standards
prefer that dew claws be removed. Each breed must satisfy their
individual standard requirement.
It’s best to cut nails after a bath as they are softer. Another time is
when the dog is tired and ready to nap. “Once you start cutting toe
nails, NEVER TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER. The dog must NOT win. If you have a
young puppy, when you hold and cuddle it at other times, massage the
paws gently so it becomes accustomed to your touch.
Go through the process of trimming or grinding nails even if it’s
impossible to address all four feet. Do not turn your dog loose! If the
dog gets its way, this behavior will intensify with each attempt. Do a
few nails on each foot if necessary. Take more than one session to
complete. Give a treat now and then. Like bathing and blow drying, most
dogs improve in time. Always remember, your dog’s feet are equally as
important as your own.
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* None of the statements contained herein as regards human or animal health have been evaluated by the FDA. Information is provided for educational purposes only. We are required to advise you to always check with a licensed veterinarian or medical doctor. Information or products offered are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness, disease, or condition, whether animal or human. This disclaimer is due to FDA restrictions designed to protect you, the consumer. It does NOT protect you from vaccines or prescription drugs.
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