Let’s talk about how to cut overgrown dog nails, and how to avoid the quick—especially if they are black nails.

long dog nails

What do you do if your dog's nails are too long?

Are you concerned that your pup’s nails are getting too long? Wondering what you should do? Well, just being concerned and asking these questions means that you’re off to a good start!

Making sure that your dog’s nails are maintained at the right length is a part of their overall grooming and physical health. Believe it or not, a dog’s nails can have a big effect on their wellbeing. Whether they are too long, or accidentally get cut too short—both can have negative effects. So let’s talk about how to properly clip your dog’s nails and what happens if you don't.

Do overgrown nails hurt dogs?

Sadly, the answer is yes. If a dog’s nails get too long, they can become a problem because dog’s use their nails for traction and balance. If their nails become overgrown, your pup could slip and hurt themselves more easily.

The Moncton Animal Hospital tells us that “long nails cause a dog to place their feet differently, in a ‘plantigrade’ position. In other words the nails ‘push’ the dogs toes up and the ‘heel’ comes down to balance, placing strain on the muscles and ligaments in the legs.”

Also, the longer your dog’s nails are, the more likely they are to accidentally break off from running around outside. And sometimes these breaks open the nail to expose the quick, which also causes your dog a lot of pain.

For some dogs, when their nails get too long, they actually become curled—making it even harder to walk properly. This will most certainly cause your dog discomfort and pain. Older dogs and dogs who struggle with arthritis will have even more pain from this.

dog being groomed

How can I make my dog more comfortable with nail trimmings?

Treats, treats, and more treats! Rewarding your dog throughout the process and after you’re done will help them have a positive association with the situation. And make sure you are in a quiet, calm, distraction-free environment.

You can also let your dog see and sniff your nail clippers, nail file, and nail grinder ahead of time. If you use a nail grinder, let them hear the sound a few times before actually using it. And the first time you clip their nails… just clip one or two, and then praise and reward them. A few days later, try it again.

How do you cut severely overgrown dog nails?

Now that you know your dog needs their nails cut, how do you do it? Well, if you’re nervous or uncomfortable with trimming your dog’s nails, you can always take them to the vet or pet groomer to have them trimmed.

If you’re ready to do it at home, it’s really not all that bad. You should clip their nails once every month or two, depending on how quickly your dog’s nails grow. One helpful indicator is when you hear that “clicking” sound as your dog walks across a hard-surfaced floor.

As far as purchasing dog nail clippers—you can do your research online, as well as ask the advice of your veterinarian and pet groomer. Most dog nail clippers are pretty similar. Some will have different handles that make them easier to hold and use. And some will even have a sort of “safeguard” that shows you how far to put your dog’s nail through the clippers.

How do you cut a dog's nails that are curled?

You’re going to cut your pup’s nails the same way you would if they weren’t curled, but you won’t be able to use one of those safeguards to measure their nails. Make sure that you avoid cutting the quick of the nail! But we’ll talk about the quick more below. If this seems too scary, there’s no shame in paying a professional to do it.

close up of dog with long nails

Does it hurt a dog when you cut the quick?

Ok, now let’s talk about the quick of the nail. What is it? This is the part of the nail where the nerves and blood vessels live. If your dog has light-colored nails, you can actually hold them up to the light and see the quick inside of their nails. Cutting into the quick is like cutting into one of our fingers.

So the answer is yes, it definitely hurts a dog when you cut into their quick, and they’ll let you know it! Also, it bleeds… a lot. So make sure to keep some paper towels nearby when trimming. But more importantly, keep a small bowl of cornstarch, flour, or a bar of soap nearby. If you accidentally cut the nail too short, use one of these to press into the nail to stop the bleeding.

How do you know where the quick is on black nails?

It’s definitely much trickier to clip your dog’s nails if they are black because you can’t see the quick through the nail. What you can do is to look at the bottom of the tip of your dog’s nails. It’s easier to see when you have their paw turned upside down. If you can see a small dark circle in the center of the tip of their nail—that’s the beginning of the quick. So make sure not to cut it any shorter.

If you don’t see the circle, then they can be trimmed a little shorter. The most important part about clipping a dog’s nails in general—especially if they are curled or dark-colored—is to clip just a tiny bit at a time. It will take longer, but you will be less likely to accidentally cut into the quick of the nail.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at TryFi.com.

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