6-10-20            The Dangers of Long Nails for Dogs     

               Let me paint you a familiar picture. You come home from a long day of work, open the door and place your things on the chair that holds all the coats, saying you’ll put them away next time you do laundry; which is probably this weekend. As you take your shoes off, you hear a rush of click-clacking. Within a few seconds, you see your dog; a giant smile on his face, tongue flailing out of his mouth and tail wagging so fast it leaves an after image. You get a few kisses as he jumps up, his sharp nails digging into your exposed arms. The painful scratch marks forces you to let his front paws drop to the floor. A few more head pats and butt scratches, he runs off, click-clacking until he’s out of sight; but you can still hear him running his laps.      

               Familiar story, but something most people don’t know is that if you can hear that click-clacking of dog nails, it means they are too long and need to be trimmed down. As humans, we notice when our nails get too long and we know when to cut them. Domesticated animals know they need their nails done, but lack the ability to take care of it themselves. Left unattended, long nails can contribute to dozens of medical issues like: getting caught in loose floor boards and break, joint-muscle issues, nervous system stress, immune system complications and even dental problems.      

               That may sound extreme, but let’s break it down. What if you woke up, immediately put on high heels and walked around everyday with them; that’d cause excess tension on your feet over time. Damage to the feet means more stress on the leg muscles, which in turn strains the immune and nervous systems to compensate for the discomfort. Over time, that discomfort leads to chronic problems like arthritis or joint and ligament injuries.      

                Or say your dog loves to lick his feet. Those long nails pick up dirt, debris, bacteria and things only microbiologists could pronounce. All those things, then go into your dog’s mouth which can cause bad breath, gingivitis and digestive issues. We all know what happens if we do not take care of our teeth on a daily basis; imagine what damage can be caused if we started licking the dirt off our shoes and stopped brushing our teeth. This could been prevented, if we got to those long nails sooner.     

               Now, how we do deal with those nails? A quick way to do them is to just get some nail trimmers and cut them, but that’s not optimal for better quality of life. Plus, if you cut the nails too close to the quick/vein, then you may hurt your dog; he/she will start bleeding, your dog maybe traumatized, run around the house and get blood all over the floors you just cleaned yesterday. No one wants that. Ideally, the best way to deal with nails is to “functionally trim” them.      

               Functional toenail trimming is where you use a nail grinder and sand down the nail into a smooth shape, while removing its length. There’s less chance of severing the vein, thus less potential of bleeding and less scratch marks on your arms because you can shape those nails into blunt-rounded edges. With functional nail trimmings, you file down all parts of the nail: top, sides, bottom and edges. Like an artist, you sculpt the nail into shape removing the nail bed back to the quick. Once you see the quick, which appears as a small reddish-pink spot, you can stop and move onto the next. Doing this every few weeks will slowly recede the vein back, allowing you to trim back more of the nail, keeping them short.      

               It may sound like a difficult process but you are never alone. There are people you can call to show you proper technique and devices to suit your needs. Veterinarian Dr. Beth Hirsch is well versed in the technique and has trained various veterinary technicians and clients about proper functional toenail trimmings. Feel free to make an appointment with her at Holistic Pet Care in Little Falls by calling 973 256 3899 or go to the website Holisticpetcarenj.com to schedule an appointment.       

               We only have one body and we need to take care of it if we want to have a good quality of life.