6 Benefits of Regular Nail Trimming for Dogs

6 Benefits of Regular Nail Trimming for Dogs

Do you hear a clack-clack-clacking when your dog is trotting toward you? If so, your little – or not so little – furry friend is in serious need of a nail trimming session.

Routine nail trims are commonly overlooked as part of our canine companions’ preventative health care, but hold significant potential to improve our dogs’ quality of life. Here are 6 benefits of regular nail trimming for your dog’s health, safety and comfort. 

1. Short nails allow your dog to walk comfortably.

Dog walking on grass

Dogs actually walk on their toes. Long nails dig painfully into their paw pads, making them rest their weight further back on the paw. This awkward gait puts stress and strain on leg muscles, torques the spine and can cause discomfort for your dog. 

Let me prove it to you. Stand up and curl your toes, simulating a dog with long toenails. Did you feel the way your body weight shifted? Now please do it once again, but this time, appreciate the subtle changes you experienced in your joints and muscles.

Also, watch a dog with long nails gait before and immediately after a quality nail trim. That dog will instantly have an improved stride, which will translate into a more efficient and comfortable gait. 

2. Trimmed nails preserve your dog’s posture. 

Dog peeping through a wooden fence

Long nails can compromise your dog’s weight distribution and natural alignment and can leave it more susceptible to injuries; and make walking and running difficult and painful. This is especially important in older dogs, whose posture can be dramatically improved by cutting back neglected nails.

Long nails are not just a cosmetic issue. They can actually change the way a dog’s paws interface with the ground, negatively affecting both posture and gait. Long toenails create chronic bad posture. Bad posture is uncomfortable for the dog and predisposes to degeneration and injury, as chronic abnormal forces are placed into the dog’s joints, tendons and ligaments.

Additionally, your dog is stressed and the adrenal glands increase cortisol production. Excess cortisol takes a toll on many body systems, but is known to cause ligament laxity or weakening. This predisposes to injury.

3. Regular trimming reduces the chance of injury.

Dog sleeping on the floor

In extreme cases, overgrown nails can curve and grow into the pad of the foot. But even if they are not that out of control, long nails can get torn or split, which is very painful, can lead to infection and, depending on severity, may need to be treated by a veterinarian.

Long, hard toenails cannot grip flooring, making your dog more likely to slip, and less confident on hard, smooth surfaces. In nature, dogs use their toenails to get grip on terrain. When they flex their digits (with long nails) to attempt to gain traction on hard-surface flooring, it simply makes the slipping worse.

4. Clipping nails can prevent joint problems.

Dog seated on grass with tongue out

When nails are so long that they constantly touch the ground, they exert force back into the nail bed, creating pain for your dog (imagine wearing a too-tight shoe) and pressure on the toe joint. Long term, this can actually realign the joints of the foreleg and make its foot looked flattened and splayed. 

5. Trimming recedes the nail quick. 

Dog chewing on a stick

The quick is the internal part of the nail, made up of the nerve, blood vessels and connective tissue. If you keep the nails short with regular trimming, the quick will also remain short. This will allow you to keep the nails short more easily without cutting into the quick.

When you fail to trim your dog's nails as frequently as needed, the quick grows along with the nail. In some cases, when the nails are extra-long, the quick may lengthen so much that it reaches the tip. Regular trimming will make a long quick recede, making it easier to trim nails shorter in the future.

6. Short nails minimise scratches. 

Dog wrapped in a blanket

If your dog’s nails become too long and sharp, they can hurt people that they jump on or paw at. Sharp nails can also break their skin when they scratch themselves, especially when they scratch at their ears or face. This can be uncomfortable or painful, as well as another potential source of infection. 

Once a week is ideal if you want to gradually shorten your dog’s nails and eliminate all that clickety-clacking on your floors. And, depending on the rate at which your dog’s nails grow (and what sort of surface it exercises on) once or twice a month is a reasonable goal to maintain the nails at a healthy length.

You can purchase Safari Professional Nail Clippers to trim your dog’s nails.

So what’s the “right” length? While some breeds (most notably the Doberman Pinscher) are often shown with nails so short they can barely be seen, the most commonly accepted rule of thumb is that when a dog is standing, the nails should not make contact with the ground. If you can hear your dog coming, its nails are too long.

Nail Maintenance Routines are Crucial

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is – at least initially, until you and your dog develop a nail-maintenance routine. And “maintenance” really is the name of the game; it is far easier for you (and less painful for your dog) to maintain its short nails than to shorten nails that have gotten long, with the inevitable corresponding long quicks.

If your dog’s nails have gotten too long, or you adopted a dog whose nails were too long, you need to really commit to frequent trimming to restore his foot health and comfort. Three to four days is probably the minimum amount of time that’s advisable between grooming treatments that are intended to encourage the quicks to recede.

Once a week is ideal if you want to gradually shorten your dog’s nails and eliminate all that clickety-clacking on your floors. And, depending on the rate at which your dog’s nails grow (and what sort of surface it exercises on) once or twice a month is a reasonable goal to maintain the nails at a healthy length.

No matter what frequency you choose, make a commitment. Earmark a specific day of the week or month for your grooming sessions, and stick with it. You’ll have a better chance of remembering to do your dog’s nails on a regular basis if you get into a routine. 

Always remember: Dog nail clipping is an essential part of any grooming routine.

Information for this article was sourced from whole-dog-journal.com and beckeranimalhospital.com.