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Why Are Long Nails Bad For My Dog?

When dogs spend a good deal of time outdoors, running on various hard surfaces, including concrete and blacktop, their nails are gradually worn down, and they have less of a need for formal nail-grooming sessions. But with many dogs spending a majority of time indoors or on soft surfaces like lawns, there is less friction and will need more frequent nail trims.

Long, unkempt nails not only look unattractive, but over time they can do serious damage to your dog (and your floors). When nails are so long that they touch the ground, they exert force back into the nail bed, creating pain for the dog and pressure on the toe joint. Long term, this can actually realign the joints of the foreleg and make them "flat footed". This is a problem that compromises your dog's weight distribution and leave them more susceptible to injuries while making walking and running difficult and painful. In extreme cases, overgrown nails can curve and grow into the pad of the foot. Even if they aren't that bad, long nails can still get torn or split, needing veterinary treatment.

The rule of thumb for nails is that when a dog is standing, the nails should not make contact with the ground. If you can hear your dog coming, their nails are too long. However, if their nails have been growing out for too long, this may not be possible right away due to the dog's toenail quick. Dogs have a nerve and vein that runs through the nail called the "quick". Nicking or cutting the quick is very painful for the dog. Shortening the nail without "quicking" the dog is easier said than done - unless your dog has white or light-colored nails (which it can be seen from the side) - avoid going near it.

The longer your dog's nails are allowed to grow, the longer the quick will become. If your dog's quick is too long, you will have to carefully cut the nails or get them grinded/buffed (using a dremel) and keep them on a regular nail trim schedule so the quick will start to recede. It can take several months to get the quick to recede so the nails can be at a healthy, pain-free length. If you are worried about quicking your dog's nails, it's best to let a professional trim them for you. One bad experience can traumatize the dog and make it more difficult for future trimming. Usually, due to previous bad experiences and/or a lack of desensitizing/training, most dogs hate having their nails done. It's best to start them as early as possible so they can become familiarized with nail trimming and associate it as a positive experience. 

For more information on nail grinding/buffing check out our other blog: Trimming v. Buffing


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