how often to clip dog nails

Everyone who has owned a cat or a dog knows that their nails can get long, fast! This is especially true if your dog isn’t walking on pavement or harder surfaces that help naturally dull their claws. If you go to a groomer, chances are that they take care of your pet’s nails for you, but if you don’t or if nail clipping isn’t a part of their service, you may not know how often to clip dog nails. 

At Doggy Brace, we may specialize in Dog ACL braces, but we put dog health above all else. So where is our guide on how to clip your dog’s nails, and how to tell if they’re too long. 

Firstly, clipping their nails isn’t strictly cosmetic — it helps protect you, your family, your home, the dog, and other pets from being scratched. It also helps keep your dog healthy

How Often Should I Clip My Dog’s Nails?

If the pet is strictly indoors (besides potty breaks), they will need more attention than dogs who spend a lot of time outside. Thankfully, there are a few signs to watch out for that will tell you if you need to clip your dog’s nails. 

First, listen. Do you hear a clicking sound when they’re walking? That’s a sign! Do the nails look long, gnarled, or unhealthy? That’s another sign. 

In general, dogs need their nails clipped and filed every 3 to 4 weeks. 

Can Long Nails Hurt My Dog?

Yes! Outside of scratching themselves, longer nails can hurt your dog. Long claws are also more prone to infection. Overgrown nails can be the source of painful paw injuries. The nail can get caught or snagged on furniture, in cracks, or when they’re walking outside and can break or rip off. This is very painful for your dog and requires vet care in most cases to prevent infections. 

Longer nails can also become ingrown. If you’ve ever had an ingrown nail, you know how uncomfortable it is and how painful it is to fix. For dogs, it makes it harder for them to walk and they can end up hurting their paw if they chew at it. 

A Look At Your Dog’s Nails

If you’ve never trimmed your dog’s nails before, take them to a vet or groomer and have them show you how to do it. Your dog’s nails are very different from your own and cutting them incorrectly can hurt them. 

Your dog has two things humans do not: dew claws and a quick. 

What is a Dew Claw?

A dew claw is the oddball fifth nail that doesn’t touch the ground. It’s located on the side of their paws and is often referred to as your dog’s thumb. You should trim these claws as well because they are never exposed to friction, and therefore don’t naturally get dulled down as your dog walks. 

Dew claws often result in ingrown nails if they are neglected. 

Don’t notice a dew claw on your dog? Don’t panic! It’s not uncommon for dogs to be missing them on some of their paws. 

What is a Quick?

A quick refers to the blood vessel in your dog’s nail. It’s normally visible if your dog has lighter colored nails. If your dog has black nails, it’s pretty hard to see. 

The quick is hidden in the nail and extends pretty fair down it, thus making it easy to expose. If cut, it will cause heavy bleeding. If you cut your own dog’s nails, you should keep a  coagulant product (nail styptic powder) on hand to stop the bleeding. If you’re worried about cutting the quick, you can file your dog’s nails as well, or let a professional handle them. 

How To Clip Your Dog’s Nails

If you have an anxious dog, ease them into it. Take small steps to get them used to you holding their paws for prolonged periods. Cut the nails one at a time and give your pup plenty of treats and praise. If your dog is fine with you handling their paws, you can follow these steps: 

Hold your dog tightly. A good way to hold your dog is to wrap one arm around your dog’s middle and hold them close to your chest. They should be in a sitting position on your lap. With your other hand, gently take one of their paws and separate their toes so you can access their claws. 

Take the clipper and cut your dog’s nail at a 45-degree angle. Be sure you’re not cutting into the quick! If your dog has darker nails, snip slow and short sections. Every nail is different too — there is no one measurement you can go by for a safe snip. 

File the nails down to remove any jagged or broken edges. 

Repeat this process for each paw. If you need help, having a second person clip their nails while you hold your dog is a good option as well. 

Dull nails and well groomed dogs means they have less chance of injuring themselves. If their nails are immaculate and your dog is still limping, you can check out what might be causing that here

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