How long should dog nails be and how to trim dog nails that are overgrown?

Dog nails, just like the human nails, grow quickly and all the time.

The problem with a dog having long nails is that they can be painful and quite uncomfortable for the dog. Unless the pet gets actively involved around hard surfaces, you should consider cutting their nails as often as they grow.

wood block scratched by dogs nails

Unfortunately, most dog owners are oblivious to the necessity of trimming their dog’s nails. For most dogs, on the other hand, having their claws handled for clipping and trimming is an activity they detest.

However, getting your dog used to nail cutting at an early age will see you both manage the process more efficiently. This guide tackles the common issues revolving around how long dog nails should be, their recommended length, and how to cut dog nails that are too long.

How long should dog nails be?

Long dog nail

According to Jenny Prevel, on how to cut a dog’s nails, there is no specified agreed length. If you hear your dog’s nails clicking or clacking as he walks on hard surfaces, then that could be a sign that his nails have grown long enough.

Experts also recommend trying to fit a piece of paper between the nails of your dog and the ground he’s standing on. If the piece of paper doesn’t fit between the two, then the nails are pretty long and should be cut.

Note that for most dogs, nails on the front paws grow faster than those on the hind paws. This means that you should trim the front claws at different intervals from the hind ones. Remember, how frequently you cut dog nails is determined by how quickly they grow.

What influences the growth of dog nails?

Dog eat food out of a dog bowl

You cannot trim your dog’s nails just because you saw your neighbor do so or because of an online guide that you read. You need to understand that different dogs have their nails grow at varying rates due to several factors. As per Jason’s guide on How Often Should You Cut Your Dog’s Nails, there are several factors that influence how quickly your dog’s nails grow;

1. Breed.

Different dog breeds have varying rates of growth, which also translates to the fast or slow growth of their nails. For example, large dog breeds will not require regular nail trimming as often as small breeds.

2. Nutrition

Your dog’s nutrition influences his health, as well as their growth rate. Dogs that maintain a diet with well-balanced minerals and nutrients will likely affect how fast their nails grow.

3. Type of Surface

Dogs that spend most of their time on hard and rough surfaces, such as sidewalks and streets,  have their nails wear down more frequently than those that stay indoors around soft surfaces. As a result, you are likely to spend more time trimming the nails of your dog if they spend most of their time on soft surfaces. This is because their nails grow fast, and they do not have any encounter with a surface to wear them out.

The importance of trimming dog nails that are too long

women clipping her dogs nails

Here is why you should consider trimming your dog’s nails when they grow long.

Long nails can cause excruciating pain every time your dog strikes the ground or floor with each single step. This can be quite uncomfortable for your dog if you do not take action.

Long nails, especially the dewclaw, can curl and grow into the paw pads or skin of your dog. As a result, your dog could suffer pain or even get an infection.

Long nails expose your dog to the risk of getting torn off, mainly if they get hung up on things such as carpets and furniture.

When walking on surfaces such as floors and pathways, long nails exert pressure on the dog’s nail bed. This places your dog in a state of discomfort, affecting his daily routine.

It is also obvious that when your dog’s nails are too long, they will put your furniture, floor, or even your skin at risk of getting damaged

How to cut dog nails that are too long

cutting dog nai

While not cutting your dog’s nails can be injurious to their health, it can also be extremely risky to cut their nails incorrectly. This is according to The Kennel Club on How to Handle Long Dog’s Nails. Improper trimming of a dog’s nails can result in nail infections and disorders. This is why every dog owner needs to understand how they should go about the nail trimming process.

A step-by-step guide on how you should cut your dog’s nails.

  1. Get yourself and your dog accustomed to the dog clipper/trimmer

As earlier stated, nail trimming is not a thing that most dogs like. However, getting your dog accustomed to the trimming tools at an early stage will see that you have an easier time in the process. You also want to get used to the clipper by pressing it to shut and open as often as possible. This way, you will not underestimate or overestimate your grip when doing the actual cut.

  1. Get the trimming area ready

Ensure that the room where you will be trimming your dog’s nails is well lit. This is to enable you to see clearly as you cut the nails. You also want to be gentle on your pet’s paws, as squeezing them can hurt your dog.

  1. Slide the clipper over the nail’s tip

A dog’s nails are not trimmed from the top downwards like human nails. On the contrary, to trim your dog’s nails, you should slide the clipper over the tip of the paws. However, ensure not to place the entire paw into the clipping tool as this can crush the nail.

  1. Do the cutting

With the clipper staying parallel to the nail, squeeze it steadily in one movement. After trimming, the nail’s end may remain attached to the dog’s claw. When this happens, do not pull the nail away. Pulling it away when attached to the claw can damage it or cause pain to your furry companion. The attached part will wear itself out with time.

  1. Give your pet a treat

It takes a lot of patience and obedience for your dog to have its nails trimmed. Once you are through with the cutting, reward your pet with a treat. This will make it easy for the next nail trimming sessions to run smoothly.

Avoiding cutting dog’s nails too short and what to do when you make a cut into the quick

The pink and soft area at the center of your dog’s nails is known as the quick. This part contains a nerve and blood vessel, which is why you should be very careful not to cut into it by cutting dog’s nails too short. If cut, the quick will start bleeding, which is not good for your dog. However, if you accidentally cut into the quick, there is no need to panic. According to Pets4Homes, there are several actions that one can take in case you cut into the quick of your dog’s nails.

  • Get a styptic powder for dogs for dog nails cut too short

A styptic powder for dogs is the best way to handle your furry companion’s bleeding nails. Once you have the powder, apply it to the bleeding area. Styptic powders are antiseptic clotting agents. They are 100% effective in stopping the dog’s quick from bleeding.  They are also available in powder and gel form. 

  • Use clean soap bar or cornstarch

If you do not have access to a styptic powder, then a clean soap bar or a small amount of corn starch would serve the purpose. Rub cornstarch with a scent-free bar of soap on the bleeding spot, and bleeding will stop instantly.

  • Paper towel/tissue paper

If you do not have corn starch or a styptic powder, then a paper towel will also come in handy. Press the paper towel on the bleeding area, and be cautious not to compress the wound.

How to cut dog nails that are too long and the types of nail clippers to use on your dog’s nails

Trimming Dog Nails

According to Joe on How Long Dog Nails Should Be, finding the right nail clipper is fundamental to cutting your pet’s nails correctly. The types of nail clippers appropriate for trimming your dog’s nails include the following:

Scissor type dog nail clipper

dog nail clippers

This is one of the best and the most commonly used types of nail clippers. This clipper looks just like a pair of scissors. There are a variety of clipper models that fall under the scissor-type category of nail clippers. Consider buying the one with a concave outlook over its sharper edge. This enables you to avoid accidental crushing when cutting a thick nail. Take note, however, that the scissor-type clipper might not be appropriate for giant breed dogs.

Pliers style dog nail clipper

Pliers style Clipper dog nail clipper

This model looks just like the scissor-type clipper. The only difference is that the pliers-style clipper is larger, and the model is enhanced with a spring. This spring pops the blades open every time a nail is clipped. This clipper is ideal for large dog breeds.

Guillotine style dog nail Clipper

Guillotine style dog nail Clipper

This model is ideal for small breed dogs. The clipper functions by sticking the edge of the dog’s nails within the guillotine-like hole for squeezing.

Final thoughts

The key point that should be noted from this is that dog’s nails, like human nails, grow fast and grow constantly and for this reason, it is important that dog nail care is frequently maintained in order to prevent a dog from experiencing discomfort or pain.

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