As an animal chiropractor we see lots of dogs in and out of our office for many different reasons. Limping, slowing down on walks, constipation, and having difficulty wagging their tail to name a few. All of our dogs receive different treatments depending on the reason that they are coming in. However, the number one piece of advice that we give to all of our clients to help make their pets instantly healthier and happier remains the same. And that is, don't forget to trim your dog's nails!
Keeping your dog's nails trimmed is more than aesthetics, preserving your hardwood floors, and keeping scratches out of your furniture. When we allow our dog's nails to become long we are actually changing their physiology, or how their body functions. With the nails digging into the ground, dogs activate their quadriceps muscles even more and this can actually pull the knee cap/patella, out of the patellar groove, causing it to shift slightly to the right and/or the left. This is typically referred to as patellar luxations (this is highly common in smaller dogs due to the amount of time they spend on their hind legs). With the quadriceps muscle more active the knees now become locked out. What this does is put additional strain on the ligaments in their knees, making them more susceptible to knee injuries such as an ACL tear. Now imaging pivoting and running full sprint to catch a ball in your mouth with your knees locked, doesn't sound too easy or safe. Well that’s essentially the equivalent of what our canine friends are doing if we don’t properly trim their nails. By keeping up with proper nail grooming we are helping our furry friends stay injury free.
Even if your dog is older and not actively chasing tennis balls there is still additional stress and strain put on the spine and spinal cord itself in dogs with long nails. Sometimes dogs that have long nails can even present with a slight arch in their low back. After a proper nail trim alone that additional curvature can be minimized.
The number one reason why most people don’t trim their own dog's nails is because the are scared that they are going to hurt them. This is when we typically hear, “I don’t want to cut my dog’s quick, or make them bleed.”
We have put together these helpful tips so you can feel empowered to do it yourself, save a little cash, and keep your pup injury free.
1. How do I know if my dog's nails are too long?
If you can hear your dog's nails on the floor while they are walking. Their nails are too long, and its time for a trim!
2. Trim the top first, by cutting at an angle back towards the top of the dogs paw.
This is the strongest part of the nail, also known as the spine. By trimming the strongest part of the nail the weaker sides fall off, exposing the quick, this causes the quick to recede. As the quick recedes over time you can now trim your pup's nails shorter and shorter.
3. Use treats…. lots of treats.
Not only are you helping distract your pup, but this help by making it really positive experience. So next time you go to trim they remember this is a pleasant yummy experience not a scary one.
4. Do it outside.
No one wants dog nails scattered across their apartment, but by chance if you do get a little bit of bleeding you can put your dogs paw in the dirt which helps clot the bleeding faster.
If you still have any doubts about trimming on your own or are looking for local pet stores offering trimmings please reach out and we'll point you in the right direction!
Best of luck trimming!