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How Long Should Dog Nails Be? Neglect Can Be a Dangerous Thing

When it comes to general dog grooming, owners often overlook proper trimming of their furry friend’s claws. Just like humans, dogs’ nails grow bit by bit every day. Strong claws are important for canines for hunting, defending themselves, and every day purposes (such as burying a bone or scratching off pesky fleas!).

Unlike us, however, our trusty canines cannot use a nail cutter when they notice their nails are becoming overgrown. As a responsible pet owner, you should know when your dog’s nails are getting too long and how to go about trimming them— this guide is here to help you!

In this guide we start by answering the question on when to trim your dogs nails. Then we will talk about some of the risks you take by not trimming often enough. Towards the end we will go over some of the best and easiest methods for DIY trimming.

So How Long Should Your Dogs Nails Be?

If you have wood or tile flooring and hear your dog’s paws pitter-pattering all day long, it’s time for a little trim. The general consensus is to cut as close to the quick as possible (more on that later), at the point where the nail starts to curve downward. The closer you cut to the quick, the longer you’ll be able to go until the next trimming session. However, you run the risk of cutting too close for comfort.

Outdoor Dogs Vs. Indoor Dogs

If your dog is highly active or an outdoor dog, you won’t need to trim the nails as frequently when compared to an indoor dog. It’s likely your outdoor dog will spend time digging and scratching, which gradually files down the nails. Even though you don’t have to trim as often, you’ll still want to maintain the cleanliness of their claws, so be sure to give your dog’s paws and claws some extra attention during bath times.

Indoor dogs typically don’t scratch and dig as much as outdoor dogs. This means they require more frequent trimming because they aren’t naturally filing their nails. It’s impossible to say how often you’ll need to trim their nails because every dog is different. What you can do is note how many days to weeks it takes for the nail to grow back to its previous length after the last trimming session. This number would give you a good guideline of when to anticipate the next nail clipping.

What we can say is that the average seems to be around 6-7 weeks. So if it’s been longer than 2 months since you have trimmed your dogs nails, you might want to check them out to make sure they aren’t too long. Some dogs can go up to 12 weeks, other dogs need their nails trimmed every 3 weeks. A big part of being a responsible dog owner is learning your dogs needs.

What Happens if I Go Too Long Without Trimming?

Neglecting to keep your dogs nails trimmed will result in a number of health issues mentioned below

It’s Painful!

Long claws will be more likely to snag on carpets and clothes. Imagine your nail getting stuck on something that causes it to tear off your skin. It hurts! As time goes on, the nails will begin to curl inward which can cause your dog pain with each step.

Behavioral Issues

A dog with long nails may begin to “act up” by barking more often, whimpering throughout the day, becoming irritable or aggressive, and may start to scratch and tear up furniture and flooring in an effort to relieve the pain caused by their nails.

Bleeding and Infection

Further growth and curling of their claws may result in puncture wounds. This may result in bleeding and serious local or even systemic infection. Total negligence of proper grooming may cause permanent harm to a dog’s posture, gait, and can even cause arthritis over time.

If you continue to put off trimming your dogs nails because “you don’t have the time” or “you don’t know how”, think about the pain your dog is currently going through and the possible long term health risks of letting the nails continue to grow.

Groomers Vs. DIY

One question we always receive when talking about nail trimming is whether you should take your dog to the groomers and have them do it or if you should try to DIY it. There are pros and cons to each.

Going to The Groomers

Taking your dog to an expert groomer is an easy fix, especially for busy pet owners or those who may have trouble handling their dog on their own. The most significant benefit of taking your dog to a groomer is that you can trust that they will know how to safely trim your dog’s claws without causing any pain or bleeding. However, learning how to trim your dog’s nails at home can save you a lot of money since most groomers aren’t cheap! If you don’t mind spending some money on going to the groomers, this is the safest option.

DIY Nail Trimming

If you decide to trim your dog’s nails at home, it’s important to know some general anatomy of a dog’s paw as well as what tools and supplies you will need to get the job done. Unlike human nails which grow as an extension of our skin, dog’s claws are an extension of their bones.

It’s important to watch out for the “quick” while trimming your dogs nails. The quick contains blood vessels and nerves; if you’re not careful (or your dog won’t stay put), you may unintentionally snip part of the quick along with the nail and cause your dog bleeding and pain.

You want to trim your dogs nails to the point right before the quick. A good landmark to use to estimate the tip of the quick is at the apex of the curve of the nail. One of the main issues with going too long without trimming your dogs nails is that the quick will continue to grow along with the nail. This means that it will take multiple trimming sessions before your dogs nails are at an appropriate length.

To avoid this, you should make it a habit to regularly trim or file your dog’s nails before they grow excessively long. It’s also a good idea to take your dog on walks a couple times per week. This will naturally file the nails so you don’t have to cut them as often.

In the case that you accidentally clip part of the quick, don’t panic! Even the most experienced owners have run into slight mishaps with the tricky quick. Putting pressure on the wound with styptic powder or using and cold compress can slow down bleeding and reduce the pain.

Styptic powder is great for controlling excessive bleeding. In fact, I won’t cut any dogs nails without styptic powder near by just in case! Once the bleeding stops, rinse off the powder with water and wrap your dog’s paw with bandages to prevent entry of dirt and debris which could lead to an infection. In the case of uncontrollable bleeding, excessive trauma, or signs of infection, you’ll need to take your dog to a veterinarian clinic right away for treatment.

So You’ve Waited Too Long. Now What?

Just about every dog owner has been in the situation where they’ve waited too long to cut their dogs nails. Unfortunately most dog owners don’t understand the anatomy of a dogs nail and will cut deep into the quick. Once they hear their dog yelp and see the bleeding, they’ll realize they made a mistake.

So what should you do if you’ve gone too long without trimming the nails? Luckily the solution is a simple on, it just takes some time.

Cut To The Apex of The Nail

As stated above, a good landmark for finding the quick is right around the apex of the nail (the highest point on the curve). Cut any further than this and you’re putting your dog at risk for pain and bleeding.

Take Your Dog on a Walk

Once you cut the the apex of the nail, you want your dog to do some natural trimming of their own. Allowing them to walk on a concrete surface will natural file their nails. This is a great way to get even more trimming in without risk of hitting the quick.

Rinse and Repeat

Every single day you should repeat these two steps. Nails grow day by day, fortunately for us the quick grows at a slightly slower pace than the nails. If you keep the nail at a certain length and don’t let it grow any longer, the quick will eventually begin to shorten. As the quick shortens, you can slowly begin cutting the nails shorter and shorter each day and then take your dog on a walk right away so they can do further trimming naturally.

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