I was watching an episode of a veterinarian show and there was a dog suffering from some affliction that caused it to walk in circles and lose control of its hind legs.  They were very thorough in their assessment of what the condition could be, blood work, x-rays, even suggesting a CAT scan.  But the whole time, as the dog kept walking in circles, you could hear the nails clacking on the floor, and any close up of the dog’s feet showed exceptionally long nails.  This is what inspired me to write today’s column. 

We sometimes forget our four legged friends need maintenance on their tender tootsies, just like us.  Have you ever had your big toenail be a little bit long, and then put on a pair of tight fitting shoes?  And every step became painful, your toe nail being forced back into your foot.   Those good old nail clippers come out right away, and the pain is fixed.

But our pets can’t trim their own nails.  Sure, in the summer if they get to walk a lot on pavement or cement, they can naturally wear down.  But if they spend most of their time indoors, and especially in winter when snow and ice are less abrasive during walkies, nails need to be trimmed by us.

Most people fear trimming their pets nails, and that ends up causing them to forget to do it regularly.  A reminder that it needs to be done is the click clacking of the nails on hard floors.  If you can hear the nails, they are too long.  Each click sends a shock up the dog’s foot, the same as your big toe in those tight shoes.  And that is painful to the dog.  But, as the valiant companions they are, they don’t complain, until the nails are so long that they cause damage to the pads, or crack and bleed.  And properly maintained nails won’t mar hardwood floors.

Trimming nails is not difficult.  Most dogs, if gotten into the habit early, can have their nails easily trimmed at home.  Get them used to having their feet handled, and by just taking off a little each time, it’s an easy job for both of you.  A good set of sharp side cutting trimmers are the easiest to use, the old style Guillotine clippers can be hard to manage.  Nibble just a little off, there is no reason you can’t trim each nail a few times to get it to where you want it, and be less likely to hit the quick.  And, on the off chance that you do hit the quick, there are products that quickly and easily stop the bleeding.  Just make sure you have it on hand before you start trimming, just in case.

You can also use a Dremel rotary tool with a sanding drum.  Most trained groomers use this method to finish the nail trims, it is an easy way to file off sharp edges.  But you can also use it instead of the clippers, once you get the hang of it.  Just make sure you have an adjustable speed unit, too fast and it is hard to control, and can get you into trouble.

Most groomers and vets will offer nail trim services, groomers tend to trim a lot more nails, so they tend to be better at it, and cheaper too.  Pawdicures take it a step further, trimming out the hair between the pads which picks up mud and water.   And many groomers will make special arrangement to trim nails between your grooming appointments, so the nails never get too long.

Regardless who does the trimming, please keep your pet happy by letting it walk pain free.   They’ll thank you for it. 

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