Help! My Dog’s Nails Are Too Long & Curled Under!
If your dog’s nails are too long and curled under, don’t despair, because in this article, I am going to teach you how to care for your dog’s ingrown nails and take the proper steps to get them back to a normal and healthy length.
I have been involved in almost all aspects of “dogdom” for 20 years. Grooming, training, vet tech-ing; I have done it all in my career and loved it all too!
I have learned a few tricks of the trade over the years that make my life with dogs more enjoyable, and I love to share those tips and tricks with you to make life with your dog more enjoyable, too. If you didn’t catch my Memorial Day tip (one of my favorites) read all about it here! This is simply the best way to wash your dog! But recently I had a question about dog nails and how to trim them, so here we go!
Watch the Video
First and foremost I am going to suggest that you join us in the Dog Training Secret’s Video Vault. Because in the video vault I did a tutorial video showing you how to trim your dog’s nails, from young puppies to older dogs. It is much easier to learn by watching a video than it is reading an article; however I know that some of you will take any help that you can get so here it goes, my tricks for nail trimming.
Some dogs take nail trimming very seriously and will bite you if you try to trim their nails. If in doubt, don’t do it or use a muzzle to make sure you are safe! Sometimes a muzzle is a good tool simply because it distracts the dog and gives him something else to think about long enough to get his nails trimmed!
Or take your dog to your vet for a nail trim. Your dog may try to take advantage of you by growling, screaming or flailing, but he may not be so bad at the vet and usually there are several people there to help trim his nails. A groomer can usually help too.
I do not recommend sedation and “quicking” the dog or getting the nails super short. Some vets will knock out the dog and trim the nails until they bleed, but I think this is sad and painful. Most dogs hobble around for a few days after they get this done because it hurts.
Imagine having all of your toenails or fingernails taken down past the quick and then having to walk on them…OUCH! Plus this can lead to infection. It is much kinder to trim them more often than it is to get them too short.
Long Nails Can Hurt!
Super long toenails can cause your dog’s foot to curl up and his toes to hurt because they can no longer stretch out and touch the ground the way they are genetically intended.
This can cause an already arthritic dog to hurt even more!
In severe cases, I have even seen the toenails curl and begin to grow into the dog’s paw pad; this can be especially painful and can cause infection and bleeding when the nail has to be trimmed and removed.
Acclimate Your Dog to the Trimmers, Slowly…
When I begin teaching my new puppies about nail trimming and trimmers, I carry them around all the time.
When I watch TV I pretend to clip nails without ever touching the trimmers to the pup. Go slow and keep the trimmers with you.
I even pet my dogs with the nail trimmers.
If you are going to use a nail grinder or dremel tool (to grind the nails down) this is a good time to turn it on click and give treats, and then touch your dog with it, click and give treats etc.
Once Your Dog is Used to the Trimmers, or the Dremel, it is Time to Get Started
I recommend wearing your dog out first.
He is much less likely to fight you if he is already sleepy, so I take my dogs for a long hike or walk first and then I wait for him to get comfortable and ready to take a nap.
When he begins to doze off, I move in to trim his nails.
#1 Tip: Whittle
Don’t think that you only have a second to get the work done, especially if your dog’s nails are relatively long. Most people make the mistake of cutting too close and making the dog’s nail bleed.
Instead move slowly and methodically and whittle his nails down shorter and shorter.
Whittling is the key!
Work back and forth and take tiny bits off each nail tip, don’t take huge chunks! Most doggy nails whether they are black or if you are lucky enough to have a dog with white nails, come to a sharp tip. You can begin by snipping off the tip and watching the middle of the nail for two dark dots.
These two dots are the beginning of the quick. Once I see these dots appear, I know I am getting close to the quick.
I also make sure to closely inspect each nail as I am trimming and watch it from underneath. Sometimes you can see the hollow toenail as you are trimming. There is no reason to trim quickly.
Go slow and inspect each toenail as you are trimming. If you happen to make your dog bleed, be sure to have some “quick stop” available to stop the bleeding. In a pinch you can also use cinnamon or flour packed onto the nail to stop the bleeding.
I think of toenail trimming as an art, which I just have to take part in about every three weeks! But I owe it to my dogs to keep their feet happy and healthy!
Much like a human’s foot, your dog’s paws are made up of a metacarpals and digitals. These paws have pads that are made up of fat under a thick, almost calloused-like layer of skin that protects him from injury or abrasion.
Some dog breeds have a fifth claw next to the carpal pad that is sometimes removed when they are young to prevent snagging and potential injury. And even rarer are breeds like the Great Pyrenees that sometimes have a sixth claw, these dogs are referred to as polydactyl, and it isn’t advised to remove the extra claws. Pads protect the bones and joints by cushioning them and acting as a barrier against hot and cold extremes. They also help your dog on rough terrain by protecting the delicate tissue inside the paw. The following are some tips to help keep your dog’s nails and paws healthy.
How to Take Care of Your Dog’s Paws
Give him regular “pawdicures”
As I covered above, the ideal length of your dog’s nails should just barely touch the ground when he walks. Loudly clicking nails are a sign that you need to get the nail trimmers out. His nails should be cut at least once a month, more for less active dogs and certain breeds.
Trim paw fur
How Do I Trim the Fur around My Dog’s Paws? In this excerpt from DIY Dog Grooming, learn how to safely manage your dogs paw fur.
“First, it is beneficial to train your dog to be still and quiet while having his paws and nails trimmed. You will need a pair of sharp straight-edged scissors. It is easier to have your dog lying down and if you are having trouble keeping him or her still, then you might find that a bone or a chew toy filled with treats will help to keep your guy focused on something else.
Gently bend the dog’s leg and paw so you can comfortably use the scissors to trim the underneath. Carefully trim the fur on the dog’s paw back to being level with the pads. Dogs can sometimes get matted in between the main back pad and the front ones. This forms the shape of a ‘v’. To remove any matted bits it will be necessary to trim this portion of fur as close to the skin as possible without cutting the dog.
It is best to keep this area as short as possible to prevent matting and also to minimize any grass seeds, dirt or other matter which could be potentially do some damage to your dog from getting caught up. Then trim neatly around the edge of the paws so they look neat and tidy – generally in line with the pads.
By keeping your dog’s paw trim and neat, not only will the dog feel better and be less susceptible to irritations but he/she will look neat and have better movement as well as not bringing so much dirt into the house.”
Clean between the pads
Have you ever dealt with a dog pad abscess? Take it from me, it is not fun for you or your pup, so please, please, please take the time to inspect your dog’s pads and in-betweens.
More often than not, you’ll find that objects such as broken shards of glass, foxtails, and even bits of gravel find their way in between your dog’s paw pads.
If not removed, they can embed in the delicate tissue and webbing and cause all sorts of problems.
Simply wet a washcloth with warm water and a drop of dog shampoo and clean your dog’s paws.
While washing, gently inspect his feet and if you happen to find any foreign objects, they can usually be removed with a pair of tweezers.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
The following ingredients can be used to make a homemade paw balm to moisturize your pup’s tired feet.
All of these non-toxic ingredients are approved by the American Kennel Club.
¼ c. Shea butter – known to smooth, soften, and hydrate the skin.
2 Tbsp. Beeswax pellets – helps soothe and heal chapped skin
2 Tbsp. each of Coconut and Olive oil adds additional hydration and have antibacterial properties that can help with yeast.
Add the above ingredients to a pint sized canning jar and stir with a metal fork. Place the jar in a small saucepan that has been filled about ¼ of the way with water over medium low heat until all ingredients have liquefied, stirring to ensure it is well mixed. Pour into a shallow glass jar like this one and let solidify into a balm.
Apply by massaging a thin layer of balm into the skin of his paw pads as needed.
Note: This balm will keep for up to a year if stored in a cool, dry place.
He loves a foot massage too
This can have a relaxing effect on your dog and improve their circulation. That balm you just made will help you with this one!
“Giving your Dog a Paw Massage” by the Cuteness Team – Giving your dog a paw massage will help their paws feel really good. It is similar to giving a human a hand massage.
It relaxes the dog and allows for better circulation in the dog’s paws.
While you give your dog a paw massage, it is also a good time to check over the dog’s paws for any abnormalities.
Here are some steps on how to massage dog paws.
Lay the dog on a mat on the floor or in a soft comfortable place where he can relax while you give the paw massage.
If the dog refuses to lay down, you have him sit up beside you or on your lap.
Rub the dog’s first fore paw gently. Rub between the pads on the bottom of the paw.
Start between the pad of the first and second toe, then rub between each toe.
Check the dog’s pads for any injury or abnormality while you are rubbing.
Massage the back of the dog’s paw gently with your thumb in a circular motion. Do this for about 30 seconds.
Squeeze the dog’s paw in your hand for three to five seconds after you finish rubbing and massage the paw. Do not squeeze hard.
Drop the paw gently and do the same process for the other three paws. Your dog will love his paw massage and will feel much better as he runs around.”
Now that you have adopted a new paw care routine to trim your dog’s nails regularly, taking your dog on walks outdoors can help cut down on the number of nail clippings your dog will need. This is because hard surfaces like concrete and pavement can wear down a dog’s nails naturally.
You will notice that dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors walking on hard surfaces have nails that are shorter and blunter than couch potato dogs who spend the majority of their days indoors and do not take long walks on hard surfaces.
Dogs who don’t walk or run on hard surfaces will need their nails trimmed more often. If you want to keep your dog’s nails blunt and short, consider exercising him outdoors on hard surfaces a few times a week. Be mindful of the grounds temperature and schedule your walks when the ground is neither extremely hot nor cold.
The grooming experts at Wahl offer this advice for “What to do if you have a mishap by cutting too far, causing pain and dog nail bleeding? The best thing is to be prepared in advance and have emergency supplies within reach. You will be able to quickly stop the bleeding, relieve the pain, save your carpets from stains and greatly lessen the chance of a nail infection.
The easiest and most effective way to stop dog nail bleeding is with styptic powder or a styptic pencil, which can be purchased at most major pet stores and pharmacies. Be cautioned, however, that styptic powder will provide an initial sting, so be prepared to hold onto the dog firmly while applying. Several home remedies also work, depending on the severity of the bleeding.
A mix of cornstarch and baking soda often works well (or, simply, cornstarch alone), while rubbing a clean bar of scent-free soap or a wet tea bag on the nail at the spot of lesser bleeding can also be effective. No home remedy, however, will be as instantly effective as a styptic powder. Also keep a clean cloth, paper towels and ice nearby.
If you accidentally cut into the quick, immediately compress the wound for at least two minutes with a clean cloth or paper towel. If the bleeding is minor, try rubbing a bar of clean, scent-free soap over it. If the bleeding is steady, wrapping ice within the compressed cloth or paper towel will help lessen the blood flow.
Next cup your hand and pour some styptic powder or cornstarch (with or without baking soda) into the palm. Gently dip the dog’s bleeding nail into the powder, repeating if the bleeding doesn’t come to an immediate stop. Don’t wipe away the blood before dipping because it will aid coagulation. Once bleeding does cease, continue to compress the wound with a paper towel or cloth, being cautious not to squeeze the paw. Try to keep the dog off his feet for at least 30 minutes.
Once you are sure that the dog nail bleeding has been stopped, wash the affected nail with lukewarm water and bandage to prevent licking and infection. If bleeding cannot be controlled after 20 – 30 minutes, proper clotting is not taking place and a veterinarian should be consulted immediately. Also consult a vet if the dog’s toe later becomes red, swollen or does not appear to be improving after a few days.”
The bottom line is simple. If you don’t want your dogs nails too long and curled, take care of them!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.