Tap tap tap. Many of our clients tap dance their way into the salon in desperate need of a nail trim. The concerns are almost always the same.
“My dog is scratching up my floors.”
“She is scratching me while jumping on the couch.”
“They are just so long!”
Here we will try our best to explain the structure of the nail, and why it grows so long so quickly, the best methods of maintenance and some special circumstances in the world of dog nails.
The basic structure of every dog nail is the same. It is a sleeve of hardened keratin surrounding a tube of tissue and capillaries known as the quick. As the outer sleeve of the nail grows the quick grows along with it at a slightly slower pace.
In lightly colored nails the quick can be visualized as a section of pink running along the center channel of the nail. In darker colored or black nails the quick may not be visible, but one can estimate where it ends by following the curve of the nail. Where the curve begins is most commonly where the quick ends.
Most dogs have at least sixteen nails- 4 on each foot. Many dogs have an additional digit known as a dew claw along the inside of the leg, almost in the same position one would expect a thumb to be. Some breeds such as the great Pyrenees are prone to multiple dew claws on one or all feet.
We recommend a dog’s nails be trimmed every 4-6 weeks for regular maintenance. This can be done more or less frequently depending on each individual dog. A dog which is walked frequently on hard pavement may require
fewer nail trims as the rough ground will naturally file down the dog’s nails as it walks. A dog which lives a more sedentary lifestyle or which walks more frequently in the country on softer ground will require more frequent trims. Additionally, a dog with longer quicks may be assisted by even more frequent nail trims, as regular, very close trimming will allow the quick to retreat slowly back toward the toe.
Some of you may be reading this and saying to yourself, this can’t be right. I walk my dog 5 miles a day and that thumb nail is still curling in on itself. Well, if you stop to think about it that makes perfect sense. The placement of the nail higher up on the leg makes it impossible for the pavement to file it down, and thus makes it appear to grow at a faster rate than the others. In reality, this is just a perfect example of what happens to an unattended nail. As the nail grows past the quick it begins to curl and if left unattended for too long will eventually curl its way back into the dog’s foot. This is extremely painful for the animal and can cause difficulty walking, open wounds and the possibility for infection.
What We Do:
Every standard groom at Bark Ave Dog includes what we refer to as “a regular nail trim”. This means that we use a scissor style clipper to trim the nail back as close to the quick as possible. Because the groomer is trying to get as close to the quick as possible in order to train it to move back toward the toe there is always a risk that the quick can be pinched in the process of trimming the nail. Almost everyone who has attempted a home nail trim has experienced this and knows how upsetting it can be to see. The quick is highly vascular and will bleed if disrupted. It is important to note that this is not a severe injury. In the event a quick is exposed a substance known as styptic powder will be placed on the exposed tissue to instantly stop the bleeding and soothe any irritation.
One method of nail trimming is much less likely to cause irritation to the quick. This method is called “grinding”. To grind a dog’s nails we use a diamond tipped Dremel to file the nail down as short and smooth as possible. The standard nail trim often leaves behind sharp edges which will naturally be filed down as the dog walks, but the grinding process eliminates that step. Also, because we are gradually filing the outer sleeve of the nail rather than trying to cut it right in front of the quick, we are able to get much closer to the quick without injuring it. This method can be added to every full grooming package we offer for a small up charge.
At Bark Ave Dog we want to be sure that your dog is taken care of from nose to toes and proper nail care is the best place to start. A well manicured paw is the first step to a happy healthy pup.