top of page

Nail Trimming in Dogs: Tips & Best Practices for Better Health

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Dog paws with nails and human standing next to dog.

Nail trimming is one of the most important aspects of dog care. Not only does it help keep your dog looking its best, but it's also essential for their health. Unfortunately, neglecting your dog's nails can lead to several problems, including infected nails, ingrown nails, and broken nails.

This blog post will discuss the importance of nail trimming and offer tips on doing it correctly. The following is a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

Why Nail Trimming is Important for Dogs

Here are some of the many benefits of properly cut nails:

dog with nails trimmed is happy and running comfortably
  • Comfort - If your dog's nails are not trimmed properly, it can cause them discomfort. Some dogs will even develop a condition known as "knuckling," where the nails grow into the foot's pad, which can be very painful.

  • Good hygiene - Long nails can trap dirt and debris that can lead to bacterial growth, so keeping them trimmed will help keep your dog clean.

  • Healthier feet - Overgrown nails that aren't trimmed regularly can also cause the foot to grow unusually, leading to arthritic problems down the road.

  • Prevent injuries - Overgrown nails are more likely to break, especially if they get caught on things – like carpeting or furniture – and this can be pretty painful!

  • Easier exercise - When a dog is running or playing hard, and their nails are overgrown, it can cause them to trip and fall more quickly, but trimming their nails will help prevent this from happening.

  • Better appearance - Although some might say that looks don't matter, most people prefer their pets when they look clean and neat – and regular nail trims will help keep your dog looking his best!

  • Prevents scratches - You will not get scratched as often or as badly by a dog with trimmed nails!

Detrimental effects of untrimmed nails

When you avoid nail trimming, several issues can arise:

  • Cracked Nails: Overgrown nails can crack and split, causing pain and bleeding. It can be very uncomfortable for your dog, especially when walking or running.

  • Leg Deformity: Untrimmed nails can cause leg deformity by forcing your dog to alter its gait and posture to compensate for the extra length of its claws. It can lead to other health problems like arthritis or hip dysplasia when this happens.

  • Joint Pain: Overgrown nails can force your dog to adjust its posture when walking, which will strain its joints and cause pain in the long run.

  • Arthritis: The strain that overgrown nails put on your dog's joints can eventually turn into arthritis if left untreated over time.

  • Damage to furniture or floors: If you're finding scratches on your wood floor or couch cushions, chances are your dog's nails are responsible for them, especially if you have a large breed with long nails.

  • Skin Injuries: Untrimmed nails may also cause skin injury, resulting in infection if not properly treated.

dog nails that are too long can cause joint pain, trimmed nails to create healthy living
Before: visually seeing joints in stress. After: paw is in normal position and can function normally.

Signs Your Dog's Nails Are Overgrown or Cracked

Dog nails are overgrown and curling can be bad for health

If you notice that your dog's nails are curling curling beneath its toes, your dogs nails are overgrown. Overgrown nails can become ingrown into the pads of your dog's paws. They can also become cracked and broken from running on sidewalks, carpets, and other hard surfaces.

Often times, the quick of the nail will also become overgrown as well. You need to make sure to keep your dogs nails trimmed often, to prevent pain and other health issues from occurring. When you are trimming overgrown nails, its best to trim often to tame the quick back down as well.

How to keep dog nail healthy

Just like human nails, your dog's nails have a purpose. They help provide traction and balance and aid in digging, scratching, and of course, protection.

To keep your dog's nails in good condition:

dog nails on pavement can help naturally file them down
  • Keep an eye on the length of the nails and trim them when needed - your vet will be able to show you how to do this safely.

  • Check for foreign bodies in the nail bed, which might cause discoloration of the nail - gently wash your dog's feet with mild antiseptic soap once a week to help prevent infections.

  • Ensure there's no skin disease affecting his paws - see your vet if you notice redness or soreness.

  • If you cut your dog's nails too short and draw blood, apply styptic powder to the claw to stop it bleeding.

  • When a dog runs and walks on hard surfaces like concrete or pavement, his nails get worn down naturally. It makes it less necessary to trim them regularly.

  • Dogs that don't exercise or walk on hard surfaces need more frequent nail trimmings.

How to trim your dog's nails

Here are some tips that will show you how to trim a dog's nails safely:

someone clipping their dogs nails to keep them healthy
  1. Start by introducing him to the clippers or grinder by letting him sniff them.

  2. Reward him with treats when he sniffs them, so the dog knows they are not something to be afraid of.

  3. Start trimming at an early age.

  4. Use a grinder (Dremel Tool) on your dog's nails instead of trimmers.

  5. If you choose to trim, do so when your dog is relaxed. Do one nail at a time, giving praise and treats as you go along (if possible).

  6. Use the proper size trimmer for your dog's nail size. Make sure you always use a sharp pair of clippers andbe sure not to clip into the quick.

  7. Regularly touching your dogs feet without trimming can help them relax and be calm for the days you do need to trim. You can also use an electric toothbrush to touch their feet with to simulate a Dremel tool. This can help them understand it's not so scary and relax when its time to use the tool. Training is key!

What to do when one nail cracks/injured

If the nail has cracked, you need to get rid of it. You can use a small pair of nail clippers to remove the broken part of the nail. This is where it gets tricky. If a nail is split in half and is hanging, it will likely need to be snipped off. Often, the pain persists until the damaged nail is removed. You may need to find a professional, either a vet or a groomer, to trim these broken nails.

Note: This may hurt your dog, but it should only take short moment to remove it.

In these situations, vets may sometimes have to sedate your dog, trim the torn nail back a bit further, or start an oral antibiotic to prevent infection. If the bleeding has stopped, I don't recommend applying anything else to the torn nail and, if you can, keep him from licking it.

Where are my dog's dew claws?

dog dew claw not trimmed became ingrown

The dewclaw above the paw is more loosely attached and is prone to damage. Usually, if your dog is a working breed, a veterinarian will remove a dog's dew claws under general anesthetics. They will use a scalpel to cut through the skin, muscle, and bone to remove the claw, including the nail base. Dissolving stitches are used to close the wound. The wound will completely heal up in 4-6 weeks. This prevents the dew claw digit from being ripped off when digging or actively moving.

If your dog is a family dog, they will most likely still have their dew claws. They are found above the paw to the inside of the leg near the wrists. These claws also need to be trimmed! They too can become too long and become ingrown. Be sure to continue to keep up with trimming all nails on your dog to prevent injury and pain.

How to Treat Your Dog's Bleeding Dewclaws

  1. To stop the bleeding, you have to find the end of the nail and apply pressure with a piece of gauze or towel for a little while.

  2. You can also use a bar of soap to stop your dog's bleeding. Just press it onto the claw for three to four minutes, and it will create a plug that seals the nail injury. In addition, it helps hold the nail at 90 degrees with the nail firmly embedded in the soap for about three to four millimeters.

  3. If the dewclaw has been ripped out, Baking soda and water make a paste and apply it the same way as the soap bar.


Nail trimming is an essential part of overall pet health, but it can be a little scary for both dog and owner. This article provides tips and best practices for making nail trimming a less daunting experience for everyone involved. You can find a professional dog groomer who can clip the nails safely and effectively if you cannot. But, getting your dog used to the feel and sounds of the clippers and dremel tool will always provide a better experience for the dog and professional.

467 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page