Importance of Nail Care and Maintenance

  • Long nails affect the way a dog moves, interacts with the ground, proprioception and impacts his nervous system and entire body
  • Posture changes include arched/roached back, weakening of the knee ligaments, and increased paw sensitivity.
  • Long nails cause the extensor muscles in the legs to become over active and will not allow his body to rest and recover

Dog Nail Trimming Arch Back

Parts of the Nail

  • The Outer Shell: The first, and most outer layer is considered the outer shell. This layer has no nerve endings, since its purpose is to protect the live tissue from damage.
  • The Inner Shell: The second layer, the inner shell, is comprised of dead nail cells. We are able to identify this layer by its white – chalky consistency. The inner shell has no nerve endings and can be cut.
  • Live Tissue/Quick: This layer is made up of live tissue and the nail’s blood supply.  It can be identified by its light pink, flesh like, color. Live tissue is sensitive and should be avoided when trimming nails.

Dog Nail Anatomy

How to Trim your Dogs Nails.

  • We recommend using a dremel over traditional nail clippers because there is more room to make mistakes with the dremel vs the clippers. The dremel is gentle, easy to use, and less likely to cause a dog’s nails to bleed

How to Introduce your Dog to the Dremel

  1. First, without the dremel touching the dog, turn the dremel on and then give the dog a treat so that he associates the noise of the dremel with a treat. Repeat.
  2. Next, have the dremel (non-rotating tip) touch the dogs body (away from the limbs) so that he can feel the vibration of the dremel, and give a treat
  3. Lastly, work your way down the leg, eventually getting to the nails

Where/How to Dremel

  • The goal is to dremel the outer shell of the nail and the tip (Tip to Base) to weaken the nail. The weakened nail will shave/recede naturally with walking.
  • You can dremel the sides and top of the outer shell, but AVOID the underside of the nail that has the nerves and blood flow
  • For black nails, you will know that you have gotten all of the outer shell off when you can see the clear inner shell, and sometimes can even see the quick
  • DO NOT spend more than 2 seconds on a specific nail section to avoid heat production on the nail.
  • This process should be done over multiple days to allow the quick to recede naturally.
  • Once the nails are at an appropriate length, maintenance trimming should be done once a week.
  • Here are helpful videos as an example.
Dog Nail Trimming Outershell and Inner Shell picture
Pink Inner Shell after removing the Black Outer Shell

Proper Nail Length

  • Nails should not touch the ground
  • No sound/clicking when dog walks
  • Credit card fits between the nail and the ground
  • You can see the clear portion of the nail (due to dremeling off the outer shell
Dog Nail with Credit Card
Credit Card Fits under Dogs Nails

Helpful Tips and Websites

  • DO NOT spend more than 2 seconds on a specific spot so that you avoid causing pain from heat
  • If you had a dremel with multiple speeds, start with the slower speed and work your way up as you and your dog get more comfortable using it.
  • If your dog has furry toes you can either
    • shave the toe fur
    • get the hair wet and hold it back
    • get a pair of panty hose, cut holes in it and stick the foot in it so the toe nails stick through and the hair is kept back
  • If your dog is difficult to hold, I suggest getting the Doggie Lift. The Doggie Lift  is a safe way to hold your animal while working on his nails.
Dog Nail Trimming Doggy Lift
Doggy Lift
  • If your dog refuses to stay still while in the Doggie Lift, I do a count down so the dog knows when he gets treats. As I work on the nail, I count down to 1 from 5. If he holds the paw still the whole time I count, I give a treat when I say 1. If he pulls his foot away at any time, you have to restart the count down.
  • If your dog still won’t stay still, have a spoonful of peanut butter on hand, and let them lick the spoon while working on the nails