Nail Health

* by Rebekah Sparks owner of Sparky’s Spa

Finding the Right Routine/Method

In my profession, we come across dogs of all breeds, shapes, and sizes.  The biggest form of negligence I think we come across is nail health.  I am not saying it’s intentional neglect, either.  Often times these dogs are on semi-regular schedules that are just stretched a bit too far apart for what that particular dog needs.  Every dog is different and requires a different level of maintenance based on the diet, overall health, and genetics.

Rather often I’ll receive a client who has been on a fairly regular schedule, yet the nails just seem to be a problem to maintain.  Adding a nail-filing service if the dog will tolerate this usually helps address the problem and get the dog back on track.  However, some dogs simply cannot have their nail schedules as stretched apart as their hair schedules.  Quick trips into the salon or vet for nail trims between grooming can help with this.  Owners themselves are often unable to or do not feel comfortable addressing the nail health themselves at home.  There are solutions for this as well as using local mobile salon services, where mobile groomers bring their equipment and expertise right to the owner’s door.

Health Concerns

Improper nail care can have devastating results.  Split nail beds can be very uncomfortable for a dog and cause incessant licking or chewing.  This can possibly result in a lick granuloma, fungal or bacterial growth, blackheads, soars, etc.  Split nail beds can also lead to broken nails or hangnails.  It can be alarming waking up to a dog hung up on a blanket or rug in the middle of the night because of a bad nail.

If nails are permitted to overgrow for over a prolonged period of time, conditions that are more serious can form.  The tarsals begin to splay and separate, and this literally changes the bones in the feet themselves.  The dog’s ability to walk and stand can be affected permanently.

The longer the nails get, the longer the quick gets.  Then preventive maintenance becomes increasingly more difficult, as the nail can no longer be brought back as needed without a sedative or painkiller.  And no one wants to walk around on nubby toes!

Properly kept nails should not click on your floor.  The dogs’ toes should be straight, with no bend or roll that adds unnatural pressure to the pad or joints.  Healthy nails will be durable, not brittle or hollow.

Start puppies as soon as possible with nails trims to get them accustomed to the noises and the pressure of a trimmer or grinder.  A professional groomer, trainer, or vet should be able to assist with these techniques or lead you in the right direction and help make and recommendations based on the behavior and habits of the dog.  Regular grooming (even for shorthaired pets) can help both maintain nails and prevent nail concerns.  A good schedule rotation is between two to six weeks, although occasionally we do recommend a pet come in more frequently.

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