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How Often to Trim Dog Nails: A Simple & Clear Guide - PawSafe

How Often to Trim Dog Nails: A Simple & Clear Guide

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how often to trim dog nails

How often to trim dog nails is key to keeping canines healthy and happy. Unfortunately, many owners, even those who love their pooches deeply, overlook nail trimming. This can leave many dogs with overgrown nails and a host of uncomfortable and painful complications.

Many pet owners are unsure of what type of dog nail trimmer to use. Even more of us are unsure how to clip a dog’s nails and scared they might hurt their dogs. Or, we have dogs that hate having their nails clips, making the whole event traumatic for everyone. Luckily, even if we can’t do it ourselves, there are always professional groomers or veterinarians that can trim our dogs’ nails for us. But, it’s still up to us to make sure we get those nails trimmed regularly! So how often do dogs need their nails clipped?

With the right tools and techniques, pet owners can keep their dog’s nails at a healthy length and avoid potential health issues. Using expert sources and professional advice, we have assembled the ultimate guide to how often you should trim your dog’s nails.

Overgrown nails can cause discomfort, pain, and even affect their ability to walk or run properly. 

It’s important to note that trimming a dog’s nails can be challenging, especially if the dog is not used to it. Some dogs may become anxious or aggressive during the process. Because of this, we have a very detailed guide on how to cut your dog’s nails, which you can quickly check out. 

You can also use a rule of thumb for nail-cutting frequency instead of the recommended 3 to 4 weeks. The rule is that you should cut the nails once they touch the floor when the dog is standing, or you can hear the clicking of the nails when the dog walks on a hard floor. This means, when standing, your dog’s nails should not touch the floor, and if they do, it’s definitely time to clip.

If your dog spends most of their time indoors or on soft surfaces, their nails may not wear down as quickly as those of dogs who spend more time outdoors on hard surfaces. In such cases, you may need to trim their nails more frequently.

On the other hand, if your dog is very active and spends a lot of time running and playing on hard surfaces, their nails may naturally wear down, and you may not need to trim them as often.

It is also important to note that fast-running dog breeds like Greyhounds and Dobermans have naturally shorter nails and may require less frequent trimming. This is because they’re built to be active and run, so they’ll naturally wear down nails faster.

 On the other hand, chonky, inactive breeds like Frenchies and Pugs will appear to have faster-growing nails. But, it’s really that their nails don’t wear down as fast.

Overall, the frequency of trimming your dog’s nails depends on several factors, including their breed, lifestyle, and activity level. It is important to keep an eye on your dog’s nails and trim them as needed to keep them healthy and comfortable.

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Importance of Regular Nail Trimming

Overgrown nails can cause discomfort, pain, and even health issues. It’s extremely crucial to trim the nails correctly since studies show that more than 30% of dogs have dealt with painful trim in the past. The following sections cover proper nail trimming techniques.

Here are some reasons why it is important to trim your dog’s nails regularly:

1. Prevents Pain and Discomfort

Long nails can cause discomfort and pain for dogs walking or running. This is because Nails long enough to push against the ground as the dog walks are long enough to exert abnormal pressure on the paw’s bones and joints. 

Over time, this can lead to joint pain and arthritis. Some pups can even experience broken paws. Regular nail trimming can prevent these problems and keep your dog comfortable.

Related:

Identifying a Broken Paw

2. Prevents Injuries

Overgrown nails can also cause injuries to your dog. If the nails are too long, they can get caught in carpets, furniture, or other objects, causing the nails to rip or tear. Or dogs can contract fungal infections or other claw diseases that can cause the nail to peel.

This can be very painful and may require a trip to the vet. Overgrown nails can also cause severe and irreversible damage to your dog’s ligaments and joints. Research on 207 agility dogs with digit injuries (toe injuries) and 874 dogs without them showed that regular nail trimming massively reduced canine toe injuries.

3. Improves Mobility

When a dog’s nails are too long, it can affect their mobility. They may have trouble walking or running and may even start to limp. Regular nail trimming can improve your dog’s mobility and prevent these problems.

4. Maintains Healthy Posture

Long nails can also affect a dog’s posture. They may start to stand or walk differently to distribute the pressure exerted on the nails elsewhere. This can lead to long-term posture problems and walking difficulties like stumbling while walking.

Dog Nail Trim Schedule

The frequency of nail trims depends on factors like breed, activity level, and lifestyle, with active, outdoorsy dogs needing fewer walks. 

Here are some general guidelines for dog nail trim schedules based on different factors:

  • Individual dogs: Some dogs have faster nail growth than others, just like in humans. This requires you to trim your dog’s nails based on how fast you know their nails grow. For dogs with fast growing nails, you may need to trim every three weeks. For dogs with nails that grow at a normal pace, they may need a trim every four to five weeks.
  • Activity level: Dogs that are more active and run or play on hard surfaces (such as jogging on tarmac) will naturally wear their nails down more and may need less frequent trims. Working and competing dogs will also need fewer trims. However, they still need a regular pedicure to check for any cracked or damaged nails, and to trim down and even out the edges. Remember, even if your dog is wearing their nails down naturally, they usually don’t step evenly on all their toes, allowing some nails to grow longer or to grown unevenly. A regular paw check and trim every four to 6 weeks is necessary just to check even out the nail edges, and treat any damaged nails.
  • Lifestyle & age: Dogs that spend most of their time indoors or on soft surfaces may require more frequent trims, as their nails won’t wear down naturally. They may need trims every three weeks to maintain a healthy length.
  • Overgrown Nails:  when nails are overgrown already, one can’t just cut them back immediately to a healthy length as one will likely cut the quick. When a dog’s nails are overgrown, one needs to gradually force the quick back by trimming the nails a little every week until nails are a normal length, and then you can put your dog on monthly nail clipping schedule. 

So, as a general guideline, you can refer to this dog nail trimming schedule:

FactorNail Growth SpeedActivity LevelLifestyle & AgeOvergrown Nails
Trimming Frequency
Fast Growing nailsEvery 3 weeks
Normal GrowthEvery 4-5 weeks
Highly ActiveEvery 4-6 weeks
Normal/InactiveEvery 3 weeks
Overgrown NailsWeekly until normal, then monthly

It’s important to check your dog’s nails regularly and trim them as needed. If you hear clicking sounds when your dog walks on hard surfaces, or if you can see the nails touching the ground, it’s time for a trim.

Remember to use proper nail trimmers designed for dogs, and avoid cutting the quick (the pink part of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves). If you’re unsure or uncomfortable trimming your dog’s nails, consider taking them to a professional groomer or veterinarian for help.

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Dog Nail Anatomy: How to Identify the Quick

Factors Influencing Nail Growth

There are several factors that can influence how often a dog’s nails need to be trimmed. These include:

  • Individual dogs: Different dogs have different rates of nail growth. However, remember that sometimes it’s not that your dog has faster-growing nails than other dogs. It may just mean that they don’t leave the house enough.
  • Activity level: Dogs that are more active and spend plenty of time running and playing on hard surfaces may naturally wear down their nails more quickly than less active dogs.
  • Diet: A dog’s diet can also affect nail growth. A diet lacking certain nutrients, such as biotin, can lead to slower nail growth.
  • Age: Older dogs may have slower nail growth than younger dogs and may also be less active, which can contribute to longer nails.
  • Health: Certain health conditions, such as thyroid disorders, can affect nail growth or make nails brittle and prone to breaking. In some cases, overgrown nails may be a sign of an underlying health problem.

Signs Your Dog’s Nails Need Trimming

It’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s nails to ensure they are not getting too long. Here are some signs that your dog’s nails may need trimming:

  • You can hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor when they walk.
  • Your dog’s nails are touching the ground when they stand or walk.
  • Your dog is having difficulty walking or standing on hard surfaces.
  • Your dog’s nails are curling or growing into their paw pads.
  • Your dog is constantly licking or chewing their paws.
  • Your dog’s nails are visibly too long.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to trim your dog’s nails. As we observed earlier, neglecting to trim your dog’s nails can lead to discomfort, pain, and even infections. 

Choosing the Right Tools For Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

When trimming a dog’s nails, having the right tools is essential. Here are some of the tools that can be used for trimming dog nails:

1. Nail Clippers

Nail clippers are the most popular tool for trimming dog nails. They come in different sizes and shapes, so it’s important to choose the right one for your dog’s size and nail type. Guillotine clippers are the most common type, but scissor clippers and plier clippers are also available.

The Pawsafe clippers come with a handy LED light to help locate the quick. If you don’t have an LED clipper, you can use a flashlight for dark-colored nails.

2. Nail Grinders

Nail grinders are another option for trimming dog nails. They work by grinding down the nail instead of cutting it. Nail grinders are good for dogs afraid of clippers or have thick nails that are difficult to cut. Additionally, several experts recommend starting with nail grinders if your dog has severely overgrown nails. This ensures you don’t cut the quick since it grows with the nails.

3. Styptic Powder

Styptic powder is a must-have tool for trimming dog nails. It’s used to stop bleeding if you accidentally cut the quick (the blood vessel inside the nail). Styptic powder can be applied directly to the nail to stop bleeding.

4. Treats

Treats are not a tool but an important part of the trimming process. Giving your dog a treat after each nail is trimmed can help make the experience more positive for your dog.

When choosing tools for trimming dog nails, it’s important to consider your dog’s size, nail type, and personality. With the right tools and a little patience, trimming your dog’s nails can be a stress-free experience for both you and your furry friend.

Trimming Techniques

Trimming a dog’s nails can be daunting, but with the right technique, it can be done safely and efficiently. Start trimming your puppy as early as six weeks old to desensitize them from the entire process. 

Here are some tips to help make the process easier:

  • Use sharp, high-quality nail clippers designed specifically for dogs. Dull clippers can crush the nail, causing pain and discomfort.
  • Hold the dog’s paw firmly but gently. Avoid squeezing too hard, as this can cause discomfort and make the dog anxious.
  • Identify the quick, which is the pink area in the center of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves. Cutting the quick can cause bleeding and pain, so it’s important to avoid it.
  • Cut the nail at a 45-degree angle, taking small snips to avoid cutting the quick. If you’re unsure where the quick is, start by trimming a small amount and gradually work your way closer to the quick.
  • If you accidentally cut the quick, apply styptic powder or cornstarch to the nail to stop the bleeding.

Dealing with Trimming Difficulties

Start Slow

If a dog is not used to having their nails trimmed, it is important to start slow. Begin by touching their paws and nails gently and rewarding them with treats. Gradually work up to holding the clippers near their nails and eventually trimming a small amount of nail at a time.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can go a long way in helping a dog feel more comfortable during nail trims. Rewarding them with treats, praise, and affection can help them associate the process with positive experiences.

Consider Professional Help

If a dog is particularly difficult to trim, it may be worth considering professional help. A groomer or veterinarian can help trim the nails safely and effectively.

Use the Right Tools

Using the right tools can make a big difference in the ease of nail trimming. Choose clippers designed specifically for dog nails, and consider using a nail grinder for dogs particularly sensitive to clippers.

Be Patient

Patience is key when trimming a dog’s nails. Take breaks if needed, don’t rush the process, and don’t fear continuing with the other paw tomorrow. With time and patience, most dogs can learn to tolerate and even enjoy nail trims.

Professional Nail Trimming Options

When it comes to trimming a dog’s nails, many pet owners prefer to leave it to the professionals. There are several options available for professional nail trimming, including:

1. Veterinary Clinics

Many veterinary clinics offer nail trimming services for dogs. This option is great for pet owners who want to ensure their dog’s nails are trimmed safely and correctly. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians have the knowledge and experience necessary to trim a dog’s nails without causing pain or injury.

2. Grooming Salons

Grooming salons also offer nail-trimming services for dogs. This option is great for pet owners who want their dogs to look and feel their best. Groomers can trim a dog’s nails and also offer additional grooming services, such as a bath or haircut.

3. Mobile Groomers

Mobile groomers are another option for professional nail trimming. These groomers come to the pet owner’s home in a fully-equipped grooming van. This option is great for pet owners with a busy schedule or who prefer the convenience of having their dog groomed at home.

It’s important to choose a professional who is experienced in trimming dog nails. A poorly executed nail trim can cause pain, bleeding, and infection. Pet owners should also ensure that the professional uses proper tools and techniques to trim the nails safely.

Post-Trimming Care

After trimming a dog’s nails, it’s important to take some extra care to ensure their paws are healthy and comfortable. Here are some tips for post-trimming care:

Check for Bleeding

If you accidentally cut the dog’s nails too short, some bleeding may occur. This can be stopped by applying pressure to the paw with a clean cloth or tissue. If the bleeding persists, consult a veterinarian.

Inspect the Nails

Make sure to inspect the nails after trimming to ensure they are smooth and free of any jagged edges. If there are any rough spots, use a nail file to smooth them out.

Reward Your Dog

After trimming their nails, it’s important to reward your dog with praise and treats. This will help them associate nail trimming with positive experiences and make the process easier in the future.

Monitor for Pain

If your dog seems to be in pain or discomfort after nail trimming, it’s important to monitor them closely. They may need some time to adjust to the new length of their nails. If the pain persists, consult a veterinarian.

Maintain Good Hygiene

Keeping your dog’s paws clean and dry is important for their health and comfort. After trimming their nails, clean their paws with a damp cloth and dry them thoroughly. This will help prevent any infections or skin irritations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I know when to trim my dog’s nails?

You should trim your dog’s nails when they start to touch the ground when they walk or make clicking sounds on hard surfaces. You can also check the length of your dog’s nails by looking at them. If the nails are curling or appear too long, it’s time for a trim.

What happens if you don’t trim your dog’s nails?

If you don’t trim your dog’s nails, they can become overgrown and cause discomfort or pain when your dog walks. Long nails can also lead to joint and posture problems. In some cases, nails can even curl back into the paw pad, which can cause infections and other issues.

How often should you cut a dog’s nails that are too long?

If your dog’s nails are too long, you should trim them every week until they reach the desired length. Once you’ve reached the desired length, you can trim them every four to six weeks to maintain the length.

Do Vets cut dog nails?

Yes, many vets offer nail trimming services for dogs. They have the tools and expertise to trim your dog’s nails safely and effectively.

What is the cost of a dog nail trim at the vet?

The cost of a dog nail trim at the vet can vary depending on your location and the vet you visit. On average, a dog nail trim can cost between $10 and $30.

What is a dog nail Dremel?

A dog nail Dremel is a tool that can be used to grind down your dog’s nails instead of using clippers. It’s a good option for dogs who are afraid of clippers or have thick nails. However, it’s important to use the Dremel carefully and not overdo it, as it can cause discomfort or pain if used incorrectly.

Final Thoughts

Trimming dog nails is an essential part of pet care that should not be overlooked. The trimming frequency depends on various factors, including the dog’s breed, size, and activity level. Generally, dogs need trimming every 4 weeks. Dogs with active lifestyles and those who walk on hard surfaces may require less frequent trimming than those who are less active.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.