WHY The Long Nails?
While caring for dogs boarding with us at Harmony Farm Kennel And Lamb, situated just off Hwy 97S between Kamloops and Vernon, BC very now and then I have casue to pause, and shake my head with wonder. “WHY those long nails?” is one of the questions that occasionally I an't help but ask myself. Sometimes owners drop off a dog to our custom care kennel knowing we take daily walks and hikes in the countryside, (depending on every dog's physical condition, emotional needs and intellectual aptitude),yet not a word is spoken of their dog's outrageously long nails, which logically, prevent them from enjoying any kind of exercise whatsoever. I ask myself, “Do owners just not see their dog's discomfort?” “Do they not realize that extremely long nails are painful and even dangerous for their dog?”
These dogs want to move forward but long nails prevent their pads from making comfortable ground contact, or allow their pads to absorb any traction or ground concussions at all. To watch a dog struggle to move in spite of the pain...well it hurts me to watch. I see long nails making movement very painful and those dogs act like they were 'trained by pain', not to move. Often these dogs are also quite hmmm pudgy and unfit. Makes sense. What owners may not realize is the high risk of a long nail ripping, tearing or even breaking a toe causing excruciatingly painful lameness, (that indeed can be very costly and time consuming to nurse back) is such a probability it just make me quiver at the thought. (Remember the last time you split or ripped a nail to or through the quick?)
A few points I've observed that might be useful to know:
*white nails generally are softer than black - the black become very hard and brittle.
*some breeds naturally have larger, thicker pads and the nails tend to grow longer, but when you hear them clicking on the floor and causing discomfort in movement – they are just too long!
*when a dog's nails are long, soft ground is easier for them to move on and they seek it out as there is less solid concussion or feedback from the hard surface.
*Once nails are allowed to get so long, the 'quick' or live part of the nail follows reaching ever more downward as well, making cutting them back to a reasonable length less and less possible. Those dog's feet become more sensitive, even painful and dogs can get defensive. (You'd be surprised how many people say that their dogs don't like their feet touched).
So, why the long dog nails? I understand some dogs take foot handling quite personal thus folks often spend little time desensitizing paws, pads and toes to handling, however, the longer nails get, well the longer they get and the more difficult it is to bring them back to 'normal'. The great news is that there are many solutions to nail maintenance to help dogs that have grown long nails and/or are difficult to deal with. Here are some of my observations and suggestions:
*Start by regularly taking a little quiet time to help the dog accept gentle foot stroking and handling, (with a muzzle if defensiveness or aggression is a worry),until the dog realizes it's no big deal. They can and often start to like a foot rub – it just takes a little dedicated, consistent handling, like everything else pet related.
*If the dog is very troubled with foot handling, there are many trainers open to help with these issues.
*Buying an economical pair of dog nail clippers and taking off just a little at a time, or even gently sanding them often with a strong metal emery file daily, even weekly, will make huge progress;
*If you would rather not, or are afraid to, most groomers will clip nails while you wait in only a few minutes and you may be surprised to know that it costs very little! Also, while your dog stays with us on vacation we would be happy to tend to their nail care and...it would make us all feel better about walks as well!
*If the nails have become extremely long or hardened, a vet will happily help the dog back on to the road to recovery, nails in check, before lameness is the new, much worse problem.
*Nails will soften on muddy or watery ground, so if a person chose to start gradually clipping or filing on long nails after the dog has been out in the pond, swimming or soaking in mud, this would help immensely.
*Keeping up on nails once they have been clipped is important. One could simply choose to walk their dogs or allow them to play on gravel or pavement to help keep them 'self' maintain. (Very effective on sheep as well by the way.)
Whatever the answer, ignoring your dog's extremely long nails is not one of them. Please pay attention – for your dog's sake! These days dog owners seem to be more and more obsessed with quality feeding programs yet, long nails are one good evidence of great nutrition, so how can we ignore them? For the sake of a dog's well being, exercise and overall enjoyment of all that life has to offer, I personally hope that these simple observations and practical suggestions will help someone with a dog struggling with the discomfort of long nails. Happy Nails!