Animal Care & Welfare: Paw Care
Rex's nails are too long. Over time, I've let the quicks grow out.
While bearing weight, your dog's paw pads should touch the ground first, before the toenails. Imagine the process of your dog's paw taking a step with nails that are too long. The nails press into the ground as your dog is bearing weight. The back of your dogs paw will lift (as our heel will lift, and we shift weight onto the ball of our foot), causing the nails to press harder into the ground. At this point, just before the dog's paw is lifted, if nails are too long, and have no where to go, they will turn to the side or curl under. As a veterinary technician, I once treated a Great Pyrenees whose nail had curled under, penetrated the paw pad and grown out the other side. Sounds painful to me.
If nails grow long enough to turn to the side, the toe itself will start to shift, causing arthritis. Long toenails and hooves, over time, can injure the tendons along the back of the leg as the toes lift, the heels drop and the back of the leg gets slowly stretched. Another problem with long toenails in dogs is that, put simply, the pressing of the nails into the ground causes an 'upward tug' that creates small spaces between the toenail's parts that bacteria and fungus can invade. All of these problems could be painful.
If cutting (or grinding) your dog's toenails is not for you, you're not alone, but what you can do is keep track of the length of the quicks to help determine how frequently your dog should be trimmed. Look at the underside of their paws/toenails—lift their paw while they're standing, or check it out while they're lying down. This allows you to see how far the tip of the nail extends past the tip of the quick. If you are the one trimming, take small clips from the tip until you see the spot in the middle—do not trim past this point, as this is the tip of the quick, and this is where you will get blood. Looking at dogs' nails from the side, you might notice the nail 'hooks' down over the tip of the quick. Dogs with clear nails make it easy for us to see the pink quick underneath.
While Rex isn't particularly thrilled with the nail-trimming part of the plan to help his quicks recede, he definitely loves the benefits of taking walks up his dirt road driveway and running in the sand along the river.