Clipping claws for the great outdoors.

Saturday August 25, 2012

I see your skipping, sideways gait, your manicurist needs the sack,
with one quick clipping, you’ll walk straight, and be able to run with the pack.

It’s important to keep your dogs claws clipped, even if they just spend their time padding around the house or walking on a lead. When they get too long they start to push the toes up out of contact with the ground, causing the dog a little discomfort. Left unchecked, a dog will start walking on his heels to alleviate the pressure where the claw meets the toe. At home, this can easily go unnoticed or simply attributed to the age of the dog.

Out in the field it becomes a little more obvious; the dog will avoid full extension of the hind legs, either hopping or skipping along to avoid running straight over their painful claws. Younger dogs may adopt a sideways gait, crabbing along at an angle. All of these symptoms restrict the dogs ability to fully enjoy its environment.

Unclipped claws are more likely to snap across the quick when worked hard causing a lot of pain to the dog.

Regular clipping will solve these problems, and can give what looks like an old dog a new lease of life.

One of the easiest ways to determine if your dog needs its’ claws clipped is to listen as he slowly walks over hard floors such as laminates or kitchen tiling. If you can hear the claws tappety-tapping with every small step, it’s probably time to clip them a little.

Let’s get to it…
Before we reach for the clippers it’s important to understand the basic anatomy of the claw. Extending some way down the middle of the claw is blood vessel and nerve material (the ‘quick’), which will cause the dog sharp pain and bleeding if we cut into it. If your dogs claws are seldom clipped, the quick may extend almost the full length of the claw, but it will recede with regular light clipping.

On light coloured claws you can often see the dark quick in the center, and can therefore easily cut beyond the point to which it extends. With dark claws it’s more difficult. Look at the underside of the claw and you’ll see that the end of the claw is hollow. Further up, the claw fills in and somewhere inside this swelling is the quick. It’s safe to remove the hollow portion as long as you cut at an angle (paralell to the ground is a good guide) that avoids the swollen part altogether. If necessary, we’d then start clipping a fraction off the full nail at regular intervals.

Break out the positive vibes
Now then, as with all things, it’s best that you do this when the dog is calm and relaxed, ideally whilst he’s resting after a nice long walk (with me, natch). Make sure you approach the dog in a positive, relaxed, and happy frame of mind. If you can get him to roll over it’s much easier to see under the claws, but sat on a table will do.

If the dog pulls his paw away mid cut it can cause sprains to the toe, so make sure to hold the paw firmly enough to stop this happening. Also keep a light grip on the clippers, and be prepared to release them in case he does manage to pull away. Spend as long as you like lining up the cut, and when you’re happy with the position make the cut firmly and swiftly, taking care to minimise any leverage into the toe and paw.

With clipping and regular free running, your dog will be happier, an his claws will be stronger.

Guillotine clippers are available for a few pounds from most pet shops.