How to Make a Dog's Nail Quick Recede
How to Shorten a Dog's Quick
What time is it when you hear your dog's nails clicking on the kitchen floor as he or she walks? It's time for a nail trim! Long nails can lead to a multitude of problems for all types of dogs—puppies, small dogs, German Shepherds, you name it. That's why all pet owners should know that getting your pet's nails clipped and keeping the nails short on a regular basis is important. In this article, we will go over:
- How to Tell If Your Dog's Nails Are Too Long
- How to Identify a Dog's Quick
- How to Make Your Dog's Nail Quick Recede
- Techniques for Trimming or Grinding Dog Nails
- What If You Accidentally Cut the Quick?
- What Is the Perfect Length for Your Dog's Nails?
- What If My Dog Is Afraid of the Nail Trimmers?
- Working With a Veterinary Professional or Groomer
For starters, when you allow nails to grow too long or to become overgrown, this also means that the quick has grown out, which can lead to nail bed issues, bleeding nails, pain, secondary issues in your dog's body, and a worried pet owner.
What Is a Nail Quick?
The quick of a nail is the innervated, vascularized core of the nail bed. It provides nourishment to the nail which allows it to grow and aids sensation.
How to Tell If Your Dog's Nails Are Too Long
The rule of thumb is that if they are clicking on the floor, causing discomfort, or interrupting mobility, they are overgrown. Several problems can occur when the quick and nail overgrow:
- The nails become frail and fracture easily
- Overgrown quicks can cause pain, bleeding, and infection
- Your dog may start to walk in an irregular way
- Your dog may become phobic of or uncomfortable on slippery floors and hard surfaces
- The paw pads or toe joints may become uncomfortable (can cause skeletal abnormalities in the future)
If your dog's nails are overgrown, don't try to cut them short all at once. Instead, ask your vet or groomer for help. Chances are, the nails will need to be cut a little bit at a time to allow the quick to recede.
How to Identify a Dog's Quick
Dog nails are composed of the nail and a soft cuticle called the quick that is rich in blood vessels and nerves. What does the quick look like on a dog?
- Light-colored nails: Easy to identify. It is a pink region in the center of the translucent/white nail.
- Dark-colored nails: Hard to identify and trimming can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes it helps to look at the bottom of the nail as you trim to gauge how "deep" into the nail bed you are trimming.
Why Does the Quick Overgrow?
When you fail to trim your dog's nails on a regular basis, the quick grows with the nail. In some cases, when the nails are extra long, the quick may lengthen so much that it reaches the tip of the nail. When this happens, you won't be able to trim much of the nail without risking cutting through the quick.
Don't try to clip dogs nails and make them short all at once! Ask your veterinarian or dog groomer to show you how to gradually trim the nail to encourage the quick to recede. Otherwise, you risk hurting your pet.
How to Make Your Dog's Nail Quick Recede
The secret to keeping your dog's nail tips short is to give frequent, gradual nail trims, or to make sure they get adequate activity on a regular basis. Consider that each time you trim that nail a little bit more every week, the quick should gradually recede farther and farther up into the nail bed. After trimming a small portion of an overgrown nail, generally, within seven days, the quick should have receded enough to allow you to trim off another little bit of nail again, according to "The Everything Puppy Book: Choosing, Raising, and Training Our Littlest Best."
Your ultimate goal is to have the quick recede more and more so you can allow your dog the luxury of healthier, shorter, and stronger nails. Generally, dog nails are trimmed via three methods:
- Trimming/cutting with a tool
- Natural abrasion
- Manual abrasion/grinding
Ask your vet or a dog groomer to show you how much you can cut if you are trying for the first time and have them watch you.
1. Trimming Your Dog's Nails
If your dog's nails are very long and the quick is very close to the tip of the nail, you may have no other choice than to only trim the very tip of the nail to prevent bleeding and pain. You will likely use either type of common nail clippers:
- Scissor clippers: Good for large dogs and for shaping. These are designed well/it's easy for owners to grip the handle when using them.
- Guillotine clippers: Good for small to medium-sized dogs. A blade slices the nail transversely. These are generally sharp and stainless steel.
Pro Tip for Trimming Black Dog Nails
Look at the bottom of the nail as you trim to gauge how "deep" into the nail bed you are trimming. You may notice a small oval in the center of the nail bed. As you get closer to the quick, the oval will become larger and larger until it is nearly as wide as the nail. If you see this, stop!
Video: Nail Trim Tutorial
2. Natural Abrasion
Another helpful way to allow the quick to recede naturally is to allow your dog to walk on hard, abrasive surfaces. The constant pressure on the ground allows the quick to recede towards the nail.
Consider though, that if you're planning to make the quick recede and your dog is not used to walking, running, and exercising on concrete, he or she may develop blisters and abrasions on his or her paws. Also, if his or her nails are too long, they may split and fracture. Gradual exposure goes a long way. With time, your dog's paw pads should toughen up and the nails should grow stronger and stay shorter.
Is Your Dog Active?
In the wild, constant walking and running on hard surfaces and digging is the reason why wild dogs' nails recede naturally.
Vidoe: How to Grind Your Dog's Nails
3. Nail Grinder (Dremel)—The "Dog Nail File"
Grinding is another option for dogs and might be a great alternative for those that have developed a negative association to nail clippers. Grinders or dremels use grit to shave down a nail tip gradually.
You can get your dog used to this tool by simply touching the vibrating grinder to their leg or foot without going near the nail bed. This allows them to get familiar with the tool's sound and vibration. Reward them with a treat if they are tolerating it.
Note: Use caution when using a nail grinder. These tools conduct heat and can cause pain in the nail bed if held over one site for too long.
What If You Accidentally Cut the Quick?
In your effort to help the quick recede, you may accidentally cut through the quick. This will cause pain and bleeding. In such a case, don't panic. You didn't cut through a major artery and your dog won't bleed to death, unless he or she has an underlying bleeding disorder you are not aware of—then it can get complicated. In such a scenario, follow the directions for vet-approved tips for dealing with a broken nail.
If you are worried about bleeding, consider keeping styptic powder on hand. It's used in most veterinary clinics and helps the nail bed to clot. It can be purchased online. Be aware that paw discomfort may cause your dog to start chewing his or her foot, so learn how to prevent them from chewing.
What Is the Perfect Length for Your Dog's Nails?
Ideally, the nails should be short enough so that they do not touch the ground when the dog is standing on a firm, level surface, but they should be long enough to aid the dog when climbing up a hill or digging, according to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation.
How Long Does It Take for the Quick to Recede?
If you're wondering how long it takes for the nail to recede, the answer is that it depends. Just like humans, dogs' nails vary. Some dogs have nails that grow faster, thicker, and longer than others. It also depends on your dog's activity levels, age, location, and breed. For instance, the more active the dog, the more likely it is to have shorter nails. Also, if your dog lives indoors and walks on carpet or outdoors on soft, grassy areas for most of the day, the higher the chances for long, brittle nails, and long quicks.
What If My Dog Is Afraid of the Nail Trimmers?
Some dog owners may notice that their dog is afraid of the clippers. It is important to rule out any unusual injuries, growths, or bumps on the paw pads that may be causing your dog discomfort. Allergies are another common reason for a dog to lick its paws, which makes them guarded and defensive of having their feet handled.
Maybe you've tried professional dog groomers and positive reinforcement methods, like training your dog to see the clippers as a "neutral" object through exposure and reward (treats). If these techniques haven't worked, you may want to try a nail file or a dremel. Oftentimes, the sound of the dremel (grinder) can cause dogs to get nervous, but using a grinder is generally less intimidating than the dreaded clippers.
Consider Working With a Veterinary Professional
As a dog owner, if you don't feel comfortable trimming your dog's nails and want to get those quicks to recede fast, you can ask your vet for help. Some vets are willing to sedate or anesthetize your dog for the purpose of trimming those nails way back. This means that the vet will expose the quick and cauterize the quick to reduce bleeding. This should be done when your dog is under anesthesia for some other medical procedure such as a dental cleaning. Because the nails are cut way back, expect your dog to have some pain after the procedure.
Utilizing Dog Groomers
Dog grooming facilities are another great option. Some are mobile. They often use a leash and grooming table setup to help avoid and prevent any unexpected fear-biting attempts, and these restraints help to keep your dog stationary. Groomers that use fear-free handling and restraints are preferred. Make sure that the grooming company you go with has a good reputation.
- The Everything Puppy Book: Choosing, Raising, and Training Our Littlest Best by Carlo De Vito and Amy Ammen
- Everything Daschund Book: A Complete Guide To Raising, Training, And Caring by Joan Hustace Walker
- St. Bernard's Animal Medical Center: "The Quick and the Dead: Nail Trims"
- American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation: "Feet on The Ground"
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
I rescued my pugs. Their nails were very long. It's been two years of weekly dremmeling. And one cauterizing under surgery a year ago. The ones pugs' quicks refuse to shrink. I thought I'd dreamed along the nail side to allow air to touch the quick. She is a good girl and lets me, but I'm at a loss. Do you have any ideas?
To recede the quick, you will need to dremel once a week for about 1-2 months. This will only remove a small amount each week. Daily walks on concrete can also help in filing down the nails.Helpful 70
My dog's nails are black and I can't see the quick. How to trim darkly colored dog's nails and not cause injury?
I hear you! Both my Rottweilers' nails were black so it was tricky to trim them as short as I would have liked. I think it helps to err on the side of caution, so I would just aim to get the hooked tips removed so to be on the safe side. Next time you go to the vet or groomer though, have them trim the nails for you so you can see how much they can be trimmed back and exactly how up you can go to avoid any bleeds.Helpful 40
© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli