How to fix overgrown dog nails

Nail trimming is an important part of the grooming ritual for a healthy dog. How often nails need clipping depends on how much time your dog walks on hard surfaces, which wear them down naturally.

If a dog spends most of the time indoors, its nails need to be monitored regularly.

Healthy dog nails vs unhealthy



Healthy dog nails are trimmed to an optimal length. You shouldn’t be able to hear any scratching or tapping noises on a hard surface due to the nails touching it. When the dog is in a standing position, the claws should not touch the floor.


Healthy nails keep their natural appearance without any nail discoloration or misshaping.


Unhealthy nails can present fungus, misshaping, discoloration spots.


When nails are left to grow uncontrolled they can become painful and disfiguring; in time, they can cause the paws to become splayed and twisted.


Long nails tend to curl and will affect a dog’s walking and posture. Complications and health issues would include hip, elbow, foot pain, and deformities. This can have long-lasting effects on its mental wellbeing, developing anxiety to activities that require movement.


Pain can make anyone irascible and it’s no wonder that a dog in pain whenever it needs to walk, will display signs of aggressivity.


Just like in us, humans, dog’s nails can split and break. If left unattended and untrimmed the nails can get infected and this can easily spread and affect the paw.


Leaving a dog’s nails untrimmed for long periods of time could result also in ingrown nails that will affect its walking and can lead to infection. Ingrown nails will require a specialist groomer’s attention as they are difficult to clip.



Cutting a dog’s nails


This process can be emotional for you and your dog as minor injuries can happen and would distress your pet. It is important to reassure your dog and if signs of emotional distress or aggression appear, leave the trimming for another time. This applies even when you are taking the dog to a specialist groomer.

Before any attempt is made to trim a dog’s nails, it’s important to make sure that the dog is comfortable with its paws being touched. Some dogs are sensitive to paws’ being touched. This can be due to :

  • Being ticklish
  • Not being used with its owner (new household addition, like puppies)
  • Having had previous unpleasant experience (in dog shelters, abusive owners)
  • Fear of nail clipping (maybe it remembers of a time when it was particularly uncomfortable)
  • Having sore paws
  • Bone or joint pain (arthritis or after recent injury/surgery)
  • Potential skin allergy

Puppies should be trained to get used to their paws being touched and held, gradually for a longer time in preparation for the grooming process.

Another thing that you need to consider before proceeding with the nail cutting process, is knowing a bit about a dog nail’s anatomy.

The most important thing to remember is that dogs have their keratin nail part and something called ‘quick’, the pink area of the claw. The quick is where the blood vessels’ sensitive nerves are located. It grows with the dog’s nails so it’s extremely important to locate its position before starting to clip the claw. Once this sensitive quick is touched and clipped it will start bleeding and the dog might suddenly move and yelp.

Trimming black dog’s nails might prove a bit more difficult as the quick is not as visible. Leave a specialist deal with this delicate operation.

Trimming a dog’s nails


If you decide to deal with this part of your dog’s grooming routine at home, it’s better to get information from specialized vet websites, your vet or local grooming expert.


Choosing good quality dog clippers is essential. You can do this by researching online stores’ websites, reviews’ sites, or asking for tips from your local vet.


You will then need to :


  • Find a moment in the day when the dog is relaxed.
  • Choose an area that your dog knows and is comfortable with.
  • Let your dog get familiar with the tools you will use before starting the cutting process.
  • Prepare the working area by cleaning it to avoid potential bacterial infections
  • Have your grooming tools close
  • Keep the solution that stops eventual bleeding close to you - styptic.
  • Lay the dog on its side on a comfortable position
  • Have some treats at hand
  • Talk gently and reassure your pet
  • Hold its paws without pressing too much
  • Remove excess hair from the paws’ area
  • Use the clippers carefully according to the instructions received. Snip small bits at one time.
  • Use a dog nail file to even out and smooth the nails
  • Remember to clean and disinfect the paws
  • Clean and disinfect the area and the tools you have used on your dog
  • Never lose your patience! Keep calm and if the dog doesn’t cooperate leave this for a later time.
  • Never use punishment if your dog refuses to cooperate.

Choosing the right dog nail clippers


  • 1. Decide what type of clipper you would like to use. There are different types of nail clippers:

    - Scissor type - suitable for longer nails, like the dewclaw or ingrown nails. It is the best choice for larger sized dog breeds.
    - Guillotine - is quite straightforward to use on dog nails and easier for a beginner. This type of clipper is recommended for small and medium-sized dogs.
    - Nail grinder - this tool has a file on top that rotates at high speed whilst lightly trimming the nail. Read more about these tools here: Best Dog Nail Grinder for Small & Large Dogs.
  • 2. The sizing of the chosen trimming tool is important when deciding to buy a dog nail clipper. Its size should be suitable for the breed’s nails: small, medium, or large.
  • 3. Choose a tool that you are comfortable to use and it allows you a good grip.
  • 4. For extra safety, choose an instrument that has a safety guard to avoid overcutting and a rubber grip on the handles.
  • 5. Look at the quality of the materials used rather than the pricing.

If in doubt, ask a specialist for more information on recommended dog nail tools for trimming.

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