Do Dog Nails Keep Growing? The Truth About Your Pup’s Quicks

What is a dog’s quick?

The “quick” refers to the living tissue inside a dog’s nail that contains nerves and blood vessels (Four Paws). It is the soft, pinkish part of the nail located just under the hard outer nail casing. The quick starts at the base of the nail bed and extends partway down the nail.

The purpose of the quick is to supply blood and nutrients to the nail to help it grow. It is made up of soft sensitive tissue, blood vessels, and nerve endings. Trimming into the quick will cause bleeding and pain, which is why it’s important to avoid hitting it when cutting your dog’s nails.

On light colored nails the quick is easier to see, while on dark nails it can be more difficult to locate. Knowing approximately where it ends based on the length of the nail can help avoid accidentally cutting into it.

Do quicks grow?

Yes, quicks grow as the nail grows longer. The quick is the living part inside the nail that contains nerves and blood vessels. As more nail grows out from the nail bed, the quick lengthens along with it. This is similar to how our finger and toenails have a quick that grows out with the nail.

On average, a dog’s nails will grow 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch per week. However, growth rates vary between breeds, individual dogs, and even different nails on the same dog. Factors like genetics, diet, exercise level, and environment all play a role.

Since the quick grows along with the nail, the longer the nail is allowed to grow, the longer the quick becomes as well. This is why it’s important to trim your dog’s nails regularly to keep the quick short and avoid issues.

dog's nails being trimmed

Why do quicks grow?

A dog’s quick is the soft tissue inside the nail that contains nerves and blood vessels. As a dog’s nail grows longer, the quick grows along with it. This continued growth allows the nail to remain connected to the blood supply and nerves in the toe, enabling the nail to keep growing.

The quick grows outward from the toe as the nail extends. So the longer the nail, the longer the quick will become. As quicks extend they can become prone to injury and bleeding if the nails are cut too short. This is why it’s important to trim dogs’ nails regularly, to keep the quick short and avoid overgrowth.

According to veterinarians, the quick grows with the nail for several reasons:

  • To maintain blood circulation and nerve connections needed for normal nail health.
  • In response to pressure on the nail from weight and activity, which stimulates nail growth.
  • Due to genetics in some breeds prone to rapid nail growth.

Keeping nails trimmed to an appropriate length helps prevent overgrown quicks and keeps the quick short for safer, easier nail maintenance. Regular trimming reduces risk of trauma, infection, and other issues associated with excessive nail length.

How Fast Do Quicks Grow?

The rate at which a dog’s quicks grow can vary substantially based on several factors:

Breed – Some breeds are prone to faster nail growth. For example, Labrador Retrievers often have quickly growing nails.

Age – Younger dogs tend to have faster growing quicks as they are still developing. The quicks in older dogs grow more slowly.

Activity Level – Active dogs who walk/run on hard surfaces frequently may experience slower quick growth. Less active dogs’ quicks grow faster.

In general, quicks grow faster in the summer and slower in the winter. Nails that are not trimmed regularly can allow the quicks to extend, making it more difficult to trim the nails shorter.

Trimming dog nails

When trimming your dog’s nails, it’s important to avoid hitting the quick. The quick is the blood vessel inside the nail, and cutting into it will be painful for your dog and cause bleeding. Here are some tips for proper nail trimming technique:

  • Trim only a small amount at a time, just the very tip of the nail.
  • Aim to trim off sharp points but don’t trim too short. A good guideline is that you can usually see the quick in lighter colored nails, so stop before you get close to it. In dark nails, trim off tiny amounts until you see a grey oval shape appear in the center, then stop.
  • person trimming dog's nails

  • Use sharp trimmers designed for dogs to make clean cuts.
  • Trim nails every 2-3 weeks so they don’t get too long.
  • Have styptic powder on hand to stop bleeding if you do hit the quick.

Trimming frequently prevents nails from becoming overgrown. Long nails can curl, split, and tear which is painful. Ideally, nails should be short enough that they don’t touch the ground when the dog is standing.

If your dog has very long quicks, talk to your vet. They can recommend ways to gradually shorten the quick so nails can be trimmed shorter.

Signs of a quicked nail

The most obvious sign of quicking a dog’s nail is bleeding. When the quick is cut or clipped, blood will immediately start oozing from the nail. The amount of bleeding can range from a few drops to steady stream, depending on how much of the quick was cut.

In addition to bleeding, cutting the quick causes significant pain for dogs. The quick contains nerves, so hitting this area will be extremely sensitive. Dogs may yelp, whimper, or cry out when their quick is cut. They may become fearful of having their nails trimmed in the future. Some dogs may snap or bite when their quick is cut due to the immense pain and discomfort (Source).

Other signs a nail is quicked include the dog excessively licking at the paw or nail, limping, hiding, restlessness, and changes in behavior. These signs indicate the dog is in pain and distress from the nail injury.

Treating a Quicked Nail

If you accidentally cut your dog’s nail too short and hit the quick, it can result in bleeding and pain for your dog. Here are some tips for treating a quicked nail at home before seeking veterinary care if bleeding persists:

To stop the bleeding, apply direct pressure to the nail with a clean cloth or paper towel for 2-5 minutes. You can also use a small amount of styptic powder, cornstarch, or baking soda directly on the nail tip to help constrict blood vessels (Wahl). It’s best to avoid using superglue or cauterizing products which can damage the nail bed.

applying styptic powder to dog's nail

For pain relief, you can apply a small amount of pet-safe triple antibiotic ointment to the nail tip and wrap it in gauze or a light bandage. Never cover the entire paw. This protects the nail while it starts healing. You can also give your dog a dose of pet-safe pain medication like acetaminophen if approved by your vet.

Monitor the nail for continued bleeding over the next day. Excessive bleeding, drainage, or signs of infection mean it’s time to see the vet. They can properly clip the damaged nail, cauterize it to stop bleeding, and provide additional medication for healing.

Preventing quicking

The best way to prevent hitting the quick is to trim your dog’s nails regularly, before they get too long. The quick recedes when the nail is trimmed often, so keeping them short will help the quick stay further back in the nail.

It’s also important to know when it’s time for a trim. Signs that your dog’s nails are getting too long include clicking on the floor when they walk, nails curling under, and difficulty gripping. Aim to trim every 2-3 weeks for most dogs.

Using proper technique while trimming can also help avoid the quick. Hold the nail firmly and clip off small amounts at a time, watching closely for any sign of the quick. Stop before you’re unsure. It’s better to trim less than risk hitting the blood vessel.

Having styptic powder on hand is wise in case you do nick the quick. The powder helps stop bleeding quickly if applied to the nail.


When to seek veterinary care

If your dog’s nail continues bleeding after applying direct pressure for 5-10 minutes, take them to see a veterinarian right away. Prolonged bleeding could be a sign of a clipped artery or vein and may require cauterization to stop the bleeding. Other reasons to seek prompt veterinary care include:

Signs of infection – Redness, swelling, pus, foul odor, and fever can indicate a bacterial infection has set in. Infections need to be treated with antibiotics.

Prolonged bleeding – Bleeding that lasts more than 10-15 minutes even after applying direct pressure often requires medical treatment to stop the blood flow.

Ingrown nails – Nails that are cut too short can become ingrown into the paw pad. This causes significant pain and infection risk. Ingrown nails need to be treated by a veterinarian.

If you notice any of these issues after clipping your dog’s nails, contact your vet right away. Leaving an injury untreated can lead to dangerous infections or other complications. It’s always better to be safe and have a professional evaluate any cut nail that shows signs of trouble healing.

Keeping quicks short

The key to keeping your dog’s nails short and avoiding issues with overgrown quicks is regular maintenance through nail trims. Most experts recommend trimming your dog’s nails at least once every 2-3 weeks. Frequent trims of just a small amount of nail can help the quick recede over time. Aim to trim off just the very tip of the nail, avoiding going too short and hitting the quick.

In addition to regular trims, allowing your dog to walk on more abrasive surfaces like concrete or paved roads can help wear down the nails naturally. The friction from hard ground acts like a natural file to keep the nails trim. Consider taking your dog for walks on sidewalks or driveways to supplement their time on grass or dirt.

dog walking on sidewalk

If you do accidentally hit the quick and cause bleeding, use styptic powder or cornstarch to stop the bleeding right away. Applying constant pressure for 5-10 minutes can also help clot the wound. Be sure to reward your dog with treats afterward so they don’t become afraid of nail trims.

With diligence and frequent gentle trimming, most dog owners can maintain nicely receded quicks. If you are struggling, consult with your veterinarian or professional groomer for help getting your dog’s nails under control.

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