What Should The Underside Of Dogs Nails Look Like?

Anatomy of Dog Nails

A dog’s nails consist of several parts, including the quick, nail bed, nail plate, and nail root.

The quick contains nerves and blood vessels that supply the nail. It appears pinkish in color and retracts as the nail grows longer. Trimming into the quick will cause bleeding and pain. The nail bed is the skin under the nail plate that contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The nail plate is the visible hardened part that overlays the nail bed. The nail root anchors each nail to the paw and produces new nail plate material as the nail grows.[1]

Understanding the anatomy helps with proper nail care and identifying potential problems. The visible underside of a healthy nail should show a smooth nail plate with a uniform pinkish nail bed just underneath. No part of the quick or nail root should be exposed on the underside of an intact nail.

[1] https://luckytail.com/blogs/pet/dog-toenail-anatomy

Ideal Appearance of Underside

The underside of healthy dog nails should be pinkish in color with some visible blood vessels. This indicates that the nail bed is in good condition and receiving proper blood flow. According to Lucky Tail, the underside of the nail should resemble an oval horn shape, wider at the base and tapering towards the tip.

You can examine the underside of your dog’s nails by gently pressing their paw pads to expose the nails. Look for a rosy pink color rather than white, black, grey, or yellow, which could signal a health problem. The presence of tiny blood vessels feeding the nail bed is also a good sign. As long as the pink color looks uniform and there are no cracks, inflammation, or abnormal discharge, the underside of the nail likely appears healthy.

Signs of Overgrown Nails

There are several signs that indicate a dog’s nails are getting too long and overgrown:

Loss of Curve: Healthy nails should have a slight curve along the bottom edge. As nails get longer, they will start to lose that natural curve and go straight out from the paw. This causes the foot to extend unnaturally and throw off their gait.

Clicking on Floors: When nails get very long, they will start to click loudly on hard surfaces like tile or wood floors as the dog walks. This audible clicking is a telltale sign they need trimming.

Discomfort and Changes in Gait: The imbalance caused by overgrown nails can make walking uncomfortable. Owners may notice dogs limping, walking abnormally, avoiding hard surfaces, or generally acting like their feet hurt. This is a clear indicator it’s time for a trim.

Causes of Overgrown Nails

There are a few main reasons dogs’ nails can become overgrown:

Infrequent trimming – Dog nails grow continuously. If they are not trimmed regularly, they will become too long. Trimming every 2-4 weeks is generally recommended to keep nails neatly trimmed.

Indoor lifestyle – Dogs that go on fewer walks on hard surfaces tend to have slower nail wear. Their nails don’t get naturally worn down from walking on sidewalks or roads. This puts them at higher risk for overgrown nails if not trimmed regularly.

Diet – Some research indicates that overgrown nails may be linked to diet. For example, a diet low in nutrients like methionine, cysteine, and biotin can contribute to brittle nails that don’t wear down normally (1). High quality dog food with balanced nutrition supports healthy nail growth.

(1) https://www.scenthound.com/dogblog/how-to-get-your-dogs-overgrown-nail-quick-to-recede

Health Risks

Overgrown nails can lead to several health issues in dogs. One major risk is ingrown nails, where the nail starts to curl and grow into the dog’s paw pads. This causes significant pain and can lead to infection. According to LuckyTail, ingrown nails are more prone to tearing or splitting, which requires veterinary treatment.

Another problem that arises from overgrown nails is infection. As mentioned, ingrown nails can more easily harbor bacteria and become infected. Long nails are also more prone to cracking or breaking which creates an opening for pathogens to enter and cause infection, according to The Kennel Club.

Finally, overgrown nails can put undue pressure on joints like the elbows and shoulders. The unnatural angle caused by long nails can lead to pain, arthritis, and mobility issues over time. Keeping nails trimmed prevents these joint problems in dogs.

Breed Differences

Nail growth rate can vary significantly between dog breeds. Some breeds are prone to faster growing nails, while others typically have slower nail growth.

According to this source, breeds with faster growing nails include German Shepherds, Great Danes, Dobermans, and Labrador Retrievers. Their nails may need trimming every 2-3 weeks. Slower growing nails are more common in smaller breeds like Chihuahuas and Dachshunds, who may only need trims every 4-6 weeks.

The exact reason for these differences is not fully understood. Larger breed dogs often have faster metabolism and higher activity levels, which may correlate to faster nail growth. Diet and genetics likely also play a role.

Keeping a close eye on your individual dog’s nails is important, as even within breeds there can be variation. Environment, lifestyle and health can all impact growth rates. But being aware of general breed tendencies can help set trim schedule expectations.

Lifestyle Factors

A dog’s lifestyle and activity level can significantly impact how quickly their nails grow. Dogs that spend most of their time indoors on soft surfaces tend to have faster growing nails than dogs that are regularly active outdoors on hard, abrasive surfaces. The simple act of walking on sidewalks, pavement, gravel paths, or other hard ground wears nails down naturally through attrition. Indoor dogs miss out on this natural filing action.

Regular exercise and activity, especially on hard outdoor surfaces, can help keep nails trim. According to the experts at GoodDogSpot, dogs that get at least 30-60 minutes of rigorous exercise per day are likely to have better worn down nails. Conversely, sedentary indoor dogs, senior dogs, or dogs with limited mobility will need more frequent nail trims.

The type of flooring in a home can also make a difference. Tile, wood, or concrete floors provide more friction than carpet or rugs. Owners of indoor dogs should provide scratching posts, pads, or textured mats to give their pet’s nails a filing surface. Taking an indoor dog for regular walks on sidewalks can supplement this effect.


Trimming Tips

It’s recommended to trim your dog’s nails every 2-4 weeks to keep them at an ideal length. Trimming more frequently may cause the quick to recede too far, while less often can lead to overgrown nails.

Use a high-quality nail clipper designed specifically for dogs, like the Safari Professional Nail Trimmer. Avoid using human nail clippers, as they can split and crack dog nails. Always trim just a small amount at a time to avoid hitting the quick.

The quick is the blood vessel inside the nail and cutting into it will cause bleeding and pain. Look for a dark colored circle on lighter nails or a light colored circle on black nails, and stop trimming before you reach this area. It’s safer to take multiple small trims over time than one drastic trim.

If you accidentally cut the quick, use a coagulant powder like Kwik Stop to stop the bleeding. Keep styptic powder on hand whenever you trim nails.

Source: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-to-trim-dogs-nails-safely/

When to See a Vet

While routine nail trims can usually be done at home, it’s important to watch for signs of injury or infection that may require a veterinary visit. Some indications it’s time to see the vet include:

  • Bleeding from the nail that doesn’t stop.
  • Signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or pus.
  • Limping or signs of pain when walking.
  • A nail that has split or cracked open.
  • A nail that has been partially or fully torn off.
  • Exposed quick that bleeds when trimming.
  • A nail that curls under into a circle or loop.

If any of these occur after a nail trim at home, it’s best to have your dog seen by a vet right away. They can properly treat and medicate any injuries to prevent further complications like infection.

Keeping Nails Healthy

One of the best ways to naturally keep your dog’s nails short and healthy is through regular exercise, especially on rough surfaces. According to this article, taking your dog on regular walks on sidewalks, gravel roads, or textured surfaces can help file down the nails through friction. The rougher the surface, the more filing action it will provide. You can also utilize scratching posts and scratch pads made for dogs – offering another abrasive surface for filing nails down through scratching behavior.

Additionally, diet plays a role in nail health. Foods rich in minerals like zinc, linoleic acid, and arachidonic acid contribute to strong and healthy nails that wear down more easily. Consider adding salmon, flaxseed oil, or eggs to provide these nutritional compounds. Staying hydrated is also key, so make sure your dog has access to fresh water at all times.

With regular exercise on abrasive surfaces, access to scratching posts, and a nutritional diet, you can keep your dog’s nails short and healthy without the stress of frequent clipping.

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