What Is This Fibrous Stuff on My Dog's Nails?

by Brian McCracken
    Dogs need manicures, too.

    Dogs need manicures, too.

    Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Dog's toenails are always growing, which makes it important for owners to have them trimmed regularly. Many don't realize the importance of trimming their dog's nails, but proper trimming affects the entire musculoskeletal system of your canine friend. Unless you are experienced, have your vet show you how to trim your dog's nails before attempting it yourself.

    As with human fingernails, a dog's nails are made of a hard, fibrous material called keratin. The inner part of the nail is called the quick. The quick is soft, often pinkish, and has nerves and blood cells. While it is important that your dog's nails are kept trim, it is equally important that they are not cut too short, as cutting the quick will cause your canine pain and bleeding.

    Some dogs have black nails while others have clear or white ones. It is generally much easier to tell the difference between the outer shell and the quick on the lighter nails, as the pinkish quick part should be more clearly visible. If your pet's nails are dark, it may be more difficult to discern. Sometimes a dog may have one white nail, while the rest are black. In such a case, the white nail can sometimes serve as a guideline for trimming the other nails, if used with caution. Again, it's important to have your vet show you first.

    Trim a dog's nails to about two millimeters in front of the pink quick. This will allow them to be trimmed down to an appropriate size without cutting into the quick or leaving it exposed and vulnerable. When a dog walks, he should be able to put his paw pad down on the ground first and then to "kick off" with his toenails before lifting them off the ground. If the nails are too long, he won't be able to stand or walk properly.

    If a dog's nails are not trimmed appropriately, it can cause him to stand "splayed-footed," or with his toes spread out. This can cause your dog pain when walking, and will force him to put more weight to the rear of his foot. Over time, this can create anatomical problems for the dog, as parts of his musculoskeletal system will being taking on work that they were not designed for. This can create long term pain for your pet.

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    About the Author

    Brian McCracken lives in Portland, Ore., where he writes on pets and animal wildlife as well as a wide array of other topics, ranging from real estate to personal development.

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