You know Scruffy is overdue for a pedicure when you hear his “click-clack” sound on your kitchen floor. When you fail to trim your dog's nails as frequently as needed, the quick grows along with the nail. Don't try to trim those nails short all at once. Ask your veterinarian or groomer to show you how to encourage the quick to recede so Scruffy can walk comfortably again.
Cut to the Quick
Your dog's nails are composed of a hard outer shell and a soft cuticle in the center known as the quick. If you're lucky to have a dog with light-colored nails, the quick is easily visible. On the other hand, if your dog has black or dark-colored nails, trimming gets a tad bit more challenging. When it's time for Scruffy's pedicure, you'll need to be extra-careful not to cut those nails too short, or the quick -- which has blood vessels and nerves -- will bleed and cause pain. See your vet or groomer for help.
An Initial Quick Fix
You may not be aware of the fact that the quick grows with the nail. As Scruffy's nails grow worthy of Guinness World Record status, the quick also lengthens. In some cases, it may grow close to the tip. This means that when it's time to trim those nails, you won't be able to cut much without risking cutting into the quick. To remedy this, you'll need to ask your vet or groomer to trim those nails as close to the quick as possible, but a bit at a time, regardless of how long the nails are. This will cause the quick to gradually recede.
An Initial Quick Recession
After trimming the tip of the nail, generally within seven days the quick should recede enough that you can have the nail trimmed again, Carlo De Vito and Amy Ammen write in "The Everything Puppy Book: Choosing, Raising, and Training Our Littlest Best." Consider that every time your vet or groomer trims your pooch's nails, the quick retreats farther up into the nail bed -- but it may take a while for the quick to completely recede to a point where the dog has shorter, healthier nails. Regular frequent clippings is key to making the quick recede more rapidly.
A Quick Solution
If you're in a rush to get the quick to recede, or if you'd like to make sure you have no role in the anxiety-inducing measure, you have the option of letting your vet sedate or anesthetize your dog and trim the nails way back. The vet will cut the nail right by the quick and will cauterize the nail to reduce bleeding. Often, this procedure takes place at the same time a dog is getting a dental cleaning or another elective procedure for which anesthesia is required. Expect Scruffy to be in some pain after the procedure.
A Natural Solution
You may wonder how dogs managed to get their pedicures back when grooming salons didn't exist. In the old days, wild canines dug a lot and traveled for many miles over rough surfaces, which naturally gave them appropriately short nails. Today, one way to allow your dog's quicks to recede naturally is by allowing Scruffy to spend hours running, walking and playing on rough surfaces. In this case, the regular pressure on the nail will wear the nails and force the quick to naturally recede over time, resulting in very short quicks. Consider, though, that dogs not used to exercising on concrete may initially develop paw pad blisters or abrasions. As long as you keep up the regular activity, that should become less of a concern as the feet toughen up. Consult your vet in any case of injury to your dog's feet or any other part of him.
A Quick Note
The exact time required to get the quick to the point you need it to be tends to vary from one dog and another, but generally it'll take a long period of frequent clipping and regular filing. Just like humans, dogs have nails of different length, thickness, strength and health. Age, breed, activity level and surface makeup play roles in how often nails need to be trimmed and how long it takes for quicks to recede.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.