How to Cut a Curled Nail on a Dog

Be careful when cutting your dog's nails.
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Most dogs don't enjoy it, and their people aren't usually any more excited to do it — but the regular trimming of the claws is a necessity. Like food, water, shelter, and exercise, regular grooming to make sure their nails aren't too long is an important part of keeping a canine healthy and happy. If your dog has gone too long between manicures, his nails can begin to curl, usually inward or sideways. To keep your dog walking painlessly, keep his nails at a manageable length and trim them immediately if you notice curling.

Why trim a dog’s nails

A dog's paws are an essential part of the body, and act as insulation, shock absorbers, and tissue protection, according to the ASPCA. Because dogs rely on their feet for exercise, comfortable movement, and certain types of play, overgrown nails can limit their mobility. Sometimes, discomfort and even pain can occur as the result of untrimmed nails, such as when you see a dog's dew claw curled into the skin. Nails that have become too long can embed themselves into a dog's paw, which is not only painful for your dog, but may also become harder to remove the longer you wait.

How to cut curled nails

If you see that your dog's nails are long and curled, or especially if you notice that a nail has curled into the skin, you must take action. Fortunately, clipping a dog's nails is fairly easy, assuming your dog will hold still for long enough to allow it. Before you begin, make sure that you have nail clippers with a scissors-type design, which are easier for getting under curled or embedded nails, says VetMed at Washington State University.

Start close to the tip of your dog's nail, and hold the clippers at a right angle to the nail. Snip away at the nail a small bit at a time until the nail is no longer curled under and stop clipping once you get close to the quick of the nail, as trimming further can lead to bleeding and pain.

If your dog's nail has become embedded in her paw, use the scissor-style clippers to cut the nail, which will leave the tip of the nail stuck in the paw pad. In most cases you should be able to gently pull or wiggle the nail tip out, although you may need a simple tool, like tweezers or needle-nose pliers, to pull stubborn nails loose. The paw will likely begin to bleed once the nail is cut out, so be sure to wash the affected area with soap and water before rinsing clean with a pet-safe antiseptic, or a small amount of diluted hydrogen peroxide or alcohol.

When to see a pro

Of course, if you feel uncomfortable or unable to safely trim your dog's claws, or remove a dog's nail curled into the skin, you should consult a veterinarian or professional groomer to avoid possible injury or trauma. Mount Vernon Animal Hospital goes on to suggest taking your dog to a vet if you've trimmed the ingrown claw but the embedded tip won't come out of the paw, or if you notice excessive bleeding, pus, or other signs of infection after removal.

Like most health-related issues, prevention will go a long way at reducing harm in the long run, so be sure to keep an eye on the length of your dog's nails. Especially pay attention to the dew claw, as these nails are higher up on the paw and don't become worn down when walking on pavement like other claws will.

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