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4 Reasons Why Overgrown Nails Are Bad For Your Pet

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

dog cat nail clipping trimming

Can you hear your dog's nails clicking on the floor as your pup runs around? Are your cat’s nails getting stuck in your furniture? You’ve waited too long! Here are the four reasons why you need to keep your pet on a regular nail clipping schedule.

Overgrown nails become frail and break easily

The overgrown nails can easily catch on surfaces such as carpet, branches, or rocks. When this happens, your pet may pull too hard and cause the frail nail to be ripped off exposing the nerve endings. This means significant pain and a likely infection.

How can you tell if your pet has a broken, torn, or damaged nail?

  • Your pet may avoid using the paw by lifting it as much as possible or limping.

  • You may notice blood on your pet’s bedding.

  • They excessively lick the paw.

  • There may be visible swelling of the paw or toe area.

  • Your pet resists when you try to examine or touch the paw.

  • The nail may appear bent in an unusual way.

An untreated torn or broken nail may lead to infection and other health complications, so if you suspect that your pet’s nail may be damaged causing them pain and discomfort, it is time to visit your vet.

Overgrown nails cause wounds on the paw pads

Nails that are not regularly trimmed, especially dewclaws (or “thumbs”), will likely curl and pierce through the paw pads. This potentially creates an open wound that is swollen, painful, and possibly infected. Luckily, this injury can be easily prevented by keeping the nails short. Otherwise, an urgent vet intervention will be required.

Overgrown nails cause posture abnormalities

Having nails that are too long will make your pet walk in an irregular way. Nails help animals keep balance when walking or running. If they are overgrown, they will “push” the toes up and the heel will come down in order to balance. This results in excessive strain of the muscles and ligaments in the legs. For older and arthritic dogs, these changes can be particularly uncomfortable. It may also lead to accidents, because your pet could slip and fall more easily, especially on slippery floors and hard surfaces. In extreme cases, the paw pads or toe joints may cause skeletal abnormalities in the long term.

Overgrown nails lead to overgrown nail quicks

A nail quick is the fleshy part under your pet’s nail. It contains blood vessels and nerves. If you wait too long between your pet’s nail trims, the nail quick will grow out together with the overgrown nail. It may even lengthen so much that it reaches the tip of the nail. This can lead to nail bed issues, bleeding nails, and pain. It will also make it impossible to trim the nails short without risking cutting the quick and causing it to bleed and hurt your pet.

Can an overgrown nail quick be shortened?

Yes, but it will take time. If your pet's nail quicks are overgrown, their nails will need to be cut a little bit each time and on a regular basis, ideally every two to four weeks. This will allow the quick to recede over time.

Frequent nail trimming is a simple way to avoid injury and discomfort to your pet. If you’re unable to do it yourself - perhaps you’re not sure how, or your pet does not cooperate with you during the trimming - an experienced groomer will help you out! Make sure to keep your pet on a fixed schedule so that they can enjoy their walks and playtime without unnecessary pain or risking preventable injury.

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