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Beaver Lake Animal Hospital
26325 SE 39th Street
Issaquah, WA 98029

Beaver Lake Animal Hospital

26325 SE 39th Street
Issaquah, WA 98029






Beaver Lake Animal Hospital


Toe Nail Care/Torn nails



                Regular care must be given to most dogs’ toenails. In nature, the nails were used to allow better traction and surefootedness.  The nails are of a very strong construction.  In our world, pets do not need to be athletes, but the toughness of the nails remains.  If use does not naturally file down the nails, we must assist.  In dogs, the rear feet are used to propel the dog.  This motion helps keep the rear nails shorter than the nails of the forefeet.

Too long of nails prevent pets from walking normally on their feet, because the nails are in the way.  This causes muscular and skeletal pain for animals.  This can over time lead to increasing amounts of arthritis.   A pet should be able to stand on a solid floor and not have his nails touch the ground.  Frequently geriatric, or otherwise housebound pets will have nails that overgrow. 

If nails become too long, they can easily catch causing a torn nail.  Torn nails may bleed profusely.  They are painful.  Treatment may require deep sedation or anesthesia to allow removal of any tissue that is not firmly attached, in addition to stopping the bleeding. 

A nail that is torn causing exposure of the nail bed, allows an infection to begin.  The nail bed is mostly bone, so the infection is an osteomyelitis (bone infection), which may require expensive antibiotics to resolve. 


Most people that have attempted to trim their dogs’ nails discover that this is not a pleasant thing for their dog or themselves.  Even a well-mannered pet will show stress and discomfort.  I believe dogs have pressure sensors in their toes that signal for them to try to get away from the pain-causing source.  Even if you never have cut a nail too close (made it bleed), I believe they sense pain. 

I now use a Dremelâ, which is a trade name for a rotary tool.  Dremeling is basically filing your dogs’ nails.   Dogs do need to become accustomed to the vibration, but the vibration seems to be more comfortable for them, than is nail trimming.  I have found, that with careful shaping, the nails require less attention overall.

The first rule about Dremeling and all power tools is you must wear eye protection.

Plan on taking the next 2 weeks to accustom your pet to the Dremel.  Follow the below instructions, first without the Dremel turned on, then after the dog is comfortable with the tool, repeat the exercises with the Dremel on.  Do not proceed to the next step until the dog is comfortable and relaxed.  Give treats and praise to reward calmness.  Ignore stress, stop the session, and retry later if needed.  DO NOT TRY TO FORCE THE DOG.  IT WILL NOT WORK WITH FORCE.


1.     You must first teach your dog to relax when you are touching him, particularly his feet.

2.     Have the Dremel and your eye protection out where the dog can see it. 

3.     Hold it by the dog, let him smell it.  Wear your eye protection.

4.     Touch the Dremel to your hand, when your hand is touching the dog’s body.

5.     Work your hand down to holding the dogs foot with the Dremel touching the back of your hand.

6.     Touch the tip of the Dremel to the nail for just a second.

7.     Touch several or each of the nail tips for just a second.

8.     Touch nails for a few seconds, then proceed to the next nail and repeat.

9.     Eventually you are applying the tip of the Dremel long enough to file the nails.

10.  Begin to sculpt the nails. 

a.     Start near the tip and grind it down, checking frequently to see if you are nearing the quick.

b.    Grind the outer edges a bit.

c.     Grind the bottom a bit if possible and needed.  If the hard part of the nail has fully encircled the claw bed, then try to remove it just a bit.

d.    But be very careful to not touch the pad, or other soft tissues.

11.  When you have completed, give your dog a great play session.  You both deserve it. 


Note: if you Dremel too much, you can hit the claw bed.  This will cause discomfort and possibly some bleeding.  If bleeding, apply digital pressure or a styptic powder until no further bleeding. 





            This drawing is a depiction of a nail that is long, and the two cuts I would take during a traditional nail clipping.  It demonstrates the central nail bed or quick and the outer nail.  The outer nail covers the top and sides of the nail.


In this drawing the nail and nail bed has grown much longer.  The nail bed has grown out almost as long as the previous nail (see arrow). The nail has grown to cover the bottom of the claw.  This nail will take several months of care before a more normal shaped toenail is maintained.





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