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Do dogs nails hurt when too long?

Dogs nails continuing growing throughout their lives. If left untrimmed, they can become overly long and start to curl under, potentially causing pain and discomfort. Overgrown nails can negatively impact a dog’s health and quality of life in various ways. In this article, we’ll explore the effects of overgrown nails on dogs and look at signs that indicate it’s time for a trim.

Do Overgrown Nails Hurt Dogs?

Yes, overgrown dog nails can hurt and cause discomfort. Here’s why:

Pressure and discomfort

As a dog’s nails grow longer, they exert more pressure on the ground when walking. This can put strain on the dog’s toes and affect the way they distribute their weight. Excessively long nails alter the angles of the feet and legs, which can lead to pain in the feet, legs, and lower back.

Ingrown nails

When nails become severely overgrown, they can start to curl back into the paw pads or twist to the side. Ingrown nails are very painful and can cause infection. They need to be properly trimmed to relieve pain and avoid complications.

Bleeding and infection

With extra long nails, there is an increased risk of trauma and bleeding. Long nails are more prone to cracking and breaking, which is very painful and can lead to infection. The quick (vascularized part of the nail) also elongates as nails grow, making it more exposed and likely to get injured.

Difficulty walking

Excessively long nails alter the way a dog walks and places pressure on their feet and legs. This can make walking uncomfortable or even difficult, and may result in changes to their gait. It’s not natural for dogs to walk directly on their nails.

Arthritis and joint issues

The abnormal pressure and weight distribution caused by long nails can exacerbate arthritis and joint problems. The constant pressure on the toes and awkward gait can increase pain and inflammation.

Signs Your Dog’s Nails Are Too Long

Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to trim your dog’s nails:

Clicking sounds on hard floors

If you hear your dog’s nails making loud clicking noises when walking on tile or hardwood, the nails are likely too long. Nails should just lightly touch the ground.

Difficulty with traction

Watch to see if your dog is slipping or having trouble gripping the floor due to excessively long nails. This indicates it’s time for a trim.

Nails touching the ground

Look at your dog’s paws from the side. The nails should not excessively touch or drag on the ground. If they do, they need to be trimmed.

Curling under or to the side

If your dog’s nails are severely overgrown, you may notice them starting to curl under the paw pads or twist to the sides. This can be very painful and signal it’s time for an immediate trim.

Reluctance to walk or jump

Your dog may start avoiding activities like jumping on furniture or going for walks. This could indicate nail pain and discomfort.

Licking or chewing at paws

Excessive licking or chewing at the paws could signal discomfort from overgrown nails. Pay attention for this behavior.

Change in gait or limping

Overgrown nails can alter a dog’s gait. If you notice limping or an unusual gait, especially while walking on hard surfaces, examine the nails.

Signs of Overgrown Nails What It Indicates
Clicking on floors Nails are too long, touching the ground excessively
Difficulty with traction Long nails preventing normal grip on floor
Nails visibly touching ground Need to be trimmed to normal length
Curling under or sideways Severely overgrown, very painful for dog
Limping or change in gait Abnormal gait from pressure on feet/legs
Chewing/licking at paws Signaling discomfort from long nails

Potential Health Issues From Overgrown Nails

If overgrown nails are left untrimmed, they can lead to the following health conditions:

Arthritis and joint disease

The constant pressure and awkward gait caused by long nails can worsen arthritis. It can increase inflammation in the joints and cause lameness.

Sprains and fractures

With improper weight distribution, dogs are more prone to injuries like sprains and fractures in their feet, legs, and joints.

Bone deformities

In severe cases of overgrown nails, younger dogs may develop angular limb or other bone deformities from the abnormal pressure on their soft growing bones.

Nerve damage

Excessive curling under of nails can put pressure on nerves in the paws, potentially causing nerve damage and pain.

Skin infections

Ingrown nails and cracked long nails are at high risk for developing bacterial or fungal skin infections.

Chronic pain

Prolonged discomfort and stress on body parts can cause chronic pain due to changes in pain signaling pathways.

Potential Health Issue Cause
Arthritis, joint disease Abnormal pressure on joints
Sprains, fractures Improper weight distribution
Bone deformities Pressure on soft growing bones
Nerve damage Pressure from ingrown nails
Infections Cracked long nails
Chronic pain Prolonged discomfort

How Often Should You Trim Your Dog’s Nails?

The frequency of nail trims depends on factors like:

– Growth rate – some dogs need more frequent trimming than others

– Activity level – active dogs wear down nails more than sedentary dogs

– Surfaces walked on – hard surfaces wear down nails more than soft surfaces

On average, a dog’s nails should be trimmed:

Every 2-3 weeks for very active dogs

Dogs who walk/run daily on hard ground may need their nails trimmed every 2-3 weeks, as they get worn down more.

Every 3-4 weeks for average activity dogs

For the average adult dog who exercises regularly, aim for a nail trim every 3-4 weeks. Look for overgrowth signs.

Every 4-6 weeks for less active/elderly dogs

Older and couch potato dogs who don’t walk much may only need nails trimmed every 4-6 weeks, but monitor closely.

As soon as overgrowth is noticed

Regardless of normal trim frequency, it’s vital to trim as soon as you spot overlong nails or negative impacts on gait/behavior. Don’t let them overgrow.

Check nails at least weekly and look for signs they need trimming regardless of when the last pedicure was. Every dog’s needs are different.

Tips for Trimming Overgrown Dog Nails

Trimming overgrown nails can take patience and care to avoid hitting the quick. Here are some tips:

Take your time

Trimming overgrown nails may take multiple short sessions over days or weeks. Avoid trying to do it all at once or forcing it. Go slowly to avoid pain and bleeding.

Use the right tools

Quality nail clippers designed for dogs help get a clean cut. Use scissors-style for thick nails. Always keep blades sharp.

Only trim a little at a time

With overgrown nails, only remove a small amount from the tip each session. Cutting too much increases quicking risk.

Use a nail file

Gently filing down sharp edges and points is safer than cutting overly short. Use a coarse file in small swipes.

Apply a blood stop powder

In case of bleeding, use a blood stop powder or styptic pencil to stop it quickly. Avoid using overgrown nail trimmers again.

Give praise and treats

Reward your dog with treats and praise during trimming to make it a positive experience. This makes future sessions easier.

See a groomer or vet if needed

If you’re uncomfortable trimming severely overgrown nails, don’t force it. Seek professional help from a groomer or vet. They can sedate if necessary.

Preventing Overgrown Nails

It’s much easier to maintain nails than let them overgrow and try to reverse the situation. Here are some tips for prevention:

Trim nails regularly

Get in the habit of trimming your dog’s nails often, before they have a chance to get too long. Follow the recommended frequency.

Walk your dog on hard surfaces

Frequent walks on sidewalks or pavement helps wear down nails naturally between trims.

Provide scratching posts

Attractive scratching posts divert your dog from undesirable scratching. These also help wear down nails.

Use nail grinders

Weekly use of an electric nail grinder gradually shortens nails and reduces sharp points. Much safer than cutting.

Monitor growth and look for signs

Check nails at least weekly and trim as soon as you notice negative impacts or signs that indicate they are too long.

Make it positive

Getting dogs comfortable with trimming from a young age prevents struggles later. Always give treats and praise during trimming.


Allowing your dog’s nails to overgrow can definitely lead to pain and discomfort. Long nails alter gait, put undue pressure on feet and joints, and increase risk of trauma. Signs like clicking on floors or curled nails indicate it’s time for a trim. For the health and comfort of your dog, stay diligent about maintenance trims every few weeks. Preventing overgrown nails is much easier than reversing the situation once they are too long. With patience and positive reinforcement, regular nail trims can become hassle-free.