Dog Manual

Feet and Nail Care

The most important aspect of foot care in dogs is to keep them clean. Some dogs seem to recognize this fact instinctively and will wash their own feet. The routine cleaning that the animal receives in its bath is quite sufficient for ordinary foot hygiene, although additional cleaning may be necessary if the feet happen to get especially soiled. It is not a bad idea to clean the feet every once in a while with a piece of absorbent cotton saturated with alcohol. This will tend to prevent disease conditions that may occur between the toes as a result of uncleanliness.

Special precaution should be taken during the winter season of the year, especially in large cities, where snow is often saturated with rock salt. The rock salt can cause an annoying irritation of the feet. Cleaning them daily during this season with cotton and alcohol will tend to prevent this minor ailment. In the summer time, the areas between the toes should be checked for ticks, which commonly attach themselves to this area. (This seems somehow natural since the dog will often step into a place where ticks happen to be, and the foot is, after all, the most convenient spot where the tick can take hold.) Many general ailments can occur on the feet, especially a variety of irritations. In such cases, the feet should be kept especially clean and also swabbed with ordinary household antiseptics, such as tincture of iodine. If the irritation does not heal or at least improve in a very few days, it is advisable to have it checked by a veterinarian in order to avoid any serious complications.

Clipped and Unclipped Toenails

The nails should be trimmed whenever necessary. They should not extend further than the foot pads. When the nails are too long, they cause pressure and discomfort. Care should be taken not to cut the nails too short because there is a small blood vessel in the nail which can be easily severed. If this blood vessel should happen to be cut, this should cause no undue alarm. The blood will clot in a few minutes and there is rarely any complicating infection. To avoid cutting this blood vessel, only the white portion of the nail should be clipped, and even this should not be clipped off altogether.

A small white tip should be allowed to remain on the nail. If the nail is all black, one must proceed with special caution in order not to cut the nail too short. It is better to leave the nail slightly long than to clip the nail too short and to have the inconvenience of bleeding. The nails may also be filed. Special care should be given to the dew claws, the nails on the inside portion of the feet that do not touch the ground. If these claws are not kept short enough, they may grow into the pad of the foot.

With many dogs, clipping of the claws is unnecessary because the animal wears them down by running on hard pavement. Of course the dew claws are not affected by this and still have to be watched. Because of the natural sluggishness that comes with old age, and in the case of fat, lazy animals, whose limited exercise does not give the nails an opportunity to wear down, the nails have to be watched more closely and clipped more often so that any discomfort caused by elongated nails can be avoided