Nail trimming – it’s so much more than cosmetic!

Dr Hirsch believes that an appropriate nail trim is essential to proper animal movement. She requires nails be maintained appropriately in any of her chiropractic patients. This is because when nails are too long, the postural stress that it causes will contribute to chiropractic subluxations and prevent the patient from holding its adjustment well. As such, nails are evaluated in each of her canine patients. She likes to trim nails with a dremel and is happy to teach the owner how to trim nails in the way that she does them. Some owners may have difficulty accomplishing nail trims at home, so many of Dr Hirsch’s patients have nail trims with her in conjunction with their chiropractic visits.

Dogs’ toenails should touch the ground only when digging a hole or walking up a hill. So if you can hear your dog’s nails clicking when walking on flat hard floors, that means their nails are too long! If the nails are too long, the posture that the body takes is one where mobilizing muscles are used to stabilize the body rather than the stabilizing muscles. This leads to muscle fatigue, and will cause a hump-backed posture. This posture leads to abdominal muscle fatigue, affecting digestion and breathing, and affects head and neck motion as well. The posture causes the back legs to come up further underneath the body – which also changes the angle at which the stifle (like our knee) functions. This predisposes it to damage. One very common injury in this area is a tear of the cranial cruciate ligament.

Proper nail trimming – The anatomy of the nail is such that there are 3 regions to consider – the spine, the quick and the nerve.

The spine of the nail is on the top of the nail – it provides the main strength of the nail and is where growth starts. The best nail trim focuses on removing much of the spine of the nail, which will allow the weaker parts of the nail to wear away and shorten before the spine grows out again.

The quick of the nail is the vascular area and is in the middle to bottom part of the nail. It is the one that bleeds when nicked. It can be shortened by removing the spine of the nail and allowing the quick to wear back.

The nerve is located on the bottom curvature of the nail and is painful if clipped. It is not painful if it wears back naturally once the spine of the nail is removed.

Thus a properly trimmed nail has more material removed from the top and sides, with the bottom being left to wear down naturally. The nails should not touch the ground when standing on a flat surface, and will interact with the ground when walking up a hill.

Maintaining properly trimmed nails helps overall health and can decrease stress compared to dogs that have nails that are too long.