Those Darn Nails



Many articles have been written on nail trimming and nail care. This article will try to cover most of what you need to know about general nail care and also go into some detail about what can happen when nail care is neglected.


First of all let's discuss nail trimmers and what you want to use with your sheltie.


There are generally two types of nail trimmers. One is the guillotine style clipper and the other is the plier style clipper. Which is the best? Actually I find that after using both in my over 30 years of nail trimming that I like the plier type better. Not that they are better trimmers because the use of either is an individual preference.

I just like the feel of the plier type nail trimmer in my hand better than the other. The type of plier clipper I use is the Miller Forge brand name. They hold up better and their blades last a long time. I find the spring inside will generally come out or wear in two before the blades go. I have used my clipper many years before replacing and I groom dogs five days a week and do around 4-5 dogs each day.


I use the medium size for all sizes shelties but have a bigger set for the larger collie size shelties.


I hear there is now a set of nail trimmers that run on batteries that have an automatic quick finder on them. Finding they cost $53 though has kept me from trying them out. This is a price from a wholesale catalog so keep this in mind if you go to your local pet department store looking for these things. If you do go to a pet supply store, expect to add about another $20 onto the price.


I also have a nail grinder or drummel as woodworkers call them. This is a nice piece of equipment that puts a nice finish on the nails. If you have a dog that is a lap dog or one that jumps a lot onto your legs, or you are an elderly person with thin skin, asking your groomer to grind the nails down is a great way to get the sharp edges off after the initial trim is done with regular nail trimmers.


FINDING THE QUICK: The secret of a safe nail trim is cutting the nails without cutting into the quick.


The quick is the blood vein that runs to the “living” part of the nail. The end of the nail is what is cut off and the quick is avoided due to the excessive bleeding which can occur if the nail is cut too short. Finding the quick in a white nail is easy. The nail part that is white is cut off, the pink part above it is left as it contains the vein and nerve endings to each nail.


Everyone should keep some nail powder called quick stop on hand to stop bleeding in case a nail is cut too short and starts to bleed. Believe you me they will bleed and bleed and bleed too. So keeping this powder on hand is good to stop bleeding if and when you accidently do cut the nail too short.


I pack this powder on the cut nail end until the bleeding stops.


If you have a sheltie with all black nails, a good rule of thumb is to look for at least one white nail, note how short you have to cut it and cut the same amount off the black nails. After making a cut look at the end of the nail. If you see white surrounding a small black spot, STOP. You have reached the quick and another cut will bring blood. Keep in mind you will not usually have to trim as much off of back nails as you do the front ones.


NAIL NEGLECT: Nails left for long periods of time will have long quicks and not much can be removed on the first cut. These dogs should have their nails done on a weekly basis so that the quick will go back and recede. A dog that chews their nails or a dog that has their nails done on a weekly schedule will have shorter quicks and more can be taken off of the longer nail.


Now lets talk about dewclaws. Most shelties have these things removed as puppies and don't have them. Some breeders take the back dewclaws off and leave the front. These appear as a looser toe up higher on the inside of the foot. These cannot reach the ground and therefore receive no natural filing due to walking on concrete or asphalt if you walk your dog on a regular basis.


They have a tendency to grow in a circle and can grow into the side of the foot or toe. If you have ever had an ingrown toenail you know the pain I am talking about when this happens to one of our shelties. It HURTS!!!!


These toes should have been taken off of your dog when it was born and any breeder worth their salt would have had this done preventing any problems in the future.


Sometimes our sheltie puppies are born with double ones on the back causing even more problems if they are not removed as babies.


MAKE SURE these dewclaws are cut back if they have not been removed. They are a dangerous problem if left to their own devices. (SEE PICTURES). If your breeder did not remove them, when you have your young dog spayed or neutered and while they are out for this the dewclaws can be removed at this time. And I do recommend that this be done.


This picture is a bit blurry but you can see the hole the toenail left when it was cut off.  This nail was about half an inch into the hole.

Again this picture is not too clear but you may see the length of the other dew claw.  This was not stuck into the side of the toe but was nearly there.


Further more, even if you do not want to tackle the job of trimming your own dog's nails, PLEASE, PLEASE at least twice a month check your dog's nails to make sure they are not growing into the side of their foot or causing foot problems by curling to the sides of the feet. If they look long to you they are and should be attended to promptly by your vet or groomer.


Nails left too long can curl to the side and make walking for the dog very difficult.

Dewclaw nails after cutting.  The one on the left was about 50 percent stuck into the dog's toe.