Have you heard that click clack sound as your dog walks across the hardwood floor? That needs to be our call to action as responsible pet owners! Its more important than you would believe (for your pet, not just your floor). In horses depending on the surface, we may hear a difference in sound when hooves need a good trimming, but visual cues are most important in identifying when a horse needs a trim! For one thing the hooves are not hidden in hair like nails are, and for another, they are quite large and imbalances can be easily seen! As for cats, well, they are much more evolved on the grooming side and if given a scratch post, they likely take nail care into their own paws!
Any time an animal is walking on long nails or hooves it changes the angle of their lower limbs. Imagine if you will that you walk around with one inch spikes on the front of your shoes. Sound comfy? Your toes are lifted and the structures at the back of your leg are stretched. You begin to walk entirely differently, which changes your whole body mechanics! This happens in our animals when claws or the front side of hooves are left too long, leaving them prone to injury just trying to walk, let alone run, trot, canter, or play! For dogs in particular, if the pads of their paws are lifted due to long claws, they become more unstable on smooth surfaces, leaving them prone to injury, even in younger dogs! In the care of horses, there are additional ways in which the hooves may become imbalanced. If they are too long at the back of the hoof, it would be like you walking in heels, once again leading to injury. If the hoof wears unevenly sometimes due to biomechanical imbalances and sometimes due to imbalanced use of the horse, it would be like us walking on the inside of our feet or the outside. Moving in any of these positions for a prolonged period of time will cause major problems for the whole body which has to compensate!
What do do? In the case of dogs, trim their nails regularly. A great tip from groomer Janice at Better Dog Training in Stratford is to make small trims regularly to allow the blood vessels to pull back a bit and slowly get the nails to a healthier length. Don’t forget to maintain that length, once you achieve it with continued regular trimming. If you are afraid of hurting your dog or can’t get them to cooperate, use a professional to help keep their nails healthy. For horses, work closely with your farrier to keep the hooves at a healthy and balanced length on an ongoing basis. You animal’s health and performance and your ongoing enjoyment of them requires small regular care like this!
***Since the original blog post, I have fallen in love with this video on you tube and recommend it to many many many patients. Dr. Woodcock does an amazing job of explaining the importance of nail trimming!***