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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dog Nails: Keeping Your Boxer's Toenails Trimmed

Trimming your Boxer's nails can be a stressful experience for both you and your dog. Early exposure to trimmers and grinders can help, as can frequent, regular exposure throughout the dog's life. Start your Boxer puppy out with weekly toenail trimming sessions, and you'll have a far better chance of avoiding a wrestling match when you want to do your adult dog's nails.

The right tool is half the battle. While the common "guillotine" clippers are fine for puppies, small breeds, and cats, most adult Boxers will object to having their nails trimmed with these tools. The blade of guillotine clippers cut from the bottom up, squeezing the nail from the top and bottom, which puts pressure on the quick (the fleshy part inside the nail) and is uncomfortable to the dog. Pliers-style clippers cut from the sides, which in turn squeezes the nail from the left and right and puts less pressure on the quick. Many dogs who fight against guillotine clippers will accept a trimming with pliers-style clippers.

With any kind of clippers, you need to be careful to avoid cutting into the quick; this is painful for the dog and generally bleeds quite a bit. (If you do hit the quick, dipping a toenail into styptic powder will usually stop the bleeding; in a pinch, you can use Alum, cornstarch, or flour.) Some pliers-style clippers have a "guard" intended to prevent you from cutting into the quick, but depending on the dog the guard may be too far or too close from the quick.

Pliers-style clippersBack of clippers, showing guard in place
Alternatively, you can use a rotary grinding tool to trim your Boxer's nails. Several such tools are made specifically for dog nails; however, many of these are not powerful enough to trim the nails of a dog the size of a Boxer. (Or, rather, they could trim the nails but it would take hours rather than minutes.) Multiple-speed rotary tools made for home projects generally have the power necessary to effectively and efficiently grind Boxer nails. Pet nail grinders such as those seen on TV do work well with young Boxer puppy nails, and make a good transitional tool between clippers and a more powerful grinder.

Most dogs object far less to a grinder than to clippers, though there may be an adjustment period. The sensation of the grinding tool on the nails is somewhat odd and slightly irritating, so you should slowly work your Boxer up to having all of his nails trimmed, rather than jumping right in to a full pedicure. While some people use grinding stones, these can get very hot on the dog's nails very quickly. A fine- or medium-grit sanding band grinds nails quickly and doesn't get as hot as a stone, but some Boxers may be less comfortable with bands than with stones. Test a few different options to see which, if any, your dog seems to prefer. Regardless of the grinding surface used, don't leave the tool on the nail for too long and keep it in constant motion; this will minimize the heat the dog feels.

Hold each toe firmly but gently as you grind to minimize vibrations
Trim the toenails to just longer than the quick; if you get too close, you may nick it and cause it to bleed. The quick is visible through uncolored toenails; if you're having a hard time seeing it, try shining a bright light on the nail. Black toenails are more difficult to trim, since you cannot see the quick as easily.  Most Boxers have at least a few uncolored toenails; if you trim those first, you can use their length as a guide for trimming the black toenails. You may notice a reddish-brown staining or coating on your Boxer's nails; this is a build-up of tartar or yeast, and is often found on dogs who constantly lick or chew their feet. If the foot also has reddish staining, it is very likely a yeast issue. Talk with your vet to be sure there are no underlying health problems leading to the overabundance of yeast. You can try having the dog stand in a shallow pan with a 50/50 mix of water and raw apple cider vinegar (deep enough to cover the feet), or water with a capful of anti-fungal shampoo such as Selsun Blue or Nizoral.

Reddish-brown staining
indicating yeast
Trimmed vs untrimmed nails

The hair between this Boxer's toes
may affect its traction on certain floors
The same foot, with the
excess hair trimmed

These nails are already short
and do not need much trimming
The same foot, nails trimmed

Keeping the nails short does more than save your furniture, floors, and skin. Nails that are too long, as in the above "yeast" photo, interfere with the position of the toes, which can lead to damage to the structure of the foot and breakdown of the pasterns. This in turn may lead to other bone and joint problems if the condition continues for a significant length of time. As a general rule of thumb, if you can hear the toenails clicking when your Boxer walks across a hard surface, it's time for a trimming.

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