You notice your dog’s nails when it’s time to trim them, and whether your dog dreads those pedicures or not, you may have never really given those nails much thought. Dog nails are more than just sharp protrusion from your dog’s paws. They are there for many reasons and there are many things to discover about them. Dog Nails Come in Different Colours Generally, the colour of the nail varies based on the colour of the surrounding skin and hair. White fur usually comes with white nails, while brown and black fur comes with black nails. In some cases, dog nails may be bi-color, featuring different colours on the same nail. Sometimes, dog owners may report changes in their dog’s nail colour, such as a dog’s black nails becoming pale. When this happens, it can be simply a sign that the cells responsible for causing pigment (melanocytes) aren’t producing any pigment for some reason. While these colour changes may be normal,they can sometimes signify a health problem so should be brought to a vet’s attention. And what about that clicking noise the nails make on the tiles at home? Dr. Judith M. Shoemaker, DVM , who specialises in postural rehabilitation, explains it this way: “The only time a normal dog’s nail should contact the ground is when it is climbing a hill. In a dog with overgrown nails, the neurologic signal from a long toenail contacting the ground is interpreted by the brain as an inclined ground surface. This abnormal compensatory posture results in too much weight carried by the hind legs, thus overloading those joints. Many animals who seem to be lame or weak behind can be helped enormously with just an effective nail trim that changes this posture.” Pain Extremely overgrown dog nails can cause painful feet. Very painful feet in some cases. When a dog’s toenails contact the hard ground, the hard surface pushes the nail back up into the nail bed. Movement and gait abnormality Think about the last time you had a rock in your shoe. Did you continue to walk or run normally, fully planting your bare foot on the rock? No, of course not. You likely did one of three things. You either turned or twisted your foot in an unnatural way to avoid stepping on the rock, Shook your foot to free the rock from under it, or stopped moving and took your shoe off to get rid of the rock. Unfortunately, our dogs do not have the luxury of shoes to avoid the rocks (nails) that are causing them pain. So they compensate their movement in an unbalanced way (by limping or favouring certain limbs) which can lead to overused muscles and eventually overused joints. Infection Infections can stem from a few different things related to dog nails that are too long. They can catch the carpet, plants or furniture resulting in the entire nail potentially ripping out of the paw making the paw prone to infection. In severe cases, they can curl under and grow into the pad of the dog’s paw causing pain and infections. These types of ingrown nail problems are most common on the dewclaws. They are more susceptible to nail infections that can result in permanent defective nail growth. Don’t feel ashamed to ask your veterinary clinic or groomer to clip your dog’s nails. The vets and nurses will be more than happy to assist, they are just a phone call away. Fearless mani-pedi, cooperative care Cooperative Care refers to a variety of behaviours and skills that help dogs accept and tolerate physical care of all types. We often see the need for cooperative care in grooming and veterinary procedures. Many dog owners never really consider proactively teaching husbandry; they simply use pressure and force to get things done. Some dogs are fine with that. Others, however, are much more sensitive. In either case, training cooperative care procedures can make grooming and vet visits much less stressful for everyone involved. For cooperative care work, there are 10 essential skills to teach a dog. These are the skills I consider most common and most important. This is a good foundation for your cooperative work. The 10 essentials for cooperative care are: 1) chin rest; 2) lie on side; 3) restraint; 4) wear a muzzle; 5) foot handling; 6) mouth and teeth handling; 7) taking medication; 8) tolerating an injection or blood draw; 9) eye exam; 10) ear exam. For many dogs, especially already sensitive ones, these skills can take months to learn. Once these foundations are in place and challenged by more complex skills, you will have laid a strong foundation for any sort of procedure that your dog might need in the future. By developing trust, clear communication, and a strong reinforcement history, your dog will become comfortable doing whatever you ask.