Keratin King, struck again: nail care and torn claws

Claw-breakage sucks. It hurts. It’s less likely to happen when nails are short, but even then, given the wrong combination of movement and icy ground, it can happen.

Gilly got a bad break this weekend from a particularly joyous run-and-skid on a wintry dirt road; he was due (that day! Murphy’s Law) for his trim, so they were longer than usual, making for a nasty, painful tear high enough up in the nail to suck mightily.

I put antibiotic ointment on it and bandaged it up, gave him aspirin*, then took him to the vet for a look at it today, not sure whether it was going to need to be cut off under sedation to prevent more serious and painful complications: luckily, the verdict is that as long as he doesn’t tear it further, he should heal okay reasonably quickly. It’s closer to the end of his nail than it looked at first, so I’ll keep it lightly padded under a tape-bootie (to keep it from snagging or banging on anything) until it heals and grows out enough for me to cut off the broken bits. They gave him a prophylactic antibiotic, to ward off infection, but hopefully that’s all he’ll need.

*Edited to add: Gilly sometimes gets low-dosage, vet-approved buffered aspirin – check with your vet, though, it can do a number on their stomachs and many human medicines are unsafe for animals.

This happened once before, when we were on a different wintry mountain: that one also didn’t need veterinary intervention, but man, it took long, long weeks to heal.

It’s got me thinking about how much I envy people with dogs who have light-colored and soft claws.

Sometimes I look at other dog’s feet and sigh with longing.

I offer to do my mother’s dog’s nails whenever I notice them because they’re so damn easy it’s practically fun.

All his life, Gilly’s had something more resembling a grizzly bear’s feet than a dog’s: thick, opaque black, and fast fast fast growing nails with quicks that like to stay all the way down near the tips even when he gets them trimmed frequently. Most of his life I’ve used a Dremel instead of clippers, since it reduces the likelihood of cutting the quick (a thing as painful as it is bloody: there’s nerve and artery in there), and while the sander is a good tool for him, it’s a constant struggle to keep his nails short.

The sander/Dremel-style tool designed for pets, with the little guard on it to hold the nail? His claws SCOFF at that thing. It takes a much coarser drum-sander – and wall-socket-strength electricity – to dent his keratin. That little battery-powered delicate gizmo makes no impact on Gilly-feet at all.

Clippers are faster (and quieter, of course), but no matter how careful I am, about one time in five I bleed him (and professionals do, too): there’s no way to see his quicks, and like I said, they don’t seem to draw back as far as some dogs’ do, making even the quarter-inch angle a risk.

The single most helpful thing I figured out about doing his nails was behavioral – meaning, MY behavior: he doesn’t like it, as many dogs don’t, and without meaning to I was making it worse by making a big EVENT out of cutting his nails (lots of preparation and talk and sympathy and cookies). When I belatedly realized I was escalating his anxiety instead of lowering it and just started doing a low-drama, no-talk-no-fuss approach with as bored and boring an affect as I could muster, it got much better for both of us.

But still, I envy easy toes.

Any grizzly-feet-dog owners out there with good strategies for keeping their nails really short?

In general, Gilly’s vets have said the longer length I’ve settled for is fine (not so long it distorts his gait or foot position, obviously, just longer than the professional pedicure look), but I hate that the longer they are, the likelier it is that his athletic nature will get him into winter tears like this.

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One response to “Keratin King, struck again: nail care and torn claws

  1. Pingback: The Saga of Keratin King, continued | Gilgablog

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