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Observing, caring for our pet's nails is worth the time

by Dr. Fred Conkel — Commentary
| September 3, 2013 2:35 PM

The claws or nails of the hunting dog may serve him as they do the wolf. They aid in traction when traversing such slick surfaces as frozen ground or wet, grassy knolls.  

For the animal that is kept by people, the nails and surrounding skin require continued checking.

 The dog that does not constantly run on abrasive surfaces usually does not wear off the nails enough to keep up with their growth.  As the nails get longer, they interfere with the animal’s ability to walk on hard floor surfaces. They also may catch in carpets, furniture or any crevices in the yard outside.  

When this occurs, the nail will often break at the base. This causes pain, lameness and many times even a little blood loss.  

The nail must then be removed and the nail bed cauterized. It is much better to simply keep the nails trimmed.

 The dog seen chewing at his nails may have any one of a number of problems.  Weed seeds often work into the skin around the nail base and may travel into the foot and even up the leg.  What starts out as an irritation may result in a difficult surgical problem if the seed is buried somewhere in the foot or leg.  

The nail bed is also the site of bacterial infections. These cause redness, swelling, pain and often lameness. It may take considerable time in treatment before they respond.

Foot chewing may also be seen in certain cases of mange. The tiny mites that live in the hair follicles may cause no end of itching for the unlucky dog.

 Allergies are another potential cause of the mad itch that stimulates chewing around the nails and paws.  Such chewing may be set off by allergies to food stuffs, pollens, weeds, blankets or any of the dozens of allergens that also cause misery to us.

 The dog that licks or chews a foot could also have an injured pad or a foreign object piercing the skin or a toe. 

 As our old friend’s keeper, we shouldn’t ignore what we first may think is just a nuisance.

(Dr. Fred Conkel is veterinarian at Westgate Clinic.)