The Importance of Nail Trimming: What’s The Most Common Problem I See In My Canine Patients?

by Dr. Julie Buzby 

There is an extremely common problem making dogs suffer and vulnerable to injuries. Do you know what it is?

Dental disease?  That is undoubtedly a pervasive problem, affecting 80% of dogs over the age of three. The issue I’m thinking of occurs in over 90% of my new patients.

Ear infections?  According to veterinary pet insurance records, this is the number one reason dogs are presented to the veterinarian. The issue I refer to is rarely why the dog is on my schedule, which many veterinarians wouldn’t even notice.

Obesity? Another significant problem. The one I have in mind can be cured in ten minutes for about twenty dollars.

The Importance of Nail-Trimming: What’s The Most Common Problem I See In My Canine Patients?

The most ubiquitous problem I saw when I owned a general veterinary practice, and now see in my holistic practice, is one in the same—long toenails.

Dr. Julie Buzby

The importance of nail trimming

At this point, you are either nodding your head in knowing agreement or furrowing your brow in dismay.  Either way, please bear with me as I make my case.  I promise when I’m done, you will never look at your dog’s toenails the same way.

Wild canines have short, short nails. 

In their natural environment, dogs run, climb, and dig.  This keeps their nails worn down.  But our domestic dogs live on hard-surface floors, lounge around on the furniture, and get walked 20 minutes a day (if they’re lucky).

The byproducts of our dogs’ lifestyle include

  • obesity
  • behavioral problems
  • and long toenails


Dogs’ toes have an abundance of proprioceptive receptors.  These receptors feed input to the brain about the body’s spatial position, in relation to the ground and with respect to gravity.

Long nails send faulty information to the brain.  

The brain makes adjustments accordingly.  The result is a dog who stands with chronic bad posture and moves with an altered gait.

The proof

Let me prove it to you.  

Please stand up.  Yes, I’d like you to stand up now and curl your toes, simulating long toenails pushing up a dog’s toes.  Did you feel the way your body weight shifted?  Now please do it once again, but this time, I appreciate the subtle changes you felt in your joints, in your muscles, and even your jaw.

Long toenails significantly affect a dog’s posture

The Importance of Nail-Trimming: What’s The Most Common Problem I See In My Canine Patients?
Molly’s posture pre-nail trim

A dog with long toenails can’t stand with legs perpendicular to the ground. Instead, he compensates by adopting the “goat on a rock” stance, where his forelegs are “behind” perpendicular, and the hind legs must come under him to prevent him from tipping forward. (see photo)

The Importance of Nail-Trimming: What’s The Most Common Problem I See In My Canine Patients?
Molly’s improved posture immediately post nail trim.

Walking with long toenails can be likened to walking in ill-fitting shoes.

Dr. Julie Buzby
The Importance of Nail-Trimming: What’s The Most Common Problem I See In My Canine Patients?
Most dogs walk around
with nails like this

When presented with a new patient, I generally begin with an effective (and pain-free) toenail trim after taking the history.  This is because it will instantly change the dog’s gait (and posture mentioned above). Then, when I do my gaiting and chiropractic exam, I can focus on deeper issues, not compensatory problems from long toenails.

See the difference a good nail trim makes

My ten-minute short-nail makeover yields a level of instant relief for the dog and potentiates any holistic treatments I then perform. Some of my clients prefer that I continue to trim their dog’s nails after our initial visit.  Others are willing to learn to do it themselves, which makes me proud.

I trim my own dog’s nails every 1-2 weeks and recommend a maximum interval of 4 weeks for my patients.

I joke with my clients that Michelle Obama has childhood obesity, and I have dog toenails.

Example of short nail trim

A quality nail trim is the best “bang for their buck” I offer my clients and a profound gift I can give my patients.

Related articles:
Tips for a Healthy Dog: My Favorite Things for Keeping A Dog Fit and Healthy

Further reading:
3 Painful Reasons to Trim Your Dogs Nails
5 Tips for Successful Dog Nail Trims

Categories: Nail trimmingPosture

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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