If your Lab’s feet are not hitting the ground correctly, it affects his ability to walk and stand. I found this out early on when I began showing my Labradors—the first thing my handler did when my dog arrived was trim his nails. They know how much it affects their movement (which is part of what they are judged for in AKC conformation shows). But I also learned that long nails lead to lameness, inflammation and arthritis. I’ve tried to refrain from freaking out when I see old dogs walking around with these long, curled toenails. They actually look like they are limping—their toes twisting awkwardly in all different directions! I have to bite my tongue or I’d tend to anger many Lab owners if I chastised them for doing this to their poor fur babies. Hopefully, this blog will save many Labs from tremendous disfigurement and pain in the future.
If you ignore your Lab’s nails from an early age, the bones and cartilage will actually grow deformed and will affect their quality of movement throughout their entire life. If you notice a dog with overgrown toe nails–they are actually walking on the back of their paw. This so damaging to your dog’s elbow joints and their rear hock and pasterns.
As a breeder, if I see a dog whose parents both passed OFA on elbows and hips and a client complains they have ‘elbow or hip dysplasia,’ I look first to see the toe nails. If they are long, I can be sure this person inadvertently caused this issue, most likely (if they are grossly long, causing undue wear on the joints).
I implore you—even if you are terrified to trimming your Lab’s nails—do it. Sometimes it’s a two-person job—but it’s absolutely necessary. As soon as you hear their nails clicking on the floor or pavement—that’s your cue that its time to get out the clippers.
Be sure to buy a high quality trimmer for large dogs that will not just “bend” the nails, but trim them cleanly and quickly. The more often you trim them the more the ‘quick’ will recede up into the nail and allow you to take more and more length each time.
Start nail clipping with your little puppy so that she is use to it and doesn’t dread it or fight you. Never only let your veterinarian trim your Lab’s nails. It will traumatize your dog any time you touch their feet–or visit your vet. So make it a common task, and try to do it every two weeks, and no less than once a month.
If you are afraid of a little blood at the start, keep some superglue on hand, and dab it on the nail tip at the first sign of blood. But if you do it correctly, you will not hit the quick (which is like a vein). It’s a little more difficult to see the quick in the black and chocolate labs, but the yellows are quite easy. So you can be a little more aggressive with the yellows.
Don’t forget to have lots of treats available –and tummy rubs-so your Lab starts to associate nail-trimming as a favorable experience.
-Liv Stanley, Labrador Breeder of Merit, AKC