So what if your dog has overgrown nails? Ok, maybe your pup’s long nails don’t look pretty, but are they causing any harm?   Uh Oh, the reality is, your pet’s overgrown nails are a real problem. They cause pain, increase the risk of injury, and can cause long lasting damage. While you might love long fancy nails, it isn’t the same for your dog and here’s why. 

Yes, human nails and animal claws are both formed from keratin. Keratin is also nature’s go-to material for all sorts of exterior growths like fur, skin, claws, scales, feathers, beaks, hooves, horns, whale baleen, and more. Specialized cells almost continuously produce this protein fiber that forms all these things.  

Photo from Alexandra Koch/Pixabay

Different Functions:

Hands have fingernails because they are mostly used to grasp things, according to a Biological Anthropologist John Hawks. Primates, including humans, adapted fingernails to protect delicate nerve endings while supporting the long, narrow shape of fingertips while grasping objects. Thin, flat nails are also useful with fine motor control tasks like picking up very thin or small objects… or important things like opening aluminum can tabs for your pet’s food.

Animal claws are primarily used to aggressively dig into earth, wood, animal hide and other tough materials. They provide traction and grip for climbing, running, hunting, digging, scratching and shredding. Animal’s strong and durable claws are formed to stand up to daily hard use.  

Different Forms:

Your nails grow on the top of your fingers and toes from a nail bed, attached deep in your skin. The nail bed, or quick, is sensitive and well supplied with blood to provide the materials for forming keratin. As the specialized cells form new keratin the older keratin is pushed towards the end of the finger. The nail bed detaches from the keratin as the finger comes to a tip and only a thin, flat sheet of keratin sticks out past that point.  

Claws grow from tissue called a quick. The quick attaches directly to the toe bone and both extend through the skin. Like your nail bed, the quick is sensitive and has good blood supply. The quick grows a thick, dense keratin wrap around itself like a taco shell, as it extends out and curves downward. Hard use of the claw causes pressure at the outermost tip of the quick. This pressure signals the quick to detach and recede slightly, leaving a protective tip of solid keratin. 

Different Function and Form = Different effects from Length 

Fingernails break and tear easily across the width of the nail once the thin, flat sheets of keratin detach from the nail beds. Fingernails can grow quite long, but not without care and attention. Seriously, the annual spending for nail salon services in the U.S. was 8.36 billion in 2020, according to the Statista Research Department. Fingernails break easily back to the edge of the nail bed, and while it might hurt a little, actual damage rarely occurs.

Animal claws do not break or tear easily. The longer they get, the more likely they are to catch on things. With enough force or stress, claws can break. When that happens the quick is usually torn, exposed, and bleeds profusely. The entire claw sometimes gets ripped off of the toe bone. If a claw gets caught while the animal is in motion it easily results in enough stress to damage soft tissue, like skin, ligaments and muscles. Enough force and bones and joints can be broken. 

This is just the immediate danger from overgrown nails, but long-term harm can occur as well.

Imagine wearing a pair of high-heeled shoes. We like the way they look, no matter the well-known risks. Risks so common even boring business publications like write articles about it. Like, “Scary Things That Can Happen When You Wear Heels Too Much”. Similar scary things happen with overgrown animal claws.

Heeled shoes push your weight forward onto your toes, changing the angle of every joint up. This places stress on your bones, joints, and soft tissue, as well as making you more likely to stumble or trip. 

For animals, overgrown claws push the tips of the toes higher while rocking weight onto the rear of the foot. Dogs are built to carry more weight on their toes. Like with high heels, it puts stress on bones and soft tissue while increases the risk of injury. Plus, your dog can’t take their claws off after a long day on their feet. For some pet’s this may go on for weeks, months, even years.

Dogs and cats with chronically overgrown nails commonly have toes that are splayed or twisted to the side. They may develop cysts, infections, and other issues. The claws curl back towards the paw like ram horns and they can even grow back into the flesh. Long lasting and even permanent damage to bones and joints from the constant stress is likely.


Taking care of your pet’s grooming is just part of responsible ownership. It can be easy to let nails get overgrown if trimming your dog’s nails is difficult. Make it easy, the easiest solution is to get professional pawdicures, conveniently offered at Auggie’s Pet Spa. If you are a DIY type then Auggie’s Pet Supplies has what you need. We have knowledgeable advice and all the best tools to do the job right. See you soon!