Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your dog.

Claws vs. Nails: What Do Dogs Have?

Claws and nails have different characteristics.

Did you know that claws and nails aren't the same thing? They're not, and dogs have claws. Here are some of the differences between the two structures and some other interesting facts about dogs' claws.

Claws Have Nerves and Blood Vessels

Claws contain nerves and blood vessels, while nails do not. That's why a dog's claw will sometimes bleed when it is cut short, and it is also sometimes why dogs cry or pull away during claw trimming.

Claws Are Attached to Bone

Humans have nails, which are dull, flat, and sit on top of the ends of our fingers and toes. Claws, in contrast, come to a point and protrude from the ends of the toes.

Nails grow from cuticles, structures in the skin that support, feed, and promote nail growth. Claws come directly out of the phalanx bones at the end of a dogs' toes.

Claws Are Meant for Use

Claws perform jobs for those that have them. In some animals, claws are meant for digging or climbing. In others, like dogs, they're meant for grabbing and holding onto prey. Our human nails can't do those things nearly as well.

The term "nails" is often used interchangeably with "claws," especially when talking about trimming. It is fine to interchange the terms as long as it is understood that a dog's claws have some different properties and need particular care.



 

 
 

Claws Can Have Problems

A dog's claws are a part of their body that need our attention to ensure they stay healthy. Some dogs need routine claw trims while others wear theirs down naturally. Various diseases, tumors, and injuries can affect claws, so they should be regularly examined for any changes.

You can learn how to trim your dog's claws here: "Helpful Tips for Trimming Your Dog's Nails."

The best thing you can do for your dog's claw care is get him used to having them looked at and trimmed. You can do this by gently handling his paws from a young age, giving him gentle praise when he allows it.

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