Toenails & Posture

Posture is the interaction of your dog’s body with gravity. How your dog interacts with gravity is very important in maintaining optimal health and activity levels. How your dog stands is determined by the brain and central nervous system. The brain receives input about the earth from the muscles and joints of the body, then interprets it and sends instructions to the muscles on which way and how fast to move.

A proper stance is one that allows minimal energy expenditure to keep the body in a stationary upright position. In most dogs the front legs will be situated so that they are perpendicular to the ground and the body. This allows the stabilizing muscles (postural) to hold the animal up. These muscles have short muscle fibers, use a local energy source, and have lots of connective tissue. This stance is most efficient against gravity.

Upright posture can be inappropriately changed in a dog with long toenails. The only time your pet’s toenails should touch the ground is when they are digging a hole or walking up a hill. When the brain receives this data, it responds by telling the body to lean forward. This allows the body to utilize gravity to help maintain a stable stance. If you remove the slope of the hill, the animal must bring their butt up under them or else they would fall on their nose. When your dog has long toenails, it is as if they are walking uphill, but without the slope which changes their posture and can cause considerable problems.

This “butt tuck” stance with knees slightly bent causes the body to use mobilizing (fight/flight) muscles to hold the animal up. These mobilizing muscles have long muscle fibers, use an energy source that must be transported into the muscle and have almost no connective tissue. These muscles are used for short bursts of speed and not meant for holding long-term posture positions which will cause them to tire more rapidly.

Just like a woman in high heels, when this stance is maintained for any length of time there will be a lactic acid build up in the muscles. It is a very inefficient interaction with gravity and causes the muscles to become fatigued. Fatigue is the primary cause of injury in any species.

Standing with long toenails is inefficient due to gravity, is very physically tiring and can cause some serious health conditions.


A humped back causes the abdominal muscles to work abnormally and can lead to altered digestion and respiration. The hump in the back restricts the movement at the back of your pet’s head making it difficult to eat, drink and interact with other family members in an appropriate fashion.


When the back legs are brought up underneath the body of the dog it changes the angle of the stifle (equivalent to human knee). This change in angle decreases the stability of the joint making it more susceptible to damage. The most common injury seen is a result of the rupture or tear of the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL).


In the humped stance, there is abnormal strain on the shoulders and lower cervical spine. The stresses placed on the lower neck can cause problems such as whiplash type injuries in people.

Ensuring that your pets nails are trimmed short enough and properly is more than just a cosmetic improvement. If your pet is or has already suffered from one of the above health problems, your next step to improving their postural health is by visiting a AVCA certified animal chiropractor. He/she can explain how your companion can benefit from chiropractic care as well as improving their posture and overall structural health. If you are in the Mesa/Phoenix East Valley then give us a call, we would be happy to help.