How to Cut a Dog’s Nails

People frequently ask us how to trim their puppies’ or dog’s nails.

Nail trimming becomes necessary when the rate of nail growth exceeds the rate of nail wear.  If the nails do not get trimmed, and become excessively long, they may cause an unnatural placement of the toes.  This sets pets up for mobility problems.  The toes hurt so the pets either want to avoid walking or try to shift their weight off their toes, causing an abnormal gait.  Long nails may also get snagged in spaces between boards on decks, loopy carpeting or even vegetation when out for a walk.  Broken or torn nails may be quite painful and require several days of paw bandages until the injury heals.

Healthy Length Dog Nails

Overgrown Dog Nails:

There are several types of nail trimmers on the market.  Selection is based on the size of the pet and personal comfort of the person trimming the nails.  Larger nails need a sturdier clipper to get the job done.  Regardless of your choice, the clipper should be sharp, providing a quick smooth clip rather than a squeezing sensation or a tearing action on the nail.

Trimming should be done with a reward system in place.  Trim nails –> go for a walk, or get dinner, play a game, get a belly rub.  It needs to be something your pet enjoys!  You could even make it a family activity and have someone feeding Fido treats as the nails are being clipped.

When trimming, choose a non-carpeted area that’s easy to clean up. Start slowly. Only trim the tips or just one or two nails at a time.  Be sure to praise all good behavior!  Regularly handle your dog’s feet even when they don’t need trimming to get them used to having their feet touched.  Many pets will behave nicely when laid on their side, rather than turning their legs to get at their nails.

Not all nails will need the same amount trimmed off.  Look at the cut surface of the nail after each clip and watch for a central circle to appear and STOP trimming when you see it.  On lighter nails the circle will appear pinkish, on dark nails it will be darker colored.  This circle is the sensitive “quick” of the nail.  It will bleed if you clip it. If you are unsure how close you are to the quick press on the center of the trimmed surface; if you are close to the quick it will feel a bit softer.

Light Colored Nails Showing Pink Quicks:

Dark Colored Nails Showing Dark Quicks:

Have some styptic powder on hand in case a nail gets trimmed too closely. To use, dab the blood off the nail and press a small amount of styptic on the cut surface and apply slight pressure to pack it in and stop the bleeding.  Placing some styptic on a piece of gauze or paper towel will make this process easier.  If you run out of styptic a bit of white flour can be used in a pinch.

How often?  Trim when it’s needed.  Nails grow at different rates and wear at different rates.  Some pets frequently need their dewclaws trimmed while their other toes wear down on walks.  Other pets walk frequently on pavement and rarely need trims.

Home nail trimming is generally less stressful for pets; give it a try!

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