How to Trim your Pet’s Nails

Nail trimming is an important part of a regular grooming routine. If your pet’s nails get too long, they can break, which is painful and sometimes results in infection. They can also grow into their foot pads. Long nails can also cause an irregular gait that leads to skeletal damage.

Some pets do not like having their claws trimmed. Start trimming claws in  animals when they are young so that they get used to their feet being touched and the nail trim process. Some pets will happily sit in your lap or on a table while you trim their claws but many require some form of restraint.

One method to restrain the dog is to place her/him on a table. Stand on the side of the table opposite to the claws you are trimming. Drape your arms and upper body over the dog. When trimming the front claws, keep your left forearm over the neck to keep the dog from lifting its head. Hold the paw in your left hand and hold the trimmer in your right hand.

If your pet is too wiggly, you may need assistance. Try laying him/her on his/her side. One person can be the restrainer and the other can be the nail clipper. The restrainer can hold the pet on their side by holding the legs in the front and back that are closest to the ground. This helps the pet stay in the lying position and makes it harder for them to get up. Once lying down on their side, the person clipping the nails can begin.

There are several styles of nail trimmers, including a guillotine type and a scissors type. You can also use a nail file or a nail drum. Knowing where to trim a nail takes some practice. If your dog has clear nails, you can see the live quick, which looks pink. Cut the nail no closer than about two millimeters from the quick. If your dog has dark nails, you can avoid cutting into the quick by trimming one little sliver of nail at a time, starting with the tip. As you cut slices off your dog’s nail, look at the exposed edge of the cut nail. Eventually, you’ll see a gray/black or pink oval starting to appear. Stop trimming when you see the oval. Another option with black nails is to have an assistant use a flashlight to back-light each of your dog’s nails while you trim. The light from behind the nail allows you to clearly see the pink quick.

If you do trim your dog’s nail too short and cut the quick, which contains blood vessels and nerves, the nail will bleed and your dog will likely yelp and pull away. Stay calm, talk in a soothing voice and apply clotting powder directly to the exposed bleeding edge to stop the bleeding. If you do not have clotting powder, you can try some flour or corn starch or placing the bleeding nail in a bar of soap. If you cannot stop the bleeding, please contact your Veterinarian.
If your dog seems upset, aggressive or stressed you can always book a nail trim appointment with our friendly clinic staff – we will  be happy to do the nail trim for you!


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