Trimming your dog’s nails is not just a part of grooming, but is important for your dog’s health as well. It is important to remember that untrimmed nails can cause a variety of problems including broken nails that are painful and bleed profusely. In some cases, nails will actually curl and grow back into the dog’s feet.
A good indication that dogs’ nails are too long is a telltale ‘click-click-click’ when walking on uncarpeted areas.
How many of us put off trimming our dog’s nails until the inevitable veterinary check-up comes around and the veterinarian must do it? If you are like many dog owners, you may be hesitant to trim your dog’s nails because you are afraid of cutting the quick of the nail, which may cause pain or bleeding. Once you learn how to do it, clipping your dog’s nails is almost as easy as clipping your own.
When you are trimming your dog’s nails, you are only cutting away the excess. Recognizing what is excess and where the nerves and blood vessels begin is what you need to know to make nail trimming a painless process for both you and your dog.
You may want to sit on the floor with your dog, hold your dog in your lap, or have someone hold your dog on a table. Hold your dog’s paw firmly and push on his pads to extend the nail. Locate where the quick ends. With clear or light nails, it is easy to see the pink color where the quick ends.
Using a nail trimmer for dogs, cut the nail below the quick on a 45-degree angle, with the cutting end of the nail clipper toward the end of the nail. You will be cutting off the finer point. In dogs, especially those with dark nails, make several small nips with the clippers instead of one larger one. Trim very thin slices off the end of the nail until you see a black dot appear towards the center of the nail when you look at it head on. This is the start of the quick that you want to avoid. The good news is that, the more diligent you are about trimming, the more the quick will regress into the nail, allowing you to cut shorter each time.
In some cases, if the nails are brittle, the cut may tend to splinter the nail. In these cases, file the nail in a sweeping motion starting from the back of the nail and following the curve to the tip. Several strokes will remove any burrs and leave the nail smooth.
If your dog will tolerate it, do all four feet this way. If he will not, take a break. And do not forget the dewclaws. On most breeds, if they have not been removed, dewclaws are 1-4" above the feet on the inner side of the legs. If not trimmed, dewclaws can grow so long they curl up and grow into the soft tissue, like a painful ingrown toe nail.
If you accidentally cut the quick, wipe off the blood and apply Kwik-Stop or styptic powder to stop the bleeding. It is not serious and will heal in a very short time.
Some valuable tips:
Remember, it is better to trim a small amount on a regular basis than to try and remove large portions. Try to trim your dog’s nails weekly, even if long walks keep them naturally short. The ‘quick,’ a blood vessel that runs down the middle of your dog’s nail, grows as the nail grows, so if you wait a long time between cuttings, the quick will be closer to the end of the nail. This means more likelihood of bleeding during trimming.
Trim nails so that when the dog steps down, nails do not touch the floor.
Invest in a good pair of nail trimmers in an appropriate size for your dog. They can last a lifetime.
Make trimming time fun and not a struggle. Trimming your dog’s nails does not have to be a chore or unpleasant. If your dog is not used to having his nails trimmed, start slowly, and gradually work up to simply holding his toes firmly for 15-30 seconds. Do not let him mouth or bite at you. It can take daily handling for a week or more to get some dogs used to this. When your dog tolerates having his feet held, clip just one nail, and if he is good, praise him and give him a tiny treat. Wait, and then at another time, do another nail. Continue until all nails have been trimmed. Slowly, you will be able to cut several nails in one sitting, and finally all the nails in one session.