When and How to Trim Your Dog's Nails

By regularly clipping their nails, you can spare your dog the discomfort of a painful ingrown nail.  

Dog grooming should always include clipping or filing your dog's nails, but many dogs find this to be a traumatic experience.

Learn the proper techniques for cutting and filing your dog's nails, as well as what tools you'll need and how to do it with as little stress and injury as possible in this comprehensive guide.

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Nail Clippers for Dogs: Do It Yourself Nail Care

Thankfully, a dog's pedicure won't require an entire toolbox, just these essentials:

  • Tool for cutting a dog's nails

  • Treats

  • Powdered styptic agents, such as flour or cornstarch, are used to treat cuts.

Different Nail Clippers for Dogs

When it comes to clipping your dog's nails, you have a few different choices. Most veterinarians prefer nail clippers with a spring mechanism, either in the form of scissors or pliers, though some clients request "guillotine" style clippers. Thicker, tougher nails on dogs will benefit greatly from these.

A guard is included on some models to prevent snipping off too much of the nail.

Nail clippers in the scissor or plier style can be used on dogs of any size, but if you have a toy breed, you may find it more convenient to use nail clippers designed for cats or small dogs.

You can use human nail clippers on puppies and small adult dogs, but professional dog nail trimmers offer better visibility and are the better choice for most situations.

Using Snacks

To help your dog feel more comfortable during nail trims, keep a supply of treats on hand.

Bandage Powder

If you ever cut your nails too short, you should keep styptic powder handy. Stopping the bleeding with styptic powder will allow you to treat your dog's toe.

Safely Trimming Your Dog's Nails

Before you try to cut your dog's nails, it may help to first acclimate him to the nail clippers by showing him and making the noise they make.

To help your dog become accustomed to having their nails cut, you should practice with the clippers by bringing them out, clicking them, and letting them smell them on separate occasions.

When you get out the dog clippers, be sure to reward your pet with some tasty treats.

Methods for avoiding injury when trimming a dog's nails:

  1. You should take your dog to a calm, undisturbed spot.

  2. Hold a small dog in your lap or put it on something stable. When trimming the nails of a big dog, it helps to have someone else hold the animal for you.

  3. Hold your dog's paw firmly but gently between your thumb and forefinger.

  4. To force the nail forward, press down gently on the paw pad. Be sure that you can see the entire nail and that no hairs are in the way.

  5. Hold your dog still while you cut across the nail's tip. Avoid cutting the nail backwards from its natural shape.

  6. If you want your pet to look forward to getting their nails trimmed, you should reward them heavily before, during, and after.

A Guide to Filing Your Dog's Nails After Clipping

After clipping your dog's nails, filing them is necessary to get rid of any jagged edges.

  1. Spread your dog's toes with a heavy-duty nail file while holding his paw gently.

  2. Holding the file in your dominant hand, smooth out any rough spots.

Can You Tell Me How Short My Dog's Nails Should Be?

In order to avoid injuring the "quick," avoid cutting the nail backwards from its natural curve.

The nail's quick is the fleshy area in the nail's middle where blood vessels and nerves are located. A dog will experience bleeding and discomfort if you inadvertently cut this part of the nail.

To avoid injury to the quick, avoid cutting your nails too short.

If you or your dog experiences any pain during this procedure, please stop immediately and consult your local veterinarian.

Clipping Black Dog Nails

Black-nail-dogs can be more of a hazard. For people with naturally colored nails, identifying the beginning of the quick can be challenging.

When you start to cut, you may notice a white ring that resembles chalk around where the quick first emerges. Schedule an appointment with your vet to have your dog's black nails trimmed if you're not comfortable doing it yourself.

If you have any questions about how to trim black nails, feel free to ask a member of the veterinary hospital staff for a demonstration.

When Should Dog Nails Be Cut?

How often you should trim your dog's nails depends on how fast their nails grow and how often they get worn down.

Every three to four weeks is the recommended frequency for nail clipping in order to prevent the nail from touching the ground when your dog is standing.

It may be necessary to trim your dog's nails more frequently if he or she is a lapdog whose feet are kept mostly off the ground, as opposed to dogs who run frequently on pavement or rough surfaces.

Preventing Bleeding from a Dog's Toenail

If your dog has a bleeding toenail, it can be very upsetting for both of you. Putting an end to the pain and suffering

Applying styptic powder to the nail can aid in blood clotting and thus stop the bleeding. If you don't have any styptic powder on hand, you can use flour or cornstarch to stop the bleeding from a dog's nail in the same way.

  1. Sprinkle a little on the end of your finger and work it into the nail bed.

  2. Styptic powder needs only a few seconds of pressure to become effective.

If bleeding persists for more than a few minutes, consult your veterinarian.

Replacement for Dog Nail Clipping

Some dog owners prefer to use a nail grinder (or Dremel tool) on their pet's nails rather than clippers.  

Nails can be safely and quickly ground down with the Dremel's sandpaper-type bit and 30,000 RPM speed.  

Using a nail grinder once every week to 10 days is recommended for upkeep.

To avoid the unpleasant warming sensation that can be caused by friction while filing, shorten the hair around the toes of a dog with long hair.   

Saving time and reducing your dog's anxiety by avoiding trips to the groomer or vet can be accomplished with the right equipment, some patience, and a lot of treats.



Illustration by iStock com/skynesher

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