How To Trim Dog Nails

Humans aren’t the only ones who need a mani-pedi now and then! Our canine companions greatly benefit from regular nail care too (sans the polish of course). And while many of us choose to go to the groomer for a trim, doing it at home is a trick worth learning.

Why Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Dog nails play an important role in movement and balance. These provide traction as the dog walks or runs. They serve as indicators for the terrain, helping fine-tune balance along with the other senses. But when talking about dog nails, less is usually more.

Shorter nails perform their functions better than long nails. Long nails that come into contact with the ground are pushed back into the paw due to the impact of running or playing, which causes unnecessary stress on the toe joints. Over time, this may lead to poor posture, pain, and arthritis.

Nails that are left to their own devices are more prone to cracking and splintering unevenly. This is a great place for dirt and soil to get stuck in, and cleaning 12 nails on a wiggly dog is time-consuming.

Over time, nails tend to make a u-turn and grow towards the animal. If left this way, the nail could penetrate the digital pads and cause pain, wounds, and infections.

And it’s not just your pet who is inconvenienced by long nails. Everything from wooden floors to upholstered furniture to human legs is prone to scratch marks when dog nails are allowed to grow unchecked.

So for your pet’s sake and your own, make canine mani-pedis a part of your dog care routine!

How Often You Need To Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Check your dog’s paws. Do the nails touch the floor? If so, then it’s time for a trim.

The frequency of nail trimming depends on your dog’s daily activities. Those who regularly take walks on asphalt or gravel have their nails cut less often than those who usually walk on grass or soil. Hard surfaces wear down the nail like a natural nail file.

However, many dogs have a dewclaw whose nail will need more regular trimming than the others, regardless of activities. It is in the same place on a dog’s paw as a thumb on a human hand. Since this is located higher up than the other toes, its nail does not touch the floor. Most dogs have it on their front limbs, but some dogs have it on their back limbs too.

The Basics Of Dog Nail Trimming At Home

Getting Your Dog To Stay Still

At the crux of dog nail trimming at home is your ability to get your dog to sit still. You can have the right technique and all the right tools, but if your dog keeps jerking back, there’s little you can do to minimize injury.

The personality, energy level, and previous experience with nail trimming will determine how easy or how hard this will be for you. Some dogs just need a hug to restrain and comfort them as their nails are getting done. There are times when the dog becomes fearful and reacts aggressively. This may be a sign of existing pain or sensitivity in the area that should be examined by a veterinarian.

But most dogs can be trained to tolerate a nail trim. It starts with playing with your dog’s paws so they are comfortable when this sensitive part is touched. Let them explore and smell the nail cutting instrument you plan to use. If it makes a sound, let them hear it so they get used to it.

Use positive reinforcement as you take your dog’s paw and manipulate it. Reward them generously when they sit still as you spread their toes apart and place your fingers in between their toe pads. Once they have mastered this trick, train them to tolerate the nail trimmer you will use. Hold their paw and gently tap the instrument on each of their nails. Gives treats, belly rubs, and lots of high-pitched praise whenever they sit still as you do this.

It will take time and patience, but this will save you a lot of stress in the long run.

Get The Right Tools

If you have a small to medium-sized dog, your best bet would be a guillotine nail clipper. There is a circular hole where you place your dog’s nail, and as you squeeze, the blade will come down across that hole.

If you have a large breed dog, the best option would be a scissors-type nail clipper, also known as the Miller’s Forge nail clipper. The design of this trimmer applies a strong and steady force with minimal effort from the user, ideal for the thick nails of larger breeds.

Grinding tools have gained popularity in recent years. It’s like an automatic nail file that shortens the nail by sanding it down instead of cutting it. It can be used on dogs of different sizes, but note that it might take a while for your dog to get used to the loud mechanical whirring sound.

Visualize The Quick

Many fur parents are scared of touching their dog’s nails for fear of nicking the quick- that’s the blood supply of the nail that follows its shape. It is a valid concern because the quick is connected to the bone. Exposing the quick could lead to infection. If that spreads to the bone, it can be serious.

Plus, it’s heartbreaking to cause your dog pain.

For dogs with light-colored nails, it’s pretty easy to see because the red of the blood contrasts sharply with the nail color. For dogs with dark-colored nails, a flashlight can be used to visualize the quick. It will show up as a darker, inner portion of the nail.

Once you see it properly, try to cut around two centimeters from the end of the quick. Cut at an angle that is parallel to the tip of the blood supply instead of perpendicular to the ground. This is to make sure that the quick has an even layer of nail on all sides to protect it.

What To Do If You Draw Blood

Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that an accident won’t happen, so it is important to know what to do if it does.

If you nick the quick, apply pressure to the bleeding immediately to promote clotting. You can do this by pressing a clean towel or gauze pad against it for several minutes. Icing the area at the same time can help stem the flow. Then dip your dog’s nail into styptic powder, cornstarch, or into a bar of clean, unscented soap until it stops bleeding. Clean and bandage the paw so your dog doesn’t get dirt or soil on the wound to prevent contamination.

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Regina Ranada

Regina graduated with a degree in Psychology and worked in Human Resources for four years before she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She is interested in companion animals and wildlife medicine. She sidelines as the social media manager of her pitbull, Pablo.

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