How To Trim Your Pet's Nails


By Dr. Emily Wilson


Getting our own nails cleaned or painted can be a nice treat for us humans, but our pets don’t always feel the same way! Whether you’re afraid of trimming your pet’s nails out of fear of hurting them or you’ve simply never done it before, here are a few things to consider when you’re coming up with a claw maintenance plan!


Some initial questions to ask may include:


  • Do you have a young or nervous pet, or are they old pros at nail trims?

  • Are the nails overgrown, or are you looking for a maintenance routine?

  • Are your pet’s nails naturally colored or clear in appearance? They can range from black to multi-colored, or they can be clear and show some pink at the cuticles.

WHY TRIM?

Overly long nails can be a cause for concern. Not only can they create unsafe walking conditions for your pet, but they can painfully grow into skin and paw pads. If they are left uncut for too long, they can start causing damage to bones in your pet’s foot.

If your pet's nails are too long, a great way to help nails get back to the right length it to give them a nail trim every 7-10 days.

If your pet has short nails, then a simple maintenance plan is all you need. Your plan should include a quick nail check every week to see if your pet’s nails need to be cut, and adding nice long walks on cement to file those claws naturally and help keep them nice and short!

Before we get into details of how to trim, it’s important to note that dogs and cats have something called a ‘nail quick’. Located underneath the nail plate, it’s a part of the nail with nerves and blood vessels that protect the nail bed. If your pet has clear nails, you likely will be able to identify the nail quick easier and avoid accidental nail quick cuts (also known as "quicking"). Colored nails are a bit more difficult and require more patience, but we’ve provided a step-by-step guide to nail trimming for both.

If your pet has clear nails

Look at the nail first and find the pink spot: this is the nail quick. The quick can grow to be almost the same length as your pets nails, which can sometimes make trimming the nail hard.

If your pet has colored nails

The inside of the nail will likely be white. Cut into thin slices until you begin to see a dark spot (the nail quick) in the center.

Pro-tips: 

  • Stay calm so your pet will stay calm.

  • Use LOTS of high value treats.

  • Go slow, there is no reason you have to do all of the nails in one sitting. Do one or two, give a reward and stop. Do a couple more the next day.

INTRODUCING YOUR PET TO NAIL TRIMMING


If you have never trimmed your pet’s nails, then you’ve got one shot to create a positive memory association! If your pet is particularly nervous, try the spaghetti method to get your pet accustomed to the sound of nail clippers. Sit them on your lap, holding a piece of uncooked spaghetti near your pet. If you have a cat, gently massage the toe pad. When the nail comes out, clip the spaghetti instead of the nail, release the toe, and give your pet a treat. 


Who would’ve thought that uncooked spaghetti could be used for something other than grade school projects?


Here are some more tips from PetMD on how to help create a soothing environment for your cat or dog to become comfortable with nail trimming.

HOW TO TRIM: BASIC METHOD

  1. Hold the foot steady but gently in your hand. If possible, sit facing your dog so you are able to see the front of the nail once you begin cutting. It may also be easier to get closer to the ground to avoid twisting your pet’s foot too much.

  2. Use the nail clippers to go around the tip of the quick and place a tiny bit of the nail in the clipper and snip. (If the nail feels spongy while you’re trying to cut it, stop immediately — you’re cutting the quick!) Pro tip: If you cut back the sides of the nail around the quick, it encourages the quick to recede which will allow you to cut shorter next time.

  3. If you happen to cut a little too close and cause the nail to bleed, you can use a product called Kwik-Stop to stop the bleeding. If you don’t have Kwik-Stop, using cornstarch or flour can work too.

HOW TO TRIM: POWER TOOL METHOD


If you aren’t able to cut the nails without cutting the quick, a power tool called Dremel will be the perfect tool for you. It’s a faster and safer alternative to hand-filing the nail. 

  1. It may tickle some doggy toes, so go slow when first introducing the Dremel to your pet. 

  2. Always giving positive reinforcement every time they do a correct behavior. 

  3. Since the Dremmel uses friction to file down nails, this will cause the nail to heat up. Never keep the Dremmel on the same toe for more than 20 seconds, this can cause the quick to overheat and die, which can be a long, slow, painful process. 

  4. After 20 seconds, move to the next toe, you can come back to each one after giving them some time to cool down.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to be your pet’s very own manicurist. If you have more questions about nail trimming or would like recommendations on local groomers, contact one of our Fuzzy vets!