Trimming overgrown nails can be a stressful process for both you and your dog. Introducing your dog to nail trimming early in their life and doing it often can make it easier, but this isn’t always possible.
Here are some tips to help you care for your dog’s nails and make nail trimming a simple routine for both of you.
How Often Should You Trim Your Dog’s Nails?
If you keep your dog’s nails trimmed, you won’t have to cut them as often as you would a human nail. Additionally, regular walks on pavement are a great way to keep your dog’s nails short between trimmings.
Some dogs have nails that grow faster than other dogs’ nails, and very active dogs may not need their nails trimmed as often. For most dogs, you should trim their nails once a month or every other month.
How to Identify the Quick of a Dog’s Nail?
Dog nails contain a soft cuticle known as the “quick.” The quick contains blood vessels and nerves, which means it will cause pain, bleeding, and potentially an infection if you cut it.
Dogs can have light or dark nails or a combination of the two. If you’ve ever wondered why your dog has black nails, it’s simply because of genetics. Nails are made of keratin just like hair, so the color of your dog’s nails is usually the same as the color of their fur. So if your dog is black and white, they may have both black and white nails.
It’s easy to identify the quick in dogs with lighter nails, as you will see the pink part in the center of the nail. For dogs with darker nails, start by looking at the bottom of the nail as you trim. You may see a small oval in the center of the nail bed, and the oval will be larger the closer you get to the quick until it’s nearly as wide as the nail itself. Immediately stop trimming once you get to this point.
Problems With Overgrown Nails
Overgrown nails in a dog will eventually sag, causing pain. As is the case with humans, extremely overgrown dog nails can become ingrown nails that cause pain and infection. Overgrown nails are also more likely to fracture which can be another cause of pain and infection.
- Discomfort & Mobility Issues
A dog with overgrown nails can get caught on carpets, couches, and bedding, which can cause annoyance for you and stress for your dog. The constant clicking and pressing of your dog’s nails on the floor can also cause irritation and difficulty walking.
- Tips for Trimming Your Dog’s Nails
Both puppies and dogs are usually not fans of nail trimming. The only way dogs will enjoy or tolerate nail trimming is if you make the experience a positive one, especially when they are young.
If you neglect nail trimming and only do it when your dog’s nails are already overgrown, it will become a painful and stressful experience for your dog.
Here are some tips to make trimming your dog’s nails easier:
Choose the Right Trimming Materials
Dog nails are much different than human nails, so you should never use a nail clipper for humans on your dog. A dog’s nails are thicker and have a cylindrical shape, so they require special nail clippers designed for dogs. There are guillotine clippers, scissor-like clippers for dogs with short nails, and plier-style clippers. Guillotine clippers are best for small to medium dogs, while plier-style clippers work for most dogs and are preferred by vets and groomers for their ease of use and the fact that they stay sharp for a long time. Scissor-like clippers are often used to trim the dew claw, the claw that grows higher up on your dog’s paw.
Make Your Dog’s Pedicures a Habit
As soon as you bring your dog home, try to create positive experiences with having their paws touched and introduce them to nail trimming as soon as possible. A dog that is comfortable having their paws touched is more likely to be comfortable having their nails trimmed. You can also play with your dog's paws first so they associate nail trimming with play.
If your dog responds well to nail trimming, give them a treat to create a positive habit and make nail trimming easier in the future.
Tire Out Your Dog Before Nail Trimming
Play with your dog or take them for a walk to tire them out before you trim their nails. This way, they’re less likely to get agitated or restless during nail trimming.
How to Cut Your Dog’s Nails?
Step-1: Position Your Dog
Position your dog so that they won’t bite you or suddenly twist while you’re trimming their nails. If you have a large dog or a dog that doesn’t like having their nails cut, you might want someone to help you by petting or talking to your dog to calm it.
A technique that is great for large or unruly dogs is to have them lay on their side, drape your arms and upper body over them, and rest your forearm over their neck to keep them from lifting their head while you’re trimming their nails.
Step-2: Place the Clippers at a 45-degree angle
When you’re about to cut your dog’s nail, don’t cut straight up and down, as this makes you more likely to hit the quick. Position the clippers at a 45-degree angle to cut the edge first.
Step-3: Carefully Trim the Nails
Cut your dog’s nails until you see the thin pink fiber of the quick. Take special care not to cut the quick, which can cause bleeding and pain for your dog. The quick is easier to see on dogs with lighter nails. For dogs with darker nails, cut little by little until you see the quick.
If you do accidentally cut too much and see blood, apply styptic powder to the bleeding nail.
Don’t rush the process of trimming your dog’s nails. You need to be careful, and rushing can make your dog scared or upset. Also, a dog’s paws are sensitive, so don’t apply too much pressure when holding their paws to cut their nails. For every nail that you clip successfully and your dog behaves well, give them a treat to create a positive association with nail trimming.