Not only can your pet's long nails cause damage to floors and furniture, they can also present a potential health concern for your pet. The frequency in which nails should be trimmed varies from pet to pet, though an average nail trimming schedule is every four to six weeks. Some dogs that usually walk on hard surfaces, such as concrete, may need less frequent nail trims. Aging cats will sometimes stop using a cat scratcher, which causes nails to become thick and curve around into their paws.
Nails that are left untrimmed may cause paws to become sore or infected. Too-long nails can change the structure of the paw and your pet’s gait. There is also the possibility of a longer nail breaking off and exposing the quick, which is the nerve and blood supply to the nail. Exposing or cutting the quick is quite painful for an animal. For pets with dew claws, regular monitoring and trimming may be required because these nails don’t wear down as naturally.
To make things easier for the trimming process, it’s a good idea to desensitize your pet to having their paws touched. You’ll at least want to have a few trial runs of handling their paws before attempting to trim or grind their nails. It’s best to start when they are a puppy, but if you have an older dog, make it a part of your daily cuddle time.
When it's time to trim, start with a back foot to gauge the reaction of your pet. If they protest, rethink your approach or secure your pet in a different manner. Make sure they have good traction and don't slip or slide when their paw is lifted. You may need to trim one paw, or even one nail at a time for pets that struggle with the process.
To trim the nail, start by taking off the “hook” at the end. White or clear nails are easiest, because you’ll be able to see the pink quick on the inside (the part you want to avoid). Clip the nail to about where the pink begins, but leave a little space so you don’t accidentally cut into the quick.
When trimming a black nail, it often helps to look at it from underneath. This way you can determine where the nail is thin and canoe shaped, and where it starts to get thicker. Start by trimming off the thin “hook”, and then look at the end of the nail. You should see a small, dark circle. As you continue to trim small amounts off, the dark circle will become larger. Once you see a small white dot at the center of the tip of the nail, do not trim any further.
To get the job done quickly, and to avoid crushing or splitting the nail, make sure you have a sharp pair of clippers. They also need to be appropriate for the size of your pet. You can grind your pet’s nails with a dremel designed for animals, however, grinding the nails takes significantly more time than regular clipping. If using a dremel, trim off the tip then use the grinding device to smooth out the nails.
If you accidentally trim too far and cause bleeding, apply styptic powder to the end of the nail for 30 seconds or more. In a pinch, cornstarch or flour can be used in the same way. Alternatively, running cold water over the foot will constrict the blood flow and help stop bleeding.
Stop and take breaks if your pet struggles or becomes stressed. Use treats during the process to help distract your pet, and to create a positive association with having their nails done. It’s possible to make nail trimming a positive and happy experience for both you and your furry friend!
If you have any concerns with your pet’s nails or have trouble with regular trimming, be sure to bring them into your regular veterinarian or groomer for professional assistance.