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- Overgrown dog’s nails can cause discomfort, pain, and affect their ability to walk properly.
- Learning to trim your dog’s nails at home can save you money and ensure their well-being.
- With the right tools, a calm environment, and patience, you can easily maintain your dog’s nails and prevent potential issues.
Having had more than one dog that was less than appreciative of nail clippers, I understand the concerns and hesitations that can arise when it comes to grooming your dog’s nails. It’s not uncommon for many owners to feel anxious about the process or rely solely on expensive grooming salons. But really, it’s incredibly simple. It all boils down to a three-step process: start by taking a small portion off the top left of your dog’s nail, then move on to the top right and trim a small portion from there as well. Finally, focus on the middle portion and carefully remove it as well.
Allowing your dog’s nails to become overgrown can have adverse effects on their well-being. Overgrown nails can hinder their ability to walk properly and even cause discomfort or pain. That’s why it’s crucial to overcome any fears and learn how to trim your dog’s nails at home. Don’t worry—I’ve been through it, and I’m here to provide you with some valuable tips to make the trimming process easy and stress-free.
Understanding the anatomy of your dog’s nails is crucial when it comes to proper care. The outer part of a dog’s toenails is composed of a hard protein called keratin, while the inner part, known as the quick, is softer and pinkish, containing blood vessels and nerves. It’s important to avoid cutting the quick, as it can cause bleeding and pain. Clear or pale nails make it easier to see the quick, whereas dark nails can make it more challenging to determine where to cut. Some dogs have a combination of light and dark nails, while certain breeds may have an additional nail called a dewclaw, which doesn’t touch the ground.
Dogs primarily walk on their toes, with four toes on each foot. The dewclaw, if present, is positioned on the inside of the leg and doesn’t make contact with the ground. It’s essential to keep the nails at an appropriate length, as overgrown nails can lead to discomfort or pain for your dog. Additionally, long nails can cause pressure on the feet and may become snagged or curl around, potentially resulting in injury.
How Often To Trim A Dog’s Nails
The frequency of nail trimming depends on your dog’s activity level and the surfaces they walk on. Dogs that regularly walk on hard surfaces like concrete naturally wear down their nails, requiring less frequent trimming compared to dogs that walk on softer surfaces such as grass or carpet. Ideally, the nails should not protrude beyond the paw pads. When your dog is standing, check that the nails hover just above the ground; if they touch the ground, it’s time for a trim.
A good rule of thumb is if you hear your dog’s nails clicking or scratching when they move around at home, it indicates that their nails need attention. Neglecting regular nail trims can force your dog to walk unnaturally, leading to pain and potential lameness. Overgrown dog nails can curl under and cut into the foot, causing pain, bleeding, and even infection if the quick is exposed.
The frequency of nail trims varies based on factors such as nail thickness and dog size. Large dogs with tough nails that have limited exercise may require trims every 6 to 8 weeks, while small dogs and those with thin nails may need trims as frequently as once a week to maintain optimal length.
Trimming your dog’s nails frequently and a little at a time is recommended. Frequent trims help the quick to recede further into the nail, making future trims easier. If the nails are left to grow too long, the quick will extend closer to the nail’s tip, making it challenging to trim without cutting into the quick. It’s generally safe to trim within 0.8 inches (or 2mm) of the quick, but caution should always be exercised.
Best Practices When Trimming Dog Nails
Dog owners know that nail trimming is a task that needs to be done. To keep their dog safe from sharp nails, they need regular nail trimming. If you want to make this task easier for yourself and more comfortable for your dog,
First of all, pet owners, do not use human nail clippers on your dog! They can squash the nail, causing pain. Secondly, make sure the nail clippers you do use are not blunt, as they will crush and splinter the nail. There are two main types of nail clippers available. Make sure you follow the tips for trimming dog nails and instructions that come with the tool you use.
If you’re not confident enough to cut dog nails even after reading our tips, you can always take them to a professional groomers or vet tech for nail trimming.
What Nail Trimming Tools Do You Need?
When trimming your dog’s nails, it’s essential to have proper dog nail clippers ready.
Types of dog nail clippers:
- Scissor-style – these trimmers have two sharp blades that curve inwards.
- Guillotine – the nail inserted into an opening, and when you squeeze, a blade cuts the nail in guillotine-style. You must not cut downwards onto the nail, but cut upwards from underneath your dog’s nail.
Aside from clippers, make sure you have these important tools and first aid materials on hand as well:
- File or dremel tool – can be used after clipping to file any jagged edges.
- Styptic pen or powder – this can be applied to the end of the nail to stop bleeding if you accidentally cut the quick. Corn starch or flour can work as well.
- Non-slip mat – if your dog is standing on a slippery surface, particularly on a high table, use a non-slip mat under them to make them feel secure as they balance on three legs.
- Dog nail grinders – This is a handheld device that files down the nails. It can be a little bit more time-consuming than clipping. But it is an excellent way to keep your dog’s nails short without having to go to the vet or groomer. It’s best to look for the best dog nail grinder on the market for well-shaped nails.
Preparing your dog for nail trims
Many dogs don’t like their feet being touched, so trying to clip their overgrown nails can be problematic. This is understandable, as a dog’s nails can be very sensitive.
If you have a puppy and you want to groom your pet by yourself, read below (under ‘Puppies’) about desensitizing your pup to her feet and toes being touched. The same can work for a mature dog who is averse to her feet being handled. Be aware that dogs can strongly struggle against nail clipping, especially if they’ve had a painful experience in the past.
Some dogs freak out just at the sight of clippers. Hence, it’s helpful to expose your dog to the clippers regularly in a happy and relaxed context, without the intention of immediately trimming their nails. Also, familiarize your dog with the clippers around their paws and nails by gently touching their nails with the clippers. Allow your dog to sniff the nail clippers before using them. All of these actions will help your dog become familiar and comfortable with the clippers.
Get The Technique Down: Step-by-step instructions for dog nail trimming
Having someone assist you in this process can be beneficial, as they can hold your dog, offer treats while you trim, and speak soothingly to your dog. You may choose to sit on the floor with your dog or place them on a table, depending on what works best for both of you. As for your dog’s position, they can either stand while you lift one paw at a time, or they may prefer to lie on their side.
- The most important thing about trimming your dog’s nails is to just take off small bits at a time. Think of it as little nibbles!
- Hold your dog’s paw firmly and push on the pads to extend the nail out.
- If your dog has pale nails, examine them to see where the quick ends.
- Position the clippers on the end of the nail at a 45 degree angle going away from the toe, and snip off a small portion.
- If your dog has dark nails, trim a tiny nibble off, then look at the nail from the tip. If you see a dark oval in the center, this is the quick, so you do not want to cut any further. Otherwise, continue to make small clips until you see the quick.
- Don’t forget to trim the dewclaws too if your dog has them.
If the process is causing stress to your dog, it’s best not to continue. Pushing forward will only create a negative experience for both of you, and it may become increasingly difficult to complete the task in the future. Perhaps you can start by trimming one or two paws in the first attempt. After that, take a break, play with your dog, and continue with the remaining paws at a later time.
Help! I cut the quick!
Okay, don’t panic! It’s bound to happen occasionally. If you accidentally cut the quick, the nail may bleed for several minutes (if it lasts longer, contact your vet). Offer your dog a treat and don’t make a big deal out of the situation, as your dog may respond to your stress. It may look more dramatic than it actually is!
Here’s how to stop dog nail bleeding: If you have styptic powder handy, wipe the blood away with a tissue and then apply some powder to the tip of the nail. If you don’t have styptic powder, then apply pressure to the end of your dog’s nail with a tissue for a few minutes. Try not to let your dog run around until the bleeding has stopped, or you’ll have a trail of blood throughout your house!
If you have never clipped a dog’s nails before, it’s a good idea to get a lesson from your vet first. If you have a dog that struggles against clipping, or you just prefer not to do it yourself, you can use your vet or leave dog grooming to the hands of a professional.
If you have a puppy, get them used to their feet and toes being touched before you even need to clip their nails. The best time to do this is when you are having some special bonding time and cuddles together when they are relaxed and perhaps even tired.
Gently touch and rub their legs, slowly and gradually working your way towards their feet, giving treats along the way. They will likely retract their paw from your hand when you try to touch it. Just gently take their paw back in your hand and give them a treat and praise for letting you hold it. Get them used to touch on all four feet. Build up to rubbing in between their toes with a little pressure. Touch their feet in this way a little every day, and they will soon be used to the sensation. Once they’re comfortable with their paws being held, you can move on to massaging the roots of your dog’s nails. If they show no averse reaction to that, you can begin attempting to trim your dog’s nails.
Older dogs require more regular nail clipping than younger dogs. This is because they are not running around as much as a younger dog. Dog nails are kept short in their prime by physical activity, especially on rougher ground. An older dog’s nails are not getting worn down, and hence tend to grow back faster.
Some people tend to ignore their dog’s nail care because they are only interested in the “beauty factor.” However, nail care is still an important part of your dog’s routine. Fortunately, with these tips, you should feel stress-free and more confident the next time you trim your dog’s nails.
Remember that proper nail trimming is essential for your dog’s comfort and well-being. Regularly maintaining their nails helps prevent issues related to overgrown nails, such as discomfort, difficulty walking, and potential injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I cut my dog’s nails at home?
If you’re trimming your dog’s nails for the first time, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your dog’s nail anatomy, dog nail clippers, proper technique, and other important tools to ensure a safe and successful nail trimming experience.
What’s the easiest way to trim a dog’s toenails?
Trimming dog nails can be a quick and simple process as long as you follow proper technique. Once you cut the back nails, it becomes easier to trim the rest of the nails. Taking it step by step and maintaining a calm and gentle approach will allow for a smoother trimming session.
What are the tips for cutting dogs toenails?
When you trim your dog’s nails, remember to clip only one nail at a time and make clean cuts. Pay attention to the dew claws located inside the paw. Avoid cutting below the curve of the nails to prevent damage to the quick, which is the area of the nail that contains blood vessels. Cutting the quick can be painful for your dog.
How do I know how much nail to cut my dog off?
Aim to cut approximately one millimeter at a time when you trim your dog’s nails. The goal is to maintain an appropriate nail length that prevents the nails from touching the floor while your dog is walking. Be cautious to avoid cutting too much at once, as this can lead to bleeding and discomfort for your pet.