cutting-dog-nailsKnowing when and how to cut your dog’s nails is very important to the health and happiness of your pet. Since a dog’s nails grow constantly, your dog’s  lifestyle will determine how often his/her nails need to be clipped. If your dog does a lot of walking on hard surfaces such as sidewalks, his/her nails may be naturally worn away through friction and will need little or no trimming. However, if your dog stays mainly on grass, sand or woodland tracks, clipping his/her nails becomes an essential part of their grooming routine.

Failure to keep your dog’s nails properly clipped can lead to broken nails, nail bed infections, bleeding and ingrown toenails which break into the pads of your dog’s paws. These can lead to crippling pain, permanent damage or even malformation.

There are a variety of dog nail clippers and trimmers on the market today. The guillotine type is most popular for use with small and medium sized dogs. A strong claw cutter may be required for the bigger breeds and for bassett hounds who have incredibly large claws! You may also want to use a small file or dremel tool to round off any jagged edges after trimming. If you prefer, you can just let them round off any rough edges in the normal course of their everyday walks.

It is advisable to have your veterinarian give you a short lesson on how to trim your dog’s nails. After you have done so, choose the nail clipping tool you wish to use. Carefully read all instructions on how to use the clipper and be sure you understand them.

Place your dog on a table with a non-slip mat underneath him/her to prevent them from slipping off the table or you could have another person hold your dog for you. Position the tool in the right place, be sure your dog is not wiggling, double check to be sure the clipper is in the right place and squeeze firmly and smoothly and the nail will pop right off.

It is very important that you not cut into the quick, (the inner soft part containing blood vessels and tender nerve endings), as this is very painful to your dog. Trimming off little nibbles instead of large slices is best. Keep checking the clipped part of your dog’s nail and look for a dark spot in the middle of the newly clipped area. This shows the start of the quick. Taking very small nibbles, you will begin to see a pale third inner circle. Stop there! Otherwise, you are likely to hurt your dog!

Your aim should be to trim off any bit of nail that protrudes over your dog’s pad. His/her claws should not touch the ground when he/she stands. And remember, the more you trim your dog’s nails the further the quick recedes. So take your time; you don’t have to clip your dog’s nails all at once.

Don’t forget to trim your dog’s dew claws. They grow on the inside of his/her legs and do not have contact with the floor, therefore, they do not get worn away naturally. They will sometimes curl completely over causing your dog to get snagged in undergrowth, his/her bedding, carpeting, etc.

No matter how experienced you may be in knowing how to cut your dog’s nails, accidents will still happen. Your dog will yelp in pain when you cut into the quick and a fair amount of bleeding will occur. Stay calm and you will be better able to handle the situation. If bleeding does occur, let it stop normally. This could take as long as 5 to 7 minutes. If it goes on any longer than that call your vet! You can hold a piece of tissue paper or a pinch of cornflour firmly against the source of the bleeding or you can keep a styptic pen or stick handy. When applied to your dog’s injured nail, the bleeding will stop immediately. These are easily purchased from your veterinarian or pet store.

If you are not comfortable with the idea of trimming your dog’s nails yourself, you can have your veterinarian or pet groomer do it for you. It is fairly inexpensive and your pet may be more cooperative with someone other than yourself.

Just a little preventative action on your part can make life a lot easier for your dog. Knowing how and when to cut your dog’s nails will go a long way toward keeping your dog happy, healthy and active for many years.