How to Trim Your Pet’s Nails

Trimming your pet’s nails is necessary, because untrimmed nails can catch in carpeting, furniture or clothing and will break and bleed, which is painful for your pet. In addition, untrimmed nails will become ingrown, which is extremely painful and may cause infection. Overgrown nails are also much more difficult to trim, because the quick, which supplies blood to the nail, will extend down further if the nails grow very long. Trimming your pet’s nails can be easy and routine with a few simple tips.

Start trimming claws or nails when your pet is very young to help them learn to relax, making the process much easier and more pleasant for you both. Trim nails regularly to get your pet used to the experience. Offering a treat and lots of praise will make trimming nails a positive one for your pet. If your pet is uncomfortable with nail clipping, trim just one nail or one paw each day.

If you are not sure how to trim your pet’s nails, ask your veterinarian or professional pet groomer to show you. It is much easier to assemble everything you need in advance. Put the nail trimmer, tissues and anything else you want to use within arms reach.

Even if started early, some animals never get used to having their nails trimmed and you will need to use some level of restraint. Enlist the help of another person to free your hands. When you trim your pet’s nails, use one hand to hold the paw still and the other to hold the trimmer. It may be easier to put your pet on a table, so they will be at a reasonable height. If you have to trim the nails without a helper, it may be easier for you to stand behind your pet and drape your arms over them. Then lean your upper body against your pet while you hold each paw and trim their nails. Some pets may be more comfortable and relaxed lying on their side, while you hold them down with one arm and your upper body. A third option is to sit on the couch or the floor with your pet lying or sitting beside you. Take one paw, holding it as you trim.

It is important to know where the quick begins on the nail or claw, so that you can avoid cutting into it. If your pet has light-coloured nails, it is easier to find the quick, which looks like a pinkish-red line that stops before the curve of the nail. The quick is harder to see with dark nails. Try shining a flashlight through the nail to make the quick more visible. Trim the nail using several small cuts and check the tip of nail after each cut for a tiny gray or pink oval. Stop cutting at this point.

If you accidentally cut into the quick and the nail is bleeding hold a moist cotton swab or some tissue paper tightly against the nail end until the bleeding stops. The bleeding should stop in about five minutes or less. Once the bleeding subsides, do not wipe the blood clot off the tip of the nail. If the bleeding will not stop after several minutes, contact your veterinarian.

Dewclaws, which are found attached to a small area of skin on the back or side of the paw, do not touch the ground when the pet walks and therefore do not wear down naturally. Make sure to check and trim dewclaws often, because they have a tendency to become ingrown. If you cannot find the dewclaw, do not worry. Some pets do not have them. Even some dogs do not have dewclaws.

It is important to note that cat claws are retractable, so you will have to hold your cat’s paw firmly and gently push on its pads to extend the nail. Just trim the point of the claw with one clean cut. 

There are several styles of nail trimmers made especially for pets, including guillotine and scissor styles. There are also nail trimmers made just for cats, dogs, as well as puppies, kittens and rodents. Try various types until you find one that you feel comfortable using on your pet’s nails. A sharp nail trimmer makes the job much quicker and easier. The final step is to use a nail file to smooth out any rough or splintered edges. Run it in one sweeping motion from the back of the nail to the front, following the curve of the nail.

When you are finished trimming your pet’s nails, offer a treat and lots of praise to make the experience a positive one. Then the next time you need to trim, your pet will be much more willing to tolerate it.

By trimming your pet’s nails yourself, you will avoid the time and expense of taking your pet to your veterinarian or professional pet groomer for a nail trimming. With practice, trimming your pet’s nails will become quick, easy and routine for both you and your pet.



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