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How to cut dog’s nails at home

by Lana Paws on June 04, 2022

How to cut dog’s nails at home

How to cut dog’s nails at home

Do you absolutely dread cutting or trimming your dog’s nails for hurting or upsetting them? You’re not alone! Most dog parents avoid cutting their dog’s nails regularly as they are afraid that they might ‘quick’ the dog’s toenail. We have all heard horror stories where someone cut their dog’s toenail too deep leading to excessive bleeding and emergency vet visits. In addition, unless you have a highly trained pup or her temperament is cool as a cucumber, cutting your dog’s toenails is going to be a stressful exercise for both of you.

It’s important to remember that cutting your dog’s nails is not just about maintaining good hygiene. Not trimming them regularly can have serious health implications for your dog.

Highly active dogs may not need regular trimming of their nails if they spend a considerable amount of time being active (running, playing, walking etc) on varied surfaces as it will help wear their nails down naturally. However, dogs that spend most of their time indoors (basically most urban dogs) or in confined spaces, will need regular trimming and cutting of their toenails to keep them in good posture and overall health.

Many pet parents are more comfortable getting their dog’s nails trimmed professionally i.e. at vet’s or groomer’s and that’s absolutely fine and rather advisable if you’re worried about hurting your dog or if your dog is aggressive or skittish or if your schedule does not allow you to create this routine with your dog for some reason. However, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on sharing tips and information on cutting your dog’s nails at home.

Is it important to cut dog’s nails?

Why is it important to cut your dog’s nails?

Long toenails can cause a lot of pain for your dog. Unattended toe nails will grow too long and either curl or twist or put pressure on the nail bed making your dog’s paw pads extremely sore and sensitive to touch. It can not only make their walking experience highly painful but also getting up from a lying down position and so on.

Nails that are too long are also susceptible to getting nipped or broken, which can be extremely painful for your dog. Over time, long nails can also realign your dog’s natural posture leading to frequent injuries and joint related problems.

According to the canine experts, just cutting your dog’s nails regularly can dramatically improve their body posture and gait; this is especially true for older dogs.

How often should you trim your dog’s nails?

how often should i cut my dog's nails?

First you need to understand whether your dog’s nails are at their optimum length or not and if not, the goal is to achieve that first. And what is the right length? Well, it depends on the dog’s breed and activity levels. Dogs such as Doberman have short claws or toenails that are hardly visible while Labradors can have really long nails if they are uncared for too long. Generally speaking, if you can hear your dog coming or if they seem to almost touch the ground, it’s time to bring out the tools!

Unlike humans, dog’s nails consist of two layers. The outer part, like ours, is hard and provides shell covering while the inner part, unlike us, is soft and flaky. In addition to four nails attached to each toe, some dogs have a fifth claw or nail just below the wrist called dewclaw, which should also be trimmed or cut to the right length.

The canine toenail quick is a nerve or a vein that runs through the nail and if injured or cut, it can be very painful for the dog and may need an emergency vet visit. It is relatively easier to observe this band of tissue in dogs with white or clearer coloured nails as a pinkish shadow within the nail. The goal is to stop cutting or trimming your dog’s nails before you reach the quick. As you make each cut, keep paying attention to the centre of the toenail and if it starts to appear pink, stop cutting the nail.

If you have a dog with black or dark coloured nails, you need to be even more vigilant through this process. Make even smaller cuts each time and keep looking at the cross section of the nail and as soon as you see a red/dark brown dot like a bone marrow, stop cutting the nail.

All this may sound like a lot and somewhat scary but it’s more about creating a routine and sticking to it. Cutting your dog’s nails requires patience and practice but not maintaining them regularly can pose serious health risks to your dog.

The longer the nail has been allowed to grow the longer the quick will grow too. If you have not been trimming your dog’s nails regularly so far, be extra careful while trimming it the very first time as the quick might be very close to the edge. Grind/trim the nail as close to the quick as possible without touching it at all. Within days, the quick will recede due to the lack of support. You can continue making small cuts frequently i.e. once a week paying close attention to the quick until the toenail reaches its optimal, pain-free length. Once you have achieved this length, you can create a suitable routine ideally, once a week or at least once every fortnight to maintain a healthy toenail length for your dog. This schedule will also depend on how fast their nails grow, their activity levels and surfaces they spend maximum time on.

What is the best way or tool to clip your dog’s nails?

What is the best way or tool to clip your dog’s nails?

There are different nail trimming solutions available in the market. No matter which method you choose to trim down your dog’s nails, make sure it’s the correct size for the job and spend some time to first acclimatize your dog for this new experience.

  • Nail Clippers - Probably the most common tool used to clip the tip of the dog’s toenails. Make sure the blade is sharp for a quick & clean cut
  • Guillotine Trimmers - These are used to trim down the tip of the nail by inserting the nail through a hole. Some people find it easier to operate compared to other methods while some find it more difficult. The grinding sound may also scare off some dogs, making this process even more stressful for them
  • Grinders - This is relatively a newer solution available in the market and fast catching on as a more preferred one due to its ease of use.

Tips to make the nail clipping stress free for your dog

Tips to make the nail clipping stress free for your dog

No one likes their nails being clipped and especially not your dog. It is our responsibility as a dog parent to include this essential routine to maintain their health and well-being and make it as stress free as possible, not just for your furry-child but also for you!

  • Before you start, keep all your tools ready - nail clipper/trimmer/grinder, cotton and a styptic-powder product, in case you cut the quick by mistake
  • Start as early as possible; if you’re a new dog parent, start this routine as early as possible so she gets used to this process early on
  • Make it fun for her! Before you start, sit her down and spend some time petting her or playing with her or maybe giving her a treat she loves; you can do the same post cutting her nails so gradually she starts viewing this process as spending quality time with you
  • Get help! If you have an aggressive, skittish or nervous dog, get a family member or friend to help you keep the dog in place or engaged. Cutting your dog’s nail while she’s moving her leg is a recipe for disaster
  • Choose an appropriate time and place in your house for the job where she’ll be comfortable and at the same time will not be able to escape swiftly
  • It’s best to clip her nails in lying down position so you get the maximum control

We hope you found this article useful. Don’t forget to share it with fellow dog parents!

Do you cut your dog’s nails at home? We would love to learn more from you in the comments below!

Happy Dog Parenting!


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