Monday, August 17, 2009

Nail Trimming 101

If you are like I used to be, you’d rather pay any amount to a professional than try to tackle trimming your pup’s nails. It doesn’t help that some dogs act as if you’re tying to cut off their entire leg with squirming, whining and Academy Award winning drama!
But if you’ve mustered up your courage and decided to save a few bucks by doing it yourself, here is Nail Trimming 101 for the beginner.

Types of nail trimmers

Guillotine- To use this type of nail trimmer, always position it so the blade is on the underside of the nail and cuts in an upward motion.

Plier Type- Position these on each side of the nail and squeeze shut. These will need to be sharpened from time to time.

Sander type- These are battery operated or electric and have a sanding belt to slowly grind the nail down. Do remember that the friction heats up the nail! You can only apply it to the nail for a few seconds at a time.

When to trim:
If your dog’s nails are starting to curve, that’s a sign it’s time for a trim. A clicking noise when your dog walks on a hard surface also indicates that the nails need trimming.

How To Start
Trim a very small amount off the tip of the nail. Keep checking the clipped part of your dog's nail and look out for a dark spot in the middle of the newly clipped area - this shows the start of the quick - do not cut too far into this. Taking just tiny nibbles, you will then start to see a pale third inner circle. Stop there - or else you are likely to hurt your dog.
Hold your pup on your lap or sit next to him on the couch or floor. As you trim, praise him in a quiet voice. You can offer a treat after finishing each paw. Tilly, my hyperactive dachshund, is obsessed with chasing her ball so I reward her by having a ball throwing session after I finish each paw. This made her go from a squirming ball of fur to sitting quietly in my lap.

What to do if…
Yikes! I cut too far and now it’s bleeding!: Try not to panic. You have cut into the quick where the blood supply is. Press a styptic pencil (available at your drug store) on the end of the nail. This is a clotting agent and should stop the bleeding fairly quickly. Do keep an eye on the paw for a few days as this is an open wound. If you see any signs of pain or swelling, have your vet examine the nail for infection.

My dog’s nails are way overgrown. How do I get them to be the right length? :

There are two problems to be aware of here. A dog’s nails curve as they grow and can actually curve so far that they grow INTO the flesh! Overgrown nails can also cause the foot to spread injuring the bones of the paw. In either of these cases, you must have a vet deal with the issue. If neither of these problems is an issue, getting the nails back to the proper length will be a process. As he nails grow, the quick grows out, too. You will have to trim just the smallest amount off each week. In between clippings, gently file the tip of the nail. This will help to make the quick recede. It may take many weeks to get the nails at a more manageable length, but keep at it. Warning: Cutting into the quick to try to shorten the nail too quickly is not only painful for the dog, but can lead to infection (and a very large vet bill!)


  1. great post, I could have used this several years ago, mine would be the one who squirmed like I was cutting off his leg! Great advice...thanks and I'll pass it along.

  2. From a are right on!