Vet Blog

Trimming Pet Nails Like a Pro

July 13, 2023

Even if you handle other aspects of pet grooming on your own, you may be intimidated when it comes time to trim your pet’s nails. Especially if you have ever cut into the “quick,” accidentally nicking the blood vessel that runs through the nail, causing pain and distress to your pet, you may be gun-shy about ever trimming your pet’s nails again! However, nail trimming is an important part of caring for your pets. When a dog’s nails are too long, balance and mobility may be affected. When a cat’s nails are too long, your furniture and drapes may suffer the repercussions. Don’t worry, Pet Doctor of Chandler has some tips and tricks to help make trimming your pet’s nails a breeze.

Understanding the Importance of Pet Nail Care

Why is it so important to keep your pet’s nails trimmed? Cat’s nails are crucial if they are outside and need to defend themselves. However, a house cat with long nails is likely to scratch the people in the house, whether on purpose or inadvertently. Indoor cats with long nails are also likely to scratch the furniture, rip up the drapes, and even damage the carpet. For dogs, cutting nails can even prevent pain. Unhealthy nails can hurt, and the quick can grow long when the nails are too long, making them more likely to bleed when cut. If you trim them regularly, the quickness will recede, and maintaining them will be easier. What’s more, when dogs have long nails, they can wind up with deformed paws and damaged tendons. Regular nail trimming is not just cosmetic: it’s good for your dog’s health and comfort.

Tips for a Stress-Free Nail Trimming Experience

  • Start early. From the very first day you get your pet, start handling your puppy’s or kitten’s paws, touching and holding them gently and carefully. Most animals are nervous about letting anyone touch their paws, so getting them used to it while they’re young is a good way to ease them into it. Go ahead and start trimming your pet’s nails while they are young.
  • Use the right tools. The clippers you use are up to you, and you have plenty of available options. There are scissors, trimmers, guillotines, and grinders, and the most important factor is to choose high-quality tools. If you use cheap tools, they could cause the nails to snag or break, causing pain and injury. Generally speaking, guillotine-style trimmers work best for small dogs, and the scissor style gives you more control. Some people prefer to use a grinder, though this requires a little bit more patience because you take off a little bit of the nail at a time. Make sure that you choose a pair designed for cats to trim your cat’s claws so that you don’t inadvertently cut off too much. It’s also good to have some styptic powder on hand in case of accidental bleeding.
  • Make it a comfortable activity. Do something fun with your pet first, so that by the time you start trimming the nails your pet is relaxed. Have treats on hand, and consider letting your pet lick something delicious off of a plate or spoon while you work on the nails. If you are just starting, ease into it over a few days. On the first day, just present the clippers to your pet and give them a treat. The next day, touch the paws with the clipper and give another treat. On days three and four, make a little bit of noise with the clipper right after touching your pet’s paw with them. Either turn on the grinder or squeeze the clipper, without cutting a nail. Give your pet a treat and plenty of praise. By day five, you should be able to clip one nail without much anxiety, and you can keep easing in until your pet doesn’t mind what you’re doing. You can even “practice” between grooming sessions to keep your pet used to it.
  • Use the right technique. The technique is the same for dogs and cats, once you have your pet into position. You will hold the paw and inspect it, trimming any hair that might get in the way of clipping the nails. Locate the quick so that you don’t cut into it, looking for a dark pink area running the length of the nail. Trim cautiously until you see a circle in the center of the nail that indicates you’re near the blood vessel. For pets with dark nails, go even more slowly, staying within the natural curved part of the nail, looking for a white chalky ring or a part where the nail turns black. Don’t go further than that. Smooth any rough edges with an emery board or a grinder, and if you do nick the quick, use styptic powder to address it quickly. Now, let’s address how to restrain each type of pet.
    • For dogs: You can either put your small dog on a table in a well-lit room or sit beside your large dog on the floor. 
    • For cats: Cats tend to be more nervous than dogs about nail trimming, so it’s best to wrap your kitty in a towel, with only his or her head sticking out, along with the paw you need to trim. To trim a cat’s nails, make the nails come out by pressing and holding each toe gently in turn.
  • Expect some challenges. Some pets just really don’t enjoy having their nails done. If your dog moves too much during a trim, try lying your pet down on his or her side, or enlist a helper to restrain the dog. You can also have someone hold your cat if that makes nail trimming easier. If you happen to cut into the quick, stay very calm so that your pet does not absorb your panic. Use styptic powder, a styptic pencil, or corn starch, applying pressure to stop the bleeding.
  • Consider getting professional help. In some cases, no matter what you do, your pet is not going to be happy about having his or her nails trimmed. That’s ok! You can delegate this chore to a professional groomer or your vet, to keep your pet’s nails trimmed without creating tension between the two of you.

Get Expert Care at Pet Doctor of Chandler

It’s great to be proactive about your pet’s grooming, but you can also trust Pet Doctor of Chandler to help you by providing professional grooming. At Pet Doctor of Chandler, we believe in providing quality veterinary care, with all-inclusive pet care services at affordable prices. We know you have many different options for veterinary care, so we provide comprehensive services, with a focus on compassionate care. Our friendly team is well-versed in all sorts of pet care, and we want to help your furry family members live their best lives. For veterinary services in Chandler, AZ, including spay and neuter services and dental care. To request an appointment or learn more about how we can help your pets lead healthy, happy lives, call (480) 681-6866 or contact us through our website.