How To….Trim Your Dog’s Nails

DrPaul -

How To….Trim Your Dog’s Nails

In my ‘How To…’ series I will be providing advice on how to perform some routine health care to your dog from the comfort of your home.

This post has all the top tips to getting those claws clipped to perfection.

How do I know when my dogs’ claws need cutting?
If your dog's nails are touching or tapping on the ground, this is a sure sign that they need a trim. You should be able to easily slide a piece of paper between your dog’s nails and the floor, if you can’t then it means they are too long. .
It’s also important to check your dogs’ dew-claw (thumb nail), if they have one, to ensure that it isn’t curling around into your dog's foot. These nails cannot be worn down by pavement walking so sometimes need trimming more regularly.

What equipment will I need?
For smaller dogs and puppies you will need:

● Small scissor style clippers
● For young puppies, human nail clippers work well
● Emery Board for those that are not tolerant right away
● Small torch for black nails
● Styptic Powder or Silver Nitrate Pencil

For medium-large breeds you will need:

● Larger more study nail clippers or guillotine clippers
● Nail Grinder for those dogs not tolerant of clippers
● Small torch for black nails
● Styptic Powder or Silver Nitrate Pencil

Ready to go!
Once you have your equipment ready and you are armed with tasty treats, you are ready to begin. Dogs' nails have a blood supply which in dogs with white nails can usually be visualised as a pinkish colour at the base of the nail. You don’t want to cut above this pink area, known as the “quick”, as this will cause bleeding and be painful to your dog. Black nails are a little more tricky as you won't be able to see the quick very well and this is what the torch is for, shining the light through the nail can help you see the quick.

● Go slowly and hold your dogs’ paw firmly but gently. Some dogs prefer to keep their paws on the ground whilst you do this-as long as they keep still this is absolutely fine.
● Position your clippers to cut the nail from top to bottom and not from the side.
● Trim in small increments, continuously checking the head of the nail for any indication of the pink quick.
● Once all nails are no longer touching the ground you are done!

I caught the quick!
In case you accidentally catch the quick and the nail bleeds it is useful to have a silver nitrate pencil or styptic powder to hand. If you don’t have these you can use cornflour as an excellent home alternative.
If the bleeding does not stop, apply pressure to the nail with a damp cold tea towel for 10-15 minutes and contact your vet if this measure does not work.

My dog is too wriggly and fearful, what can I do?
It is not uncommon for some dogs to be a bit too wriggly to manage single handed. Some dogs are also not very tolerant of having their paws touched, and if your dog has had a negative experience having their nails trimmed this can make things more difficult.
In these cases you can:

● Get somebody from home to help by providing gentle restraint.
● Get your dog used to having their paws touched before building up to a nail trim.
● Provide distraction techniques such as a tasty treat or two.
● For smaller dogs it might be easier to start with a heavy duty emery board and practice filing their nails to get them used to having their nails touched before introducing clippers.
● A nail grinder may be a better alternative for larger dogs who are not otherwise tolerant of clippers.

Remember, even if you only manage a couple of nails each day this is success!
Perseverance pays off! With a bit of preparation and practice your dog will be putting their best paw forward in no time!

Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon

Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.