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Trimming Dog Nails & Clipping Dog Nails

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Why cut your dog’s nails?
Unless your dog is so active it wears its nails down, you’ll need to cut them for these reasons:

Photo of a boxer getting his nails trimmed  

Nail Trimming & Nail Clipping

  • Torn nails are painful and easily infected requiring soaking and long-term antibiotics or surgical removal.
  • Dogs don’t walk correctly when the nails are too long and this strains the leg muscles and torques the spine.
  • Long nails grow around and into the bottom of the foot. The dewclaw nail will grow into the leg. Ingrown nails are often infected, are always painful, and make some dogs downright mean.
  • Nails help provide traction and increase a pet’s ability to walk and run without slipping. Pets with excessively long nails hurt themselves because they slip and fall.

Why do some dogs’ nails grow so much faster than other dogs’ nails?
In pets that don’t exercise by walking or running—which often happens with senior pets, arthritic pets and pets with guardians who are busy—nails are not worn, so they appear to grow too fast. In dogs (and birds) with liver disease, the nails do grow faster than normal. Also, depending on how much your pet walks or plays on concrete, asphalt, or grass will have a influence on how much the nail will naturally wear down.

How to tell if the nails are too long
If the nails make a clicking sound when your dog walks, they are probably too long. Hold your dog’s foot and press the toe so that the nail extends fully. If the nail curves beyond the bottom of the toe pad, it’s too long.

Why are the front nails often longer than the back nails?
Most dogs propel themselves with their back legs, such as greyhounds do, and wear the back nails down.

What’s the quick?
The quick is the fleshy section inside the nail rather like the ink cartridge inside a pen. The quick contains nerves and blood vessels so that cutting it causes pain and bleeding.

How to enjoy cutting nails

  • Start small, make it fun, and use a sharp clipping tool.
  • Have your pet lick peanut butter or liver paste off the clipper. Make your pet happy just to see the clipper.
  • Play games touching the feet with the clipper and giving a treat. If necessary, start the touching high on your pet away from the feet and work down to the toes.
  • Play with the toes every night at bedtime.
  • Play with the toes holding the clipper.
  • Practice holding toes gently extended but keep the rest of your dog’s leg tucked up against its body. Keeping the leg tucked is more comfortable for dogs than is having the leg extended while nails are being cut. When the leg is extended, accidentally twisting the toe while cutting a nail causes a torque that travels up the entire straight leg. If the leg is bent, the torque from a twisted toe travels only as far as the closest flexed joint. Ideally, hold the toe and do not torque it when cutting the nails.
  • Observe where the quick is by working in bright light. Examine the lightly colored nails first and get an idea of where the quick is in the dark nails. Do not trim the lightly colored guide nail until having trimmed the dark nails. As you cut, hold the nail so you can squarely see the cut tip. A black spot appears in the nail as the quick is approached. When you see the black spot, go no further.
  • Hold the toe securely but not in a vice grip and slide the clipper opening down the nail, visually confirming that you are not including hair (this pulls) or toe pad. Clip small bites without twisting the toe. If nails are tough, bath your pet before cutting the nails. Alternatively, cut nails after walking in the rain or swimming.
  • Give your dog a great treat with every successful step down the road toward easy nail cutting.
  • Clip one nail a day until your dog is so happy to have nails cut, it wants you to do them all at once.

What to do if the quick bleeds when trimming nails

  • Recognize that cutting the quick (quicking) causes pain and apologize. Accept your pet’s forgiveness and then completely drop the issue. Feeling guilty or nervous about quicking makes pets anxious.
  • Stop the bleeding by pressing and holding the nail dipped in flour, cornstarch, a bar of soap, or an open capsule of Yunnan Paiyo to form a clot.
  • Have your veterinary technician or groomer show you how they trims nails, and ask them to talk you through doing it until you are no longer nervous. It’s appropriate to pay for their time.
  • Consider use a Dremel tool if you’re paranoid about cutting the quick with a clipper. A Dremel is a rotating stone that sands the nail down so that it’s easier to proceed slowly and there is less likelihood of cutting the quick. Accustom your dog to the sounds and vibrations from a Dremel before you start trimming.

What if the nails are really long?
As nails grow, the quick extends so that the quick becomes very long when the nail is very long. Cutting these nails to the proper length would also cut the quick. Although this procedure is sometimes done under anesthetic, at home we just cut the nails slowly. The quick will regress a small amount each time the nail is shortened. Over several weeks, the nail can be shorted without pain or trauma.

Tools for trimming dog nails

A brightly colored Pet Nail Trimmer with a rubber handle is fun and easy to use.


The articles here were answered by a variety of pharmacists and veterinarians
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  • Long nails can grow around and into the bottom of the foot
  • If the nails are too long, your pet cannot walk correctly
    Recpmmended products for trimming nails
  • Pet Nail Trimmer
    This information is for educational purposes only and is intended to be a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise and professional judgment of your veterinarian. The information is NOT to be used for diagnosis or treatment of your pet. You should always consult your own veterinarian for specific advice concerning the treatment of your pet.

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