How to Trim Your Pet’s Nails

Trimming a pet’s nails can be one of the most challenging and frustrating things that we do to or for our pets.  Most of the time dogs and cats resent having their nails trimmed and will often fight vigorously to avoid the process altogether.  Performing a nail trim successfully requires the proper equipment and supplies, appropriate restraint, and a cooperative pet.  Without one or all of these, a nail trim can go very badly and can even be dangerous to the pet and pet owner.

Done properly, a nail trim on a pet can be a safe and important grooming procedure that many pets require to prevent toe, nail, or skin injury.  It may also be important to prevent damage to floors or belongings.  Done improperly, people and pets can be seriously injured.  Many animal bites occur during nail trim procedures.  Because nail trimming is often a difficult procedure, some pet owners elect to have their pet’s nails trimmed either at the pet groomer or the veterinary clinic.  For some uncooperative pets, this may be the best option.

Dogs

It is always best to work with a helper to assist in holding the dog as needed.  If the experience can be made to be positive, this is preferable.  Treats, petting, and calm words of encouragement will help make nail trims a more positive experience for the pet.

There are many different kinds of nail trimmers for dogs, including those that grind and smooth the nails.  Personal preference will often determine which type is used.  We prefer the scissors type.  In addition to the nail trimmer, it is essential to also have styptic powder immediately available for use.  Nails are commonly trimmed too short.  When this happens, it is necessary to stop the living part of the nail, or quick, from bleeding.  Many times, pet owners start a nail trim, often late at night or on a weekend, without styptic powder available.  In these instances, when the nail is cut short, the pet owner has no simple or effective way of stopping the bleeding and what started out as a simple nail trim, has now turned into a panicked trip to an emergency clinic.

Cats

Performing a nail trim on a cat can sometimes be very difficult.  For most cats, less restraint works better than more restraint.  The cat’s disposition will often be the determining factor for whether or not the nail trim will be performed or not.

Dog style nail trimmers can also be used on cats, but some people find it helpful to use nail trimmers specifically designed for cats. Though cats are less likely to bleed profusely, styptic powder should still be available if a nail trim on a cat is to be performed.

Cat’s nails are retractable, so the first step in trimming a cat’s nail or claw, is to put pressure on the toe, top and bottom.   This will cause the nail to extend so it is visible and accessible for trimming.

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