Written by Anna Hollisey
Nobody wants to do it. But cutting your dogs’ nails is an important part of their grooming routine. You can keep them trim and healthy using a range of tools, from scissor clippers to grinders. In this article we’ll explain why it’s important, how to choose the right tool, and how to persuade your dog to relax for their manicure.
Some dogs wear down their nails or claws – either because they’re working dogs or because they spend plenty of time walking on hard surfaces. But if your dog’s nails become too long, they can become uncomfortable and even cause an injury to the foot.
Trimming your dog’s claws isn’t like cutting human nails. Those things are round and can be very chunky! You’ll need a specialist dog nail trimmer or grinder. Here are some tips for choosing the best tool for your dog:
Before bringing out the nail clippers, familiarize yourself with your dog’s paws and claws. Prepare your dog by gently squeezing each toe, which will push the claw outwards.
The ‘quick’ – the living part of the nail – contains nerves and blood vessels, so you need to avoid it while cutting. It tends to be pink, and usually visible on light-colored claws. If your dog’s claws are dark, you can see the quick by looking underneath – there may be a ridge where the cuticle begins. Shining a torch-light onto the claw can help too.
If you accidentally cut the quick when you’re trimming nails, styptic powder can be applied to stem the blood flow. Afterwards, try to keep the claw clean, since it will be more prone to infections.
We’ve talked about this before on the blog. Training our dogs to be groomed, lifted or handled is a great idea, and it’s not difficult!
In principle, you’ll be gently touching your dog’s teeth or paws, or showing them a brush – while feeding them treats and giving them praise. Start small and build up to a happy place where your dog lets you brush his chest or squeeze his paws. Let your dog learn to trust you and the tools.
In the case of nail trimming, it’s a good idea to switch on the grinder and even hold it near your pup’s paw so that they have no negative associations with it. You can let your pup sniff it and see what the vibrations are like. Keep rewarding them. Eventually, you can move on to cutting the very edge of one claw. Even if you clip one claw per day, a happy pup is worth the gradual pace!
While you’re cutting your dog’s nails, look out for signs of discomfort or infection. Nail disorders are usually simple to treat. Consult your vet if your dog has:
If it affects just one nail, it’s likely to be a simple problem such as trauma or infection – but if several nails are showing the same symptoms, there could be a more serious cause. Some underlying conditions – such as immune disorders, Neoplasia and cancer – can cause nail symptoms.
So even though it’s just a claw, it’s important to take your dog to the vet, who will scrape some skin and check the sample for bacteria. Treatments vary from antibiotic medication to removal of the affected nails. Bacterial or fungal infections are treated with topical drugs.
Before you start, get in a calm frame of mind. Your dog picks up on tiny emotional cues and will instantly know if you’re tense. We’re not saying get a glass of wine but choose a time when you’re both relaxed – maybe right after a long walk. Ready?