Value of Regular Nail Trims

While needing to be done as frequently as brushing your pet’s teeth, nail trimming is part of an important grooming routine.

When nails get too long, they can:

  • Alter the way their feet carry their weight, leading to pain, poor posture and arthritis
  • Be torn off if they get caught on carpet or furniture
  • Curl around and grow into the toe pads

Dogs that run around on concrete or other abrasive hard surfaces are often able to wear down most their nails themselves, but not the dewclaws which do not touch the ground. Outdoor cats that climb trees and hunt prey sometimes wear down their own nails adequately. But for the vast majority of our pets, they spend much of their time indoors or running on lawns/grass. This means that we have to help trim their nails to keep them comfortable.

How do you know if your pet’s nails are too long? The most commonly accepted rule of thumb is that when a dog is standing on a smooth, flat surface, the nails should not make contact with the ground. Basically, if you can hear your pet coming, their nails are too long. For cats, when they are sharp and pointy, they are in need of trimming.

It is important to start handling your puppy/kitten’s paws so they get used to the process. Start by:

Touching your pet’s paws.Do this well before you reach for the nail clippers and offer treats when they allow you.
Massage your pet’s feet, but don’t get into any kind of rough play. We don’t want to promote the idea of your dog pulling away or trying to nip you; nor do we want your cat clawing at you or trying to grab your hand with their claws. If they think this is play time, wait until they’re tired or resting to see if they will let you casually pick up a paw and rub it. Reward them with treats or pets if they let you.

Bring out the nail trimmers. Let your pet sniff them but do not start trimming. If you have a Dremel type tool, turn it on and let them get used to the noise. Stop if they get nervous and reward them with treats. Make it a positive experience!

Trim one nail. If they let you without a fuss, give them lots of treats and praise! Then go on to the next one. If at any time they fuss, stop. Come back to this another time or day.

Do it bit by bit. 1–2 millimetres at a time, clip each nail carefully so that you do not accidentally cut into the quick, which is the live part of the nail that perceives pain. This means stopping before you reach the pink part if your dog has white nails. For dogs with black nails, clip until you start seeing a small darker centre surrounded by lighter nail. If you accidentally cut into the quick, it will probably bleed. Use some corn starch or flour to help stem the bleeding.

The above steps are not to be done all at once. If you can only trim one nail per day, that is fine. We do not want to force nail trims and make it a bad experience. If your pet will not tolerate you cutting their nails, speak to a professional dog groomer or your neighbourhood veterinarian who may have more ideas or would have success with trimming your pet’s nails. Sometimes they behave better outside their own homes!

If you need a demo on how to trim nails, we do have a video on our website to help show you, or, please give Edgemont Veterinary Clinic a call. We have lots of treats and experienced staff that would be willing to show you. If you would prefer, we are happy to book spa service pawdicures for your pet when needed – just call us for an appointment!