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Caring for Your Dog's Nails


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Regular grooming is a part of responsible dog ownership, and this includes taking care of your pet's nails. Toenails that are allowed to grow too long can puncture a dog's foot or get snagged and be pulled off. Both conditions are very painful. Long toenails also increase the risk that a dog will scratch a person or damage floors or other parts of the house.

How to Trim Your Dog's Nails

Nail Clipper

Many owners are intimidated by the thought of trimming their dog's toenails, but it's not very difficult. First, get yourself a good tool. A sharp, new nail trimmer is much easier to use and puts less pressure on the sensitive parts of a dog's nail. Many different types of nail clippers are available. Pick one that fits the size of your dog. Nail scissors are best reserved for small breeds.

Next, get your dog used to having his feet handled. Some dogs seem to be very sensitive in this area, so start by making it a pleasant experience for everyone. Sit with your dog, pet him, and gradually move down his leg to his feet. Praise him or even give him a treat when he lets you play with his paws and wiggle his nails without pulling away. If after multiple attempts this type of training does not work, you might need to consider giving your dog something to help with anxiety.

Know the anatomy of a canine toenail. The part farthest from the foot does not have any blood vessels or nerves and so clipping in this area is not painful. But, if you move far enough back on the nail, you will hit the quick. This does hurt and can bleed, very much like pulling or breaking your fingernail back too far, but it is not the end of the world. Have some Kwik-Stop Styptic Powder or a styptic pencil on hand to stop the bleeding just in case.

Styptic Powder

If your dog has white nails, you should be able to see the triangular, pink quick inside. Clip the nail a few millimeters away from there.

Trimming black nails is a little more challenging. The first few times, start by just removing a few millimeters from the end of the nail at a time. As you get close to the quick, you will start to see a black area of tissue surrounded by a lighter circle at the cut end of the nail. This is a good place to stop. As you get to know your dog's nails, you will become more comfortable with taking larger pieces off at one time.

If you just can't bring yourself to use a clipper, you can use a pet nail file or grinder. You still need to be careful to avoid the quick, but because these tools remove the nail more gradually, they can be less intimidating. Files are also good to smooth out the edges of a nail cut with trimmers.

If all else fails, make an appointment with a groomer or veterinarian to get your dog's nails trimmed. There is nothing wrong with letting someone else be the "bad guy" if home nail care is just too traumatic for you and your dog.


The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


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