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How to successfully trim your dog’s nails

Ellevet dog nail trimming

Trimming a dog’s nails can be a stressful process, especially if you’ve never done it before. Nail trimming often causes stress in both people and dogs, and one wrong move can cause painful injury. But keeping your dog’s nails short is an essential part of supporting their health and happiness and performing the task at home can be more convenient than frequent trips to the vet or groomer. 

Why is nail trimming so important for dogs? How can you set up your dog for nail trimming success? 

Table of contents 

Importance of trimmed nails 

Trimming your dog’s nails is an important part of their grooming routine, as overgrown nails can cause a number of problems. In fact, trim nails are one clear sign of your dog’s good health and hygiene. 

Long nails can be painful for your dog. When a dog’s nails are too long, they can curl under and put pressure on the pads of their feet, causing discomfort and even lameness. In addition, long nails can cause a dog to walk improperly, which can lead to muscle and joint problems. Long nails also cause your dog to lose traction on smooth surfaces, which can cause them to slip, slide, and easily injure themselves. 

Shorter nails are good for you, too. Another reason to trim your dog’s nails is to prevent damage to your floors and furniture. Overgrown nails can cause scratches and marks on hardwood and other types of flooring, as well as damage to upholstery and other household items. 

All about the quick 

A dog’s nail consists of the living pink quick and the hard outer material called the shell. The quick supplies blood to the nail and runs through the core of it. Nerves in the quick cause bleeding and discomfort when cut. Regular nail trimming will cause the quick to recede from the end. Short quicks are the preferred length for the dog’s well-being and easy maintenance. 

If your furry friend has light-colored nails, finding the quick is relatively easy. When looking down at your dog’s semi-transparent nails, the quick is the pink region in the center of each nail. Locating the quick on black dog nails is a bit more difficult—look under the paw for a lighter, flesh portion of the nail and only trim until you can see a light-colored dot at the center of your dog’s dark nail. 

Long nails are more likely to break, exposing the quick and causing severe pain. When a dog’s nails break, they usually split up the nail toward the toe and can be a risk for infection. 

How often should you trim your dog’s nails? 

The frequency with which you should trim your dog’s nails will depend on a number of factors, including their breed, size, and activity level. In general, however, it’s a good idea to trim your dog’s nails every two to four weeks. That frequency may seem like a lot, but the more you trim them, the less you have to trim off, decreasing the risk of cutting into your dog’s quick. 

It’s important to note that some dogs may need their nails trimmed more frequently than others. For example, dogs that are active and spend a lot of time running and playing on hard surfaces may wear their nails down more quickly, and may not need as frequent trimmings. On the other hand, dogs who are less active may need their nails trimmed more often. 

If you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor when they walk, it’s probably time for a trim. You can also check the length of your dog’s nails by pressing on the bottom of their paw and observing the way the nails curve. If the nails are touching the ground, they are probably too long and need to be trimmed. 

If you’re not sure how often to trim your dog’s nails, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or groomer. They can help you determine a schedule that’s right for your dog’s needs. 

Tips for nail trimming success 

If you’ve never clipped a dog’s nails before, you may want to have your veterinarian or vet tech give you a lesson on how to do it. Once you understand the basics of dog nail trimming, however, it’s actually a simple procedure that most pet parents can do from the convenience of their own home. Here are some tips for nail trimming success: 

Safety 

  • Make sure to use dog-friendly clippers, scissors, grinders, and files 
  • Regularly sharpen clipper blades to keep trimming sessions as efficient and safe as possible 
  • Clip only small portions at a time to avoid clipping the quick 
  • Don’t be afraid to get professional help 

Stress-free 

  • Stay calm – Be gentle and use a soft, soothing voice. 
  • Use rewards – Build positive associations by rewarding calm behavior and a successful clip with praise and treats. 
  • Keep it quick – Do not insist on completing all four paws in a single session. Many dogs do better if trimming is broken up into smaller increments. 
  • ElleVet CBDElleVet’s Calm & Comfort high-potency CBD + CBDA chews provide maximum support for dogs who experience acute stress in situations like grooming and vet visits. By calming without sedating, CBD + CBDA helps dogs relax and safely handle particularly stressful situations. 

What not to do 

Just as important as understanding how to properly trim your dog’s nails is knowing what not to do. First and foremost, don’t push it. Forcing your dog to do something they are not comfortable with could amplify your dog’s fears and make the situation worse. Attempting to work through a squirmy session can also put your dog at risk of getting injured. 

You should also avoid scolding your pet if they pull their paw back or exhibit fear. Punishment may suppress their resistance to nail trimming, but may serve to increase the dog’s fear, which will not solve the problem in the long run. 

What if you cut the quick? 

If you accidentally cut your dog’s quick while trimming their nails, it’s important to stay calm and act quickly to stop any bleeding. Here are some steps you can take: 

  1. Apply pressure – Use a clean cloth or piece of gauze to apply pressure to the bleeding nail. This will help to stop the bleeding. 
  1. Use styptic powder – Styptic powder and pencils are designed to help stop bleeding and are safe for use on pets. If you don’t have a styptic powder or pencil on hand, you can try using cornstarch, flour, or baking soda. Sprinkle a small amount over the bleeding nail and apply pressure until the bleeding stops. 
  1. Cover the nail – Consider covering your dog’s paw with a bandage, depending on the severity of the cut, to prevent infection, further injury, and bleeding all over your house. 
  1. Keep an eye on your dog – After you have stopped the bleeding, keep an eye on your dog for any signs of discomfort or infection.  

The severity of bleeding from a cut to your dog’s quick will depend on how much of the quick was knicked. Bleeding typically stops on its own within a few minutes, and you should consult your veterinarian if bleeding doesn’t stop or if your dog shows any signs of discomfort lasting more than 24 hours. 

It’s important to note that cutting the quick can be painful for your dog, so be sure to give them plenty of praise and treats after the incident to help them associate the experience with something positive. Negative experiences can contribute to stress and fear. 

How to prevent nail trimming stress 

Since nail trimming can be a stress-laden experience for many dogs, start exposing your puppy to the sight and sound of nail clippers as soon as possible. It also helps to frequently touch and hold your dog’s paws gently and cheerfully. Desensitization is extremely helpful in ensuring your dog is relaxed come grooming time. 

For a more pleasant, safe, and efficient nail trimming session, it is important to be patient, keep a gentle and positive attitude, and continue to offer praise and treats. Positive experiences will help your dog learn to not fear nail trimming. 

Take home message 

Trimming your dog’s nails is an important part of their grooming routine that helps to keep them healthy and comfortable. It’s important to use the right tools, identify the quick (the pinkish part of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves), and only cut a small amount at a time to avoid cutting into the quick and causing pain or bleeding. For stressed dogs, desensitization is key to ensuring a safe, pleasant experience for everyone. If you’re not comfortable trimming your dog’s nails yourself, you can always ask a veterinarian or groomer to do it for you. 

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