Nail trimming is important for maintaining healthy
happy feet for dogs and cats. Many dogs and cats will wear their nails
naturally during daily activities, but the vast majority require
additional trimming to maintain nails a proper length.
Why Trim Nails?
Overgrown toenails in dogs and cats are more prone
to snagging on things and being ripped or even torn out. Nails can also
curve back and grow into the foot pad, causing a painful wound and
infection. Left for a long time, overgrown nails can cause abnormal
foot posture, resulting in permanent deformities of the toes.
Additionally, long nails can do damage to owners
during rough play or self defense, and can damage furniture and floors.
Cats require frequent trimming in particular to prevent damage to
furniture should the cat scratch inappropriately. Scratching is normal
and necessary social behavior for cats, but when the nails are kept
short, scratching will not leave permanent marks on furniture. Soft
Claws nail caps are also available to further dull cat nails.
When Should Nails Be Trimmed?
For dogs, anytime the nail can be heard "clicking"
on a hard floor, it is time for a trim. Nails should not touch the
floor when the dog is standing or walking. Nails should only dig in at
faster gaits for added traction.
For cats, any time the point is becoming long or
sharp. For most cats this is every 4 weeks or so.
What Supplies Will I Need?
First, you need a cooperative partner. To build
cooperation, practice holding or massaging feet for a brief period
every day. We want to build trust, not force the animal to "submit" to
handling. Always reward good behavior with plenty of praise and a
Second, you need the right tools. Sharp nail
clippers (there are many varieties available), KwikStop or other stypic
powder, and a reward for afterward.
Lastly, you need the knowledge and confidence to
trim the nails properly.
How Do I Know Where to Cut?
Every nail is made up of a dead section which can
be removed and a living section commonly called the quick. The quick
contains a blood and nerve supply. When the nail is trimmed too short,
the quick will bleed and be sore. As long as you are prepared with
styptic powder, the occasional accidental quick cutting is not a big
deal. Remember, eventually everyone will cut a quick at some point.
Just be prepared in case it happens.
Dogs with light color nails
For dogs with light color nails, you can generally see the quick within
the nail. It appears pink or flesh-tone. Begin by identifying where the
quick appears to stop. Cut the nail perpendicular leaving a space
between where you cut and where the quick ends. Inspect the tip of the
nail. If you are getting close to the quick, you will see a dark dot or
a pink dot. If all you see is dead white nail, it is alright to cut a
tiny bit more off the nail. Continue removing tiny bits of nail until
you get to the dark or pink dot as described above.
Dogs with dark color nails
For dogs with dark color nails, you will not be able to see the quick
from the exterior of the nail. Be conservative, and start with trimming
only the tip of the nail. After each trimming, inspect the tip of the
nail. When you are far away from the quick, you will only see dead,
grayish nail matter. As you approach the quick you will see a dark or
pink dot in the center of the nail with a different texture. This is
the precursor to the quick and your signal to stop trimming.
Cats have unique nails. They are always clear and the quick is visible
through the nail. Also, they have a wedge shaped nail with a hook-like
tip. When trimming cat nails, remove as much of the hook-like tip as
possible without clipping into the pink area of the nail.
What Do I Do if it Bleeds?
Always have styptic powder available. Should the
nail accidentally be trimmed too short (remember, this is inevitable at
some point), dab off any excess blood with a tissue, then apply a pinch
of styptic powder to the tip of the nail and apply pressure with your
finger for 10 seconds. This should stop any bleeding. If bleeding
continues, repeat with more styptic powder.
Most nails will stop themselves even without
styptic powder within 5-7 minutes. Any nail bleeding longer than 10
minutes requires a doctor's attention.
What About Grinding or "Dremelling"
Using a rotary grinding tool such as a dremel is
an excellent way to take care of dogs' nails. It is less likely to
result in a bleeding quick and gives finer control over how much nail
is removed and in what shape. Very popular with owners who show their
dogs, grinding requires practice to perfect the technique and to get
the pet accustomed to the noise and sensation of the tool. Grinding
nails gives excellent results with a little practice.