Trimming Nails

Trimming your pet’s nails is a simple yet important step in routine care. Trimming the nails routinely, every 2-4 weeks, will help keep your pet from scratching you, your friends, or your furniture. It is also important so that the “quick” (blood supply to the nail) does not grow, preventing you from being able to trim the nails thoroughly enough. In order for you to be able to do this, all you need are a few supplies, a little knowledge, and sometimes a helper.

The first step is to get the right supplies for the job. You will need a nail trimming device and some “Quik Stop Powder”. There are three basic nail trimming devices; guillotine cutters, scissor cutters, and a filing tool such as the dremel. You will develop your own preference, but ours is to use the scissor cutters. These provide a fast, clean cut that is, in our opinion, the easiest to use. The other types of trimming devices are perfectly acceptable, but require a slightly different technique, and the filing tool typically requires a period of time for the animal to get used to the noise and feeling. The “Quik Stop Powder” is used to stop any bleeding in case you trim the nails back too far.You will need to place this powder on the end of the nail that is bleeding, and it will help stop the bleeding. It is obviously best to avoid this, but it happens to everyone, including us, and you should not worry too much about it happening on occasion. If you find yourself doing it often, please feel free to stop by our office for a refresher training course.

The next step is learning how to restrain your animals to trim their nails. Some pets are easy and only require one person to hold the pet and trim the nails, but other animals may require a second person to help. It is best to start when your pet is young, so you can train them to the feeling and process, and it will be quite simple to do. Even older pets can be trained though, if it is done frequently enough. Some pets will stand in place for a nail trim, while others might have to be held in the standing position (one arm around their body, the other holding the paw to be trimmed up off the ground). Other pets will do better lying down on their side. A good one person approach is to sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, and have the pet lay on their back in between your legs. As it is with the type of trimmer you use, you will develop your own preferences as see what works best for you and your pet.

The final step is to trim the nails. As mentioned before avoiding the blood supply to the nail is important. For pets with clear/white nails it is easily visualized by looking for the beginning of pink/red color in an otherwise clear/white nail. So trimming clear/white nails is easy, trim back until you see the pink/red color. Trimming the nails on pets with black nails is a little more challenging, and you have to go by sight and feel. Nails will most often have a hook shape. The hook has a thicker part and a thinner part. If you place your nail trimmers right at the transition from thick to thin, then move ever so slightly towards the tip of the nail, that is the ideal trimming spot. It is not 100% fool proof, and sometimes you may need to trim more, or you may cause a little bleeding, but it is a good rule of thumb to go by. Then repeat for all nails…don’t forget about the thumb (dew claw) if your pet has them.