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When and How to Cut Your Dog's Nails

8 CommentsFriday, 15 May 2015  | 

Just like human nails, dog claws grow constantly. How often a dog's nails need to be cut will depend on the breed and lifestyle, which can change with age.

correct dog nail claw lengthMany dogs naturally wear their nails down by walking and play, especially if the walk involves hard surfaces. An inactive dog may not wear their nails down. Similarly an older dog will often favour grass and softer ground and will prefer not to walk on hard surfaces, so their nails will not naturally wear down as much either.

It is therefore important to keep your dog's claws well trimmed at the correct length. If they get too long it can put pain and pressure on the toes and paws, which will ultimately put strain on the legs. Long claws are also prone to splitting and infection.

Correct length for a dog's nails

If a dog's nails are too long, you will hear them clack when the dog walks on hard surfaces. Deciding if your dog’s nails are too long is quite simple. The claws should not protrude over the pad and should not touch the ground when standing.

The quick

You can cut your dog's nails at home. This is particularly easy if your dog has clear or light coloured nails. In these cases you can see the quick inside the nail. The quick is the blood vessels and nerves that supply the nail. Knowing where the quick is will help you to trim to just before that point. The general recommendation is to cut approx 2mm away from the quick. But if a dog has black or dark claws it can be difficult or impossible to see the quick and this will make nail trimming more difficult. You may prefer, in these cases, to try filing your dog's nails or to have your vet or dog groomer trim them for you.

Cutting your dog's nails

Purchase a specially made implement for the job of cutting your dog's nails. There are several styles of nail trimmer available. Guillotine nail clippers are often the easiest to use and work well for toy and small breeds. Plier dog nail clippers with a scissor type action are also very effective and especially suit larger breeds or if the dog has strong, thick nails. Look for a claw cutter with sharp stainless steel blades and a comfortable handle with plenty of grip.

how to cut dog nailsEach clipper will vary as to how it should be used. Carefully read the instructions specifically for the clipper you have purchased. When you cut the nail you must be decisive and make a smooth, quick squeeze while holding the nail cutter steady.

The claws on a dog's rear feet are often shorter and require less frequent trimming than those on the front feet.

Don't forget your dog's dew claws. These are on the inner leg. As they are located slightly higher up the leg, they therefore do not touch the ground and do not wear down naturally like the rest of the claws.

After trimming with nail cutters you can either file the nail smooth or simply let the rough edges smooth themselves away over time.

Cutting dark claws

The problem with dark nails is that you cannot easily see the quick. Cut dark claws in several small cuts to reduce the chance of accidentally cutting into the quick. As you cut, keep checking the end of your dog's nail. As you cut further along, look out for a dark spot in the centre of the newly clipped edge. This dark area is where the live quick starts.

Some other handy hints for cutting dark nails:

  • Try shining a torch or bright light towards you and through the claw.
  • Try looking on the underside of the nail where the quick is often more visible.
  • Bathing can make the quick easier to see and also makes nails easier to cut.
  • Applying baby oil will serve the same purpose.

If you cut the quick

Don't panic. If you accidentally cut the nail too short and it starts to bleed, hold some tissue tightly to the bleeding. Alternatively, use a styptic pencil, styptic powder or styptic pads to stop blood flow. Even without treatment, the bleeding should stop within about 5 minutes. If your dog licks the wound it will slow the healing and clotting process and bleed for a bit longer.

If your dog's nails are long

The longer the nail the longer the quick. If your dog's nails are long it is better to cut a little at a time because the quick will also be long. Cut a little bit from each claw and then wait a few days or a week for the quick to recede before cutting again. Once you have the claws at a sensible length then cut monthly or as required.

Trim your dog's claws regularly

Most dogs do not like having their nails trimmed. It is therefore a good idea to get your dog used to having their paws handled at a young age if possible, or at any age by gentle handling and praise. Take things slowly. You don't have to do all the claws in one session.

Keeping your dog's nails trimmed is important. Schedule it into your diary if you are likely to forget. Make a foot inspection part of your usual health routine with your dog. Apart from the pain of long nails, your dog could get infections, broken or ingrown nails and other painful conditions. So with just a little bit of effort and know how, you can keep your dogs feet in tip top condition.

By Jenny Prevel

© D for Dog www.dfordog.co.uk
This article belongs strictly to D for Dog and we do not authorise the copying of all or any part of it.

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Stephen Binks
Monday, 1 June 2015  |  18:34

I found your advise on dogs nails very good but in my case the dogs nails are so thick it hurts him to cut them. So the only solution was go to my vet & get him sedated with cost 50


Steve Attfield
Monday, 1 June 2015  |  22:46

Hi, There is another way to trim their nails if its too thick or the dog doesn't like the sharp cutting action of the clippers. I use a battery operated Dremmel with the sanding attachment which is a circular cylindrical shape. You must use it no more than three strokes on each nail then progress to the next nail. This is to ensure that the friction caused does not create heat and give the dog discomfort. They generally prefer to be done by this method in my many years of experience. Hope this helps` and saves you a rip off fee of 50.


Jaira
Wednesday, 24 June 2015  |  6:07

useful blog...thank you


Donna
Monday, 20 July 2015  |  20:14

Great advice and very true.


Smith
Thursday, 23 July 2015  |  20:28

While I was away my friends to my dog to have his nails clipped I found out after that my dogs feetwere bleeding on and off for nearly 1 hour is this normal for them to bleed that much his nails have not been the same since he has black nails


D for Dog
Friday, 24 July 2015  |  14:04

I have not heard of this happening before. Much too much may have been cut off in one go, is all I can think of. They shouldn't bleed for that long if just nicked on the end. My only other though might be if the dog has a blood clotting issue. You may want to ask the vet about that, just in case. My gut feeling though is way too much nail was cut off in one go.


Sue Archer
Thursday, 6 August 2015  |  17:34

Does it hurt the dog at all when nails being clipped


D for Dog
Thursday, 6 August 2015  |  22:12

As long as you don't cut the quick, cutting a dog's nails won't hurt them any more than cutting our own nails. Some dogs don't like the feel of the clipper as it squeezes down on the nail so always make sure your nail clippers are sharp for a quick, clean cut.