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When and How to Cut Your Dog's Nails

21 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.


Jeanne
Saturday, 12 December 2015  |  14:39

We have a special needs dog that doesn't do well with having his nails clipped. We discovered if you distract the dog with peanut butter on a small cutting board for him to lick, you can clip the nails with no problem.


Jadine
Wednesday, 20 January 2016  |  12:16

Brilliant idea! My 18mth rescue saluki hates having his feet done as sometimes I have to trim the fur too and I've been trying to think of a way to distract him with peanut butter, can't believe I didn't think of a chopping board! :-)


Tracy Hale
Thursday, 28 January 2016  |  20:49

Found this very helpful. I was a bit nervous to cutting my dogs nail. After reading this I did it and looked for the quick which to be honest didn't know about. Thankyou for your information and help


Jean
Sunday, 31 January 2016  |  11:15

Thanks l have a black Labrador so found all the comments useful.


An_Older_Vet
Friday, 5 February 2016  |  16:41

dogs generally do not like having their nails clipped, and much of the time these days clipping is unnecessary - whether the nail tips touch the floor or not is irrelevant to the dog - how else do they wear down if the dont touch the ground. If they grow past that point, then that's when they need clipping; otherwise you will be subjecting the dog to repeated clipping. And guess who is the main beneficiary.


Dianne
Saturday, 20 February 2016  |  20:22

An_Older_Vet - that point was made perfectly clear in the article!


Rodney
Saturday, 12 March 2016  |  21:54

Thank you for a *very* well written, clear, comprehensive and informative article.


A W Howell
Tuesday, 21 June 2016  |  1:56

Is the pic you show at the beginning of your article the right length? I am a pet sitter, and I have seen a lot of different lengths on different breeds.I have a Goldendoodle with black nails that have become too long. I was told I could have his nails trimmed every 2 weeks until they get to a proper length. Is this a good idea?


D for Dog
Tuesday, 21 June 2016  |  9:22

That's a good length, yes. And yes, trimming long nails every 2 weeks to get them to the correct length is a good idea.


Tom
Monday, 18 July 2016  |  9:58

My dogs nails are about the same lenght like those pictured at the beginning of your article but I can still hear them clack when she walks on our wooden floor (it sometimes wakes me up in the night...). Is it safe to cut it shorter? Thanks


D for Dog
Monday, 18 July 2016  |  10:19

Hi Tom, you can cut them as short as the dog's quick is. If you feel you are getting close to the quick, be very careful and just take off a tiny 1mm bit at a time.


Tom
Monday, 18 July 2016  |  14:10

Thanks for your answer. How long would you say it takes to get them to look like this?


D for Dog
Monday, 18 July 2016  |  14:29

I am sorry but I am not sure why anyone would want to achieve that. It doesn't look good for the dog at all. The nails have almost been amputated. I do not recommend you do that. Cut them to a natural and useful length for the dog, don't maim them.

D for Dog
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