Education Center

Nail Trimming


Dr. Al Townshend

Like our nails, the claws of dogs and cats grow, and if they are not worn down or trimmed, they will cause problems. Without regular care, a pet’s claws can alter an animal’s ability to walk comfortably. Eventually, they can grow into the pads of the feet, causing pain, infection and lameness.

Exercise helps to keep a dog’s nails worn, especially walking on hard, rough surfaces like sidewalks. Scratching is normal for a cat; it helps pull the external sheath of their claws off to keep them from getting too long. A scratching post can help the cat to engage in this instinct and save the furniture from damage.

Most dogs and cats still need their nails trimmed regularly, which requires handling the paws. Pets don’t usually like to have their paws touched, so training is essential. Starting when they are young to get them use to the process is best. A reward should be given after a successful trimming, so eventually, the pet understands that something good will follow.

There are almost as many different nail trimmers for pets as there are techniques to trim the nails. Finding the right trimmer and the technique that works the best is the key. Trimmer options range from human nail trimmers to electric filing tools.

Finding the trimming technique that works best for the Guardian and tolerated by the pet requires some trial and error. Professional groomers, veterinarians and the internet are all good sources for detailed descriptions of different procedures (see below for internet resources),

Be careful not to cut too much of the nail.  There is a visible hard outer shell and a soft cuticle in the center of the nail called ‘the quick.’ The goal of trimming is to cut the hard, outer shell just short of the quick, which contains a nerve and blood vessel. Cutting the quick hurts, and it will cause it to bleed. Dark nails make it harder to see the quick, so be sure to error on the side of caution.

When the quick is cut and bleeds, applying pressure to the tip of the nail for a few minutes will allow the blood to clot. It is a good idea to be prepared. There are powders and sticks available to help stop the bleeding quickly. Bandaging the paw briefly can help with the bleeding.

Reassuring the pet throughout the process is essential. Pets will react to our frustrations and make it even more difficult to complete the trimming. It is always best to have plenty of treats on hand to encourage the pet and to reward a successful trimming experience.

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Additional Resources:

Vet MD for CatsVet MD for Dogs

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