- To cut your dog’s nails, you need scissor clippers, guillotine clippers, or a grinder.
- For first-timers, it’s best to have two people: one to comfort your pup while the other trims.
- Nail grinding is another option that may allow you to have more control.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Humans aren’t the only ones who get manicures and pedicures — dogs need pampering too, and you can do it yourself at home.
All dogs need their nails trimmed regularly. “Long nails tend to break, and then you can get a split toenail,” says Grace A. Mengel, DVM, assistant professor of clinical primary care medicine at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
Other issues that can arise if your dog’s nails grow too long is that it can make it difficult for them to walk properly and maintain traction on the floor and in severe cases the nail can grow into the skin on the paw pad, causing pain and infection.
The 5 best dog nail clippers and grinders in 2021
That’s why it’s so important to know the proper, safe way to clip your dog’s nails if you plan on doing it yourself. Here’s how to provide your pup with the perfect pedicure.
What tools to cut your dog’s nails?
There are three kinds of tools you can use to trim your dog’s nails.
- Scissor clippers: These nail trimmers are similar to household scissors, but have sturdier, shorter blades. Larger dogs usually need this type of trimmer due to the size and thickness of their nails, says Shawna Garner, DVM, US Lead Veterinarian at on-demand video consultation platform, FirstVet.
- Guillotine clippers: These have a loop that you insert the nail into, and then you squeeze the tool and the blade will cut the nail. These are best suited for small dogs.
- Grinders: Grinding tools like a Dremel can work wonderfully to slowly and gently file down a dog’s nail. Look for a grinder made for pets.
How to cut your dog’s nails
You should do your best to avoid the quick.
Once you have your clippers ready, you can prepare to cut your dog’s nails. This should be a two-person job at first, says Christopher Lea, DVM, DABVP, a clinician at the Auburn University Veterinary Clinic and associate professor at Auburn University. This way one person can hold and comfort the dog and the other can focus on the clipping itself.
It’s important to note that since most dogs are resistant to having their nails trimmed, it helps to put them up on a table or counter to prevent them from trying to get away from you.
Step-by-step guide to safely cut your dog’s nails
- When clipping the front nails, have your dog assume a sitting position. When clipping the back nails, have them stand.
- Firmly grip your dog’s foot and center your grip on their paw.
- Use your thumb to isolate the nail that you are going to trim.
- Identify the delicate part of the nail called the quick. This is the blood supply to the nail, and it will appear pinker than the rest of the nail. “Beyond the quick and towards the point of the claw, the nail will appear white, about two-thirds of the way down. This white area is where you want to focus the trimmers,” says Garner.
- Place the blade in this spot and trim with a gentle but firm motion.
- Repeat for all nails.
If your dog has darker nails, this process can be trickier since you can’t see the quick. In this case, Garner says you should look at the underside of the nail and identify the hollow area towards the tip, and focus the clippers at the tip.
Also, unless they’ve been properly introduced to the procedure, most dogs do not enjoy having their nails trimmed. Ideally, introduce nail trimming to your puppy starting from a young age. Using lots of treats, clip one nail at a time, going slowly and reassuring your puppy using a soothing voice. This technique can also work for older dogs.
Grinding your dog’s nails
Grinding your dog’s nails may be a better option for beginners.
One of the main benefits of nail grinding is that it allows for more control, which can help you avoid the quick. Additionally, grinders work like a nail file and prevent you from making sharp edges or splitting the nail, which can be uncomfortable and potentially lead to bleeding or infection, says Carly Fox DVM, Staff Doctor at NYC’s Animal Medical Center.
Before you use a grinder for the first time, Fox says it’s a good idea to get your pet used to the sound of the grinder by introducing it slowly and giving your pup treats when you turn it on.
Step-by-step guide to grind your dog’s nails
- Hold your pet’s paw firmly with your thumb on top of their paw and your other four fingers on the underside.
- Isolate a toe gently but firmly with your thumb and middle finger.
- Place the grinder on low speed at the top of the nail for about three seconds.
- Repeat on other nails.
- If your pet is tolerating this, you can increase the speed and continue to repeat the process.
- When the nails are a good length, start rounding them out so they’re smooth.
Just like with cutting the nails, you need to be mindful of the quick.
“In dogs with darker nails, you should stop dremeling once you see a white circle appear on the tip of their nail. This lets you know you are getting close to the quick,” says Fox.
What to do if you nick the nail
If you accidentally cut into the quick, your dog might yelp in pain and the nail may bleed a lot. Store-bought powders, called styptic powders, can help staunch the bleeding. And if you don’t have styptic powder, you can always use corn starch.
Mengel recommends putting the styptic powder on a piece of gauze and then holding it against the nail and applying some pressure to help stop the bleeding.
Important: “Don’t wrap it and leave the wrap on. You can wrap it too tight, or if you leave it on too long you can get an infection,” Mengel says.
Though there may be lots of blood, a nicked nail isn’t an emergency. However, if the next day the wound is swollen or seems sore, it could be a sign of infection so take your dog to the veterinarian.
Important: After treating the wound, put your dog in a crate to give the nail time to heal. Walking or running can irritate the wound, making it bleed more.
Cutting your dog’s nails at home can be more convenient and cost-effective than having it done at a dog groomer. Overgrown nails can be dangerous for dogs, so it’s important to keep trimming their nails regularly.
If you choose to cut your dog’s nails at home, the method you use will vary based on you and your dog’s personal preference. Be patient with the process, since there is a bit of a learning curve for both you and your pet. If you’re having a lot of trouble with it, don’t hesitate to visit your family veterinarian for some help.
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