How to Trim Your Pet's Nails

Last updated on Dec 10 2016

As a veterinarian I am often asked by pet owners how to trim their furry friend's nails. Trimming nails can be a daunting for both you and your pet and if not done carefully it can result in pain and sometimes bleeding too!


Get the Right Tool for the Job

The first step to streamlining the nail trimming process is to choose a pair of clippers that suits your pet. For small dogs and cats I would recommend using a smaller pair of clippers that suitable for little paws. For medium and large dogs, use a more hefty pair of clippers that are strong enough to cleanly cut through thicker nails.


Get Your Pet on Side

Often dogs and cats dislike being restrained to have their nails trimmed, especially if they have had a bad experience with nail trimming in the past. It is a good idea to get them used to being held and having their feet handled from a young age. The best time to try is when your pet is relaxed, perhaps when they are on your lap or having a cuddle. Make sure that they get plenty of rewards and encouragement when they let you do this!


Plan Your Attack

It is really useful to have a second person to help you to do this part. Ask your helper to gently hold the pet around the shoulders in the sitting or standing position. Gently pick up the foot and carefully cut the nail. Be sure to trim only the very tip of the nail to avoid hitting the nail bed or 'quick'. Cutting the nail bed can be very painful and result in bleeding so I recommend that you take a little off at a time to avoid this. If your pet has white nails you are in luck! You should be able to see the pink of the nail bed making it easier to avoid.

With pets that really dislike having their nails clipped, try doing it gradually, for example a foot or even a nail at a time. Reward your pet for their good behaviour and with time and patience you should be able to build up to doing more nails per session.


I Cut It Too Short and Now it's Bleeding! Help!

Don't worry if you do accidentally cut the nail too short, even veterinarians, nurses and groomers do this from time to time. Often the nail can seem to bleed a lot! Don't worry too much though, just like with any other small cut, your pet's blood will clot at the wound site and bleeding will stop with time. It can help to apply a tissue and some pressure to help this along. If your pet will tolerate it, applying a small bandage for an hour or so can help to save your carpet!


A Note About Cats

Although it can sometimes be necessary to trim the nails of our feline friends, I recommend that you do not trim the nails of cats that venture outdoors. The reason for this is that outdoor cats rely on their nails to climb up trees and fences to escape from hazards (like unfriendly dogs!). Cats will generally use scratching posts or trees to keep their nails in check, if you notice that your cat's nails are excessively long it could be a sign of arthritis or other problems that are preventing them from being able to do this themselves.


Trimming your pet's nails can seem like an ordeal for everyone involved, but if you take the time to help your pet get used to having it done it can become a great opportunity to build a stronger relationship with your fur-kid.

Posted by Dr Teagan Lever

When Teagan's not busy sharing her knowledge of all things pets as Pet Circle's resident vet, she is the human companion of two intense English staffies and a three-legged cat named Steve.

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