What to Watch Out For When Clipping Your Dog's Nails

3 min read

Trimming nails doesn't need to be a stressful experience. 

Overgrown nails are uncomfortable for your dog and can pose a risk to their well-being. Similarly, trimming nails that have grown out can be unnecessarily stressful and unpleasant experience. As any dog owner knows: when they're stressed, they’re much less likely to cooperate, and the entire activity can be difficult.

Most dog owners we talk to are often quite hesitant about clipping their dog's nails at home - they've heard that when done incorrectly it can cause some pain and potentially bleeding as well. While this is true, there are some tips for understanding the anatomy of a dog's nails and cutting them correctly so that it's an easygoing and pleasant experience for all!

How do I know it's time for a trim?

Dogs' nails ideally should be cut every 3-6 weeks depending on growth. If they're routinely walking around on hard surfaces like concrete, they may not need one as the surface will wear the nails down on its own. 

An easy way to see if your dog's nails need clipping is to look at them when your dog is standing straight – their nails should not touch the floor. If they are, it's time for a trim. Another way to make an assessment: if it sounds like your dog is tap dancing when they walk around hard surfaces in the house - they're too long!

Anatomy of a dog's nail

Within a dog's nail is a blood vessel called the quick. Without regular trimming, the blood vessel elongates over time and extends very close to the edge of the nail. This is another reason why frequent trims are necessary: when the dog's nails are well maintained, the quick recedes to a healthy level and there is a bigger buffer space for clipping the keratinous nail material which makes it easier on you!

Identifying the quick in white nails

It is best to try to identify the border of the quick prior to doing any cutting, particularly if it has been a while since the last trim. With white nails it is a lot easier to see the outline of the quick within the nail - simply hold the nails up to a light source and you should be able to see through them.

white dog nail quick light

 

Identifying the quick in dark nails

This is more difficult. Your best bet is to use a focused light source, like a flashlight or torch to shine on the dog's nails. It's possible to use your phone's torch function for this purpose if it's powerful enough.

In all likelihood, though, for darker nails you will have to take more of an incremental process by cutting short bits off the end until you get a little bit past the hard proteinous portion and begin to see a bit of a black pulpy area - this is the part which precedes the quick. Do not go past this point or you will cut the quick.

Trim black nails dog cut

Proper cutting technique

You will first need to make sure you have a set of clippers designed specifically for dogs - we recommend this pair as it is very effective. You will want to make your cuts from underneath the nail. Cut horizontally across the nail so that the remaining nail is almost parallel to the ground.
how to cut dog nail quick

What if it bleeds?

You'll want to be prepared ahead of time for the possibility that you may cut too far. Have some styptic powder handy as that will quickly and effectively coagulate any blood and save you a mess on your floor. Cornflour can also be used in a pinch, but it won't coagulate as fast as styptic powder.

Be sure to comfort and reward your pup!

While you're focusing on the different parts of the nail and cutting in the correct direction, don't forget to remain calm and playful so as to not stress your dog out! A little treat here and there as you go is sure to keep them relaxed and make for a more pleasant experience for everyone.

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