Cutting your pet’s nails should be a fear-free experience so we recommend taking the time to desensitise your pet to foot touching and nail clipping and using lots of positive rewards such as treats or toys to ensure they associate the procedure with something fun or delicious! This will make it so much easier to perform the clip.
- Use the right clippers. These can be purchased from us or most pet shops. Be sure they are sharp and appropriately sized.
- Pick your moment. Make sure your pet is calm and you are not rushed. Have treats ready in your pocket and the clippers nearby. If you are using two people communicate to ensure everyone knows what their job is i.e. one person may hold or gently restrain whilst the other clips.
- Establish level of restraint. This should be as gentle and as minimal as possible. Cats or small dogs may tolerate sitting on your lap. Large dogs are easiest if lying down and relaxed.
- Take a foot and gently retract the first nail. Nails will either be pink with a white tip (much like ours), black or a mixture. The pink part is the quick where the vessels are so if you cut into this the nail will bleed. Avoid the pink area by at least 1mm and cut across the nail.
- If the nails are black, you will have to guess where the quick finishes. The safe option is to only take a few millimetres off at a time and stick closer to the tip.
- Repeat this on each nail. Be sure to not forget the dew claws which sit higher up on the foot, usually only on the front feet but occasionally dogs will have hind foot dew claws also.
- If the pet resists, take a break. Some pets may only tolerate one foot in one sitting. Remember to keep giving them rewards throughout.
What if I make them bleed?
It is very common for an owner to accidentally cut a toenail too short. This is the equivalent of us ripping a nail so that they bleed. Please don’t feel too bad, you’re often working with a moving target!
There is a prominent vessel in the nail bed so if this is exposed there will be considerable bleeding. Try the following:
- Apply compression if tolerated using paper towel or a towel. You can also use an icepack wrapped in a towel as this will slow blood flow. Do this for 2 minutes.
- If bleeding continues grab some cornflour, normal flour or a bar of soap and attempt to “plug” the tip of the cut nail with the substance. Do so by pressing the cut nail into it gently (don’t wipe the blood off first) and hopefully this thick material blocks the bleeding.
- Try to keep the pet off their feet (or at least not too active) for 20-30 minutes after the bleed to reduce blood flow.
- Once they have settled and the bleeding has stopped you can wash the open nail bed in warm water with a suitable antiseptic added (if available).
- If the bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes, seek veterinary advice. Vets have special powder they can use to stop the bleeding immediately.
How often should I clip them?
Many dogs’ nails will stay short purely from being walked on harder surfaces that act as nail files to file them down to an acceptable level. If this is the case only the dew claws may need cutting which is a much quicker procedure and usually better tolerated by the dog. Generally you will only need to cut nails every 2-3 months. Note the quick of the nail may grow longer as the pet gets older so you may not be able to cut them as short.
Cats are anatomically a little different. Because they retract their claws they tend not to wear them down even if they are scratching on natural surfaces such as trees. Because of this cats’ claws should be cut every 2-3 months, depending on the speed their nails grow.
Dremels have increased in popularity in recent years and are essentially small electronic files that you hold up to the nail to file/grind away the tip. These should be used in a similar fashion to above and be sure to not go to short otherwise bleeding will occur. We also recommend wearing safety googles and a mask due to the dust produced.