top of page

Let’s talk about nail care for a minute….

PAWidcure time!!

Long, unkempt nails not only look unattractive, but over time they can do serious damage to your dog (not to mention your floors). When nails are so long that they constantly touch the ground, they exert force back into the nail bed, creating pain for the dog (imagine wearing a too-tight shoe) and pressure on the toe joint. Long term, this can actually realign the joints of the foreleg and make the foot looked flattened and splayed.

Again, this isn’t just an aesthetic problem, it’s a functional one: Compromising your dog’s weight distribution and natural alignment can leave her more susceptible to injuries, and make walking and running difficult and painful. This is especially important in older dogs, whose posture can be dramatically improved by cutting back neglected nails.

In extreme cases, overgrown nails can curve and grow into the pad of the foot. But even if they are not that out of control, long nails can get torn or split, which is very painful and, depending on severity, may need to be treated by a veterinarian.

And in the end, unattended nails create a vicious cycle: Because the extra-long nails make any contact with his paws painful for the dog, he avoids having them touched, which leads to unpleasant nail-cutting sessions, which makes both human and dog avoid them, which leads to longer intervals between trims, which leads to more pain …

Here’s a step-by-step guide that can help you get started:

  • 1. Handle their paws often. Even when you’re not trimming their nails, touch your dog’s paws so they get used to it. Reward them with treats to form good associations with having their paws touched. The earlier in life you start to practice this, the more comfortable they’ll be.

  • 2. Always use a nail clipper designed for dogs. Human nail clippers don’t work well because dogs’ nails aren’t flat like ours. Scissors can also cause injuries. There are different designs pick what works best for you and your dog.

  • 3. Arrange yourself and your dog comfortably. Some dogs will sit right down in your lap for a nail trim, but you can also sit on the floor next to your pup during the procedure.

  • 4. Reassure your dog. Even if they don’t seem nervous, talking to them in a soft, calm voice will help make nail trimming more pleasant for both of you.

  • 5. Hold each paw as you work, and spread the toes. Be careful to stay away from the quick, which is easier to cut into than you think. The quick is the end of the toe’s blood vessel, so if you cut the quick, the toe will bleed.

  • 6. Trim dewclaws. If your dog has dewclaws, which are remnants of fifth toes, you’ll need to trim those too. Look for them high on the inside of each foot. Not all dogs have them; in many breeds, it is common for dewclaws to be removed shortly after birth. These can get torn easily in the field and are painful.

  • 7. Finish off with a reward. Give your dog their favorite treat and a lot of praise when you’re done, so they learn that nail trimming has its benefits. That way, they’ll be more apt to cooperate next time

Some dogs need a nail trim every month or so; others can go for several months without little or no trimming, usually because they do a lot of walking and running on hard surfaces.

Active dogs will wear down their nails on their own, but most dogs need regular nail trims. When nails grow too long, they can make it uncomfortable for the dog to walk and lead to painful, bloody snags and tears.

Without trimming, nails can quickly become ingrown or long enough to make walking uncomfortable. Long nails snag easily on carpet, upholstery, and even your clothes.

One of the main reasons dogs don’t get regular nail trims is because pet parents are afraid to do the job. They fear cutting into the “quick,” or nail bed. This sensitive, pink area at the base of each nail is full of nerves and blood vessels and will bleed profusely if cut.

But if you know how to go about it, you can care for your dog’s nails yourself.

How To Trim Your Dog’s Nails

If you hear your dog’s nails clicking against the hard floor or see them snagging the carpet, then it’s definitely time for a trim.

When trimming your dog’s nails, aim for nails to be close to but not touching the ground or just a bit higher.

If you’ve clipped into the quick of the nail, you’ll know: your dog will probably yelp in pain and start bleeding.

Apply pressure or dab a bit of nail styptic powder, which acts as a coagulant, to stop the bleeding. One major brand is called Kwik-Stop, and pet stores, farm stores and veterinarians offices often stock it.

Step 1: First and foremost, remain calm. Do not panic. If you panic, your dog will read you like a speed reader whipping through a Dick and Jane book. Your canine companion will sense that you are stressed and will mirror your attitude. Blood pressure will climb—both for you and for your dog. (It is a natural physiological response to stress.) What does this mean for your dog? As a dog’s blood pressure rises, the blood is pumped harder and faster out of the cut vessels in the toenail, worsening the situation. Yes, I’ve done it myself. Years ago, as a newly minted veterinarian, I volunteered to trim the nails of my aunt’s uncooperative dog, who had long, black talons, during a family reunion over the Christmas holidays. I remember successfully trimming the nails on about 14 toes when… I hit the quick. First, blood started to pour forth. As a result, all the family members (who had been standing around watching this as prime-time entertainment) started to panic. My aunt let go of her dog, whereby he zoomied around the room several times, spewing blood all over the floor and carpet. Spoiler alert: This story had a happy ending. At the end of the day, the dog recovered quickly, and my pride was the only thing that suffered lingering injury. Please learn from my experience and do your best to keep everyone involved calm. A healthy dog will not bleed to death from a cut toenail—not even close! While it is unfortunate that you’ve hurt your dog (which none of us wants to do), and while it may be a bit messy, this is not a serious injury. (And, if your house looks like a murder scene, you may need to take my word for this.) Step 2: Apply direct pressure. As taught in basic human first aid, apply direct pressure to your dog’s bleeding toenail. You can use anything from a clean paper towel to facial tissue to the hem of your shirt (if you are in a real pinch). Granted, your dog may be a bit gun-shy about you pressing on that freshly-injured nail. However, if you remain calm, this is a doable and helpful step. Step 3: Apply a clotting substrate to the end of the dog’s nail. Kwik-Stop Styptic Powder is my clotting substrate of choice. It has a bit of a numbing agent in it for pain, though its main claim to fame is promoting clotting. (If you have ever cut yourself shaving and used a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding, this is a similar concept.) Turns out, the Boy Scout motto serves dog owners well too! By being prepared for hitting the quick, I think Murphy’s Law dictates that you are much less likely to do so! Before beginning the nail trim, pour a bit of the powder onto a paper plate. Be sure to put the plate within your reach; however, keep it away from your dog so it doesn’t get knocked over.

: By using a paper plate to hold the styptic powder, it is easy to return the unused portion back into the container. Simply fold the paper plate and “pour” the unused powder back into its vial. One container of styptic powder should last for years. How to apply styptic powder to your dog’s nail to stop the bleeding: You can “dip” your dog’s bleeding toenail into the powder, which is a common procedure. However, I prefer the following method to stop a dog’s nail from bleeding:

  • Take a pinch of the powder between your thumb and forefinger.

  • Press it directly into the end of your dog’s nail.

  • Apply direct pressure to the toenail for a few minutes while being careful not to squeeze your dog’s toe.

Essentially, you are “packing” the clotting agent into the end of the nail while applying pressure to stop the dog’s nail from bleeding. It is doubly effective. In a bind, you can use these home remedies:

  • a moistened human styptic pencil

  • cornstarch.

  • flour

  • bar of soap

Use any of these substitutions in the same way as described above to stop a dog’s nail from bleeding. You can run the nail across a bar of soap to fill the bed with a clump of soap.

How to train your dog to let you cut their nails. Remember praise and rewards go a long way - try a licki mat

  • Day 1: Let your puppy sniff the nail clipper or grinder. Give a treat and praise.

  • Day 2: Touch the nail clipper or grinder lightly to each paw. Give a treat and praise.

  • Day 3: Touch the nail clipper to each paw and squeeze the clipper so the puppy hears the sound, or turn the grinder on and let the puppy feel the vibration. Don’t actually trim a nail. Give a treat and praise.

  • Day 4: Touch the nail clipper or grinder to your puppy’s feet again. Give a treat and praise.

  • Day 5: Try trimming off just the very tiniest tip from one front paw nail. Only do one nail. Offer lots of happy praise and a treat if your puppy lets you. Even if he lets you, just do one. Repeat every day until he lets you do this and doesn’t seem to mind.

  • Day 6: Try trimming just the tip off of just two nails.

  • Day 7: Keep working your way up, trimming additional nails each day, until you’ve got them all and your puppy doesn’t mind. Practice even when you don’t need to clip a nail. Even pretending you are clipping and going through the motions help your pup get used to the whole process.

  • Grind your dog’s nails using a safe tool.

  • Only grind a small part of your dog’s nail at a time. Support the dog’s toe firmly but gently.

  • Grind across the bottom of the nail and then carefully in from the tip of the nail, smoothing rough edges.

  • For better control, hold the grinder higher up, towards the top.

  • Keep your dogs comfortable and take note of any sensitivities

  • If your dog has long hair, make sure to keep it back from the grinding tool so it doesn’t get caught.

Failing to Cut Your Dogs Nails

Regular nail maintenance is more than cosmetic. Unhealthy nails can cause pain, and in rare instances, trigger irreversible damage to the dog.

A dog’s nail consists of the living pink quick and the hard outer material called the shell. The quick supplies blood to the nail and runs through the core of it. Nerves in the quick cause bleeding and discomfort when cut. Regular nail trimming will cause the quick to recede from the end. Short quicks are the preferred length for the dog’s well-being and easy maintenance.

Long nails can turn a sound paw into a splayed foot and reduce traction, and they can cause deformed feet and injure the tendons over an extended period. As the long nail hits the ground, the pressure puts force on the foot and leg structure. Some dogs wear their nails down and won’t need to have them clipped as often.

You can follow up trims with a lil Pad Balm to soften those pads, make it a Spa day! you can add a dab to their nose too. Maybe do ear cleaning on the same schedule.

59 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page