Cutting your dog’s nails is one of the trickiest parts of the grooming process. Their nail beds have what is called a “quick”—tissue that grows within the nail and connects to nerves and blood vessels—and if you cut too much of the nail off, you can cut into the quick, injuring your pup. Plus, not all dogs like having their paws handled, which can make the process doubly difficult—but it is a necessary one, so we’ve assembled some expert advice on trimming your dog’s nails without triggering a trip to the vet.
When to trim your dog’s nails
Dog’s nails will grow at varying rates depending on the dog, so there isn’t a set timeframe to follow. The pet site Daily Puppy suggests cutting your dog’s nails once every week or every other week. Vet Dr. Valerie Patton with the Campus Commons Pet Hospital in Sacramento, CA, says the frequency of nail trimming depends on the wear and tear on the dog’s nails from play, but notes that if you can hear the dog’s nails click on the floor as they walk, that’s a sign it’s time for a trim.
Expose the nail and identify the quick
To repeat (because you don’t want to miss this), a dog’s nails have a hard surface that surrounds an extension of tissue called the quick. This tissue is extremely sensitive and can bleed quite a bit when punctured. Before trimming, identify the quick and ensure you won’t cut into it. You also need to leave enough nail intact to surround the quick, because you also don’t want that tissue exposed to the elements.
To accurately access the nail, Dr. Patton says, press on the pad of your dog’s paw, exposing the full nail, making it easier to identify the quick. It is harder to see the quick if the dogs has darker or black nails. In this case, look at the underside of the nail. “You can see a groove in the nail where the hard nail turns to a softer inner tissue,” pet site Standard Poodle Owner advises.
If you can’t easily determine where the quick begins, Dr. Patton suggests “taking small pieces over time” to make sure you are not hitting it. The quick can also grow further into the nail the longer you let your dog’s nails grow willy-nilly; cutting your dog’s nails every week should prevent this growth, she adds.
Bring the right tools and treats for doggie grooming
A safe nail trimming starts with the right tools. Dr. Patton suggests the kind of nail clippers that look like pliers. The clippers should be sharp, too—that will allow for a precision cut, and lessen the chances you’ll hurt your pet. (She even suggests getting brand new clippers once your old ones go dull.)
For doggies who don’t sit well during their grooming sessions, create a comfortable environment for them and “bring treats,” Dr. Patton suggests. Remember to cut little bits at a time, especially if your pet is squeamish or fidgety. In the end, if you ado not feel comfortable trimming their nails yourself, take them to the vet or a professional pet groomer. Because nothing stings quite so much as accidentally harming your own dog (though your dog might disagree).