Trimming, cutting and even filing our dogs nails and cats claws is a basic and necessary part of taking care of and maintenance for our pets.
Some dogs are larger, heavier and active enough to keep their nails worn down and from getting too long just from their normal activity while walking on rougher surfaces. Smaller and lighter dogs and less active larger dogs often need a regular trimming, cutting or filing to keep their nails at a healthy length and from being too sharp or even damaging or scraping up the floors in our home and to prevent injury.
When a dogs nails become too long they can become painful and even cause back problems and pain as they do not stand or distribute their weight properly or the same. Nails that are too long actually hurt our dogs in several ways. When a dogs nails are in need of a trimming they are also more likely to snag on things, split, become torn or scratch or scuff up the floors or even us.
When a cats claws need to be trimmed they can split, tear or snag injuring not only the cat but us or our property. Many people are also not aware that ‘cat scratch fever’ was not just a popular song but is a real thing caused by bacteria from a cat scratch.
Nail trimming, clipping or filing does not hurt our dogs and cats. Even in the instances where the nail is ‘quicked’ and a styptic powder must be used (common) or your dog or cat does not like to have their nails clipped it is far better for them, less painful and much less traumatic than the effects and consequences of NOT maintaining their nails properly.
So what are the ways to keep your pets nails trimmed down to a healthy and safe length?
Professional Dog Nail and Cat Claw Trimming
You can call around to your local vet’s, groomers, mobile groomers and even pet shops as most likely offer nail trimmings.
Of these, your local groomers are often the best place to get the better deal as a nail trim may be included with a low priced bath which also includes other additional maintenance needs. A groomer will often include your bath, anal gland expression / cleaning and ear cleaning and removing the hair from inside the ears and a nail trim with a bath so that you can get a little more bang for your buck.
You may be able to get ALL the necessary services and a bath for not much more than just a simple nail trim or any of the necessary services cost separately with a cheap bath and brush or a haircut at your local preferred groomer.
A bath and brush on a dog like a Chihuahua, Dachshund, Boston Terrier, Pug or Min Pin may only be around $20-$30 and include all of the above. Make sure you clarify with your groomer what services are extra and what services are included in the pricing or even free of charge with a bath and brush or haircut.
How to Trim Dog Nails and Cat Claws Yourself
First it is better to have someone to help you as our pets are not statues and like children do not always appreciate standing still for long or a process that isn’t a part of their daily routine. Some dogs are more difficult than other and your pet may need a professional if you are unable to get the job done.
You must have appropriate nail clippers
in working order otherwise they will just shred or not clip, a styptic powder such as 'Kwik Stop
’ in case the quick is nipped as is frequently the case and you may want a nail file or mechanical filing device handy such as discussed below.
Make sure whomever is helping hold on to the dog has a firm grip and that their face, hands and other body parts are out of reach of being bitten or scratched. Even the sweetest and most non aggressive pet can bite or snap under the right circumstances and is a form of communication for them even if
they are simply saying ‘cut it out, I don’t like this and am not used to it’.
Some dogs just don’t have the patience and are also often aware of just how easily manipulated their own family may be so react in a manner to make them stop or to play on their sympathies and so they raise a lovely fuss over their baby if they react badly to something.
Inspect your pets nails. Make sure you know whether or not you will be clipping dew claws as well if your dog or cat has any. Dew Claws are not on the end of their toes but a little higher on the inside of the foot. Some dogs and cats may have double dew claws such as the Great Pyrenees. Double dew claws are often also commonly seen in Rottweilers.
Most cats and some dogs have clear or white nails. When you can see through the nails use the dogs or cats quick as a guide. The quick is the pink part visible inside the nail.
If your dog has black nails you can shine a flashlight from under the nail to try and determine where the quick may be. You can also cut back in shorter increments from the tip of the nail using the view you had from underneath the nail as a guide.
Just clip back to just before the quick. It’s that simple. If you can achieve about a 45 degree angle this is good but not completely necessary. It is more important you get those nails clipped as quickly as possible.
A quick will be longer or shorter depending on how long it has been since the last nail trim. Quicks grow with the nails. If it has been awhile and the nails are still long and near or touching the ground after you’ve clipped to just in front of the quick, try again in a week or two. The quicks will have moved back enough to begin getting your dogs or cats nails back to a better length.
Cats will often be compelled to start sharpening their nails back up so make sure your scratching post
is ready and at hand since that is what cats are really doing when they claw scratching posts, walls and furniture. It is a part of being a cat.
What To Do If A Nail Is Quicked And Bleeding
Don’t panick, happens all the time. As long as you have your styptic powder or styptic gel
handy simply pinch some on and apply pressure for about a minute or follow the instructions otherwise. If it doesn’t stop right away apply another generous pinch and pressure again. This should stop any bleeding and usually contains antibacterial properties to help prevent any infection.
You MUST have styptic powder or gel on hand before attempting to clip nails. This is also something that should be kept around for general first aid. While bleeding and hitting a quick is far from uncommon and not usually overly traumatic, if proper aftercare (styptic powder and bleeding stopped) isn't provided there is potential risk of an infection entering the blood stream.
I have only seen or heard of infection a few times in probably millions of nail trims and the one thing they all seemed to have in common was that the owner attempted to allow the bleeding to stop on its own and did not apply styptic powder which also seals and prevents infection in addition to environmental causes.
How To File Nails
Nails can be pretty rough and scratchy just after a nail trim until they may be naturally filed down and smoothed out over a few days or a week through normal activity or exposure to rough surfaces such as the back patio.
If you prefer to prevent scratches to yourself or your floors you can file your dog nails
. Some people also use this method instead of regular clipping by using a mechanical filer.
If you are just wanting to smooth out some rough edges on your dogs nails a sturdy human nail file will also do in addition to a nail file made for dogs and cats. Simply smooth the nail in an upward motion from bottom to top a few times until they are rounded and more smooth.
Even if you don't already have one or two around the house a nail file is usually pretty cheap.
Mechanical Nail Filing For Pets
Some of you may have heard of the Pedipaw nail trimmer
? It is essentially a mechanical nail file with a rotating emery board attached to file down and smooth out your dogs nails and cat claws. The Pedipaw has a guard attached that catches any fly away bits of nails.
However, I do not suggest using the PediPaw
. I do not nor have I ever used the PediPaw and have heard less than favorable opinions of it and its use, power and durability. I still use the tool the PediPaw was modeled after as a repackaged and ‘lesser’ version for pets called ‘PediPaw’ if you feel this is the best option for your pets nail care.
For decades before the Pedipaw became available and popular, pet professionals used a simple tool for grinding down nails and nail filing
that you may already have around your house
for other uses or see often at your local hardware store or while shopping online. A Dremel.
You will still need a styptic powder
on hand to file your pets nails by mechanical means. It is probably best you don’t learn on your pet if there is any hair that may be caught in the quickly spinning emery tool. You still want to avoid the quicks and any of your exposed skin, hair(long hair should definitely be pulled back) and body parts if you are using a Dremel for your pets nail care. This is more of a ‘power filer’.
is definitely the better value and a regular use dremel can be used around your home for many things as well as for nail care for your pets in addition to being more durable, more reliable, more power and a much better warranty. You do need to exercise some caution and common sense though when using this tool to file your pets nails.
Same as the regular non-mechanical emery board, the tool is used with gentle pressure going from the bottom up in a slightly rounded motion.
Soft Paws and Soft Claws
There is another popular and inexpensive option that people use in between their regular nail trims for their dogs and cats. Nail caps / nail covers
which come in many stylish colors including glitter and holiday themed colors. It can always look like you’ve painted your pets nails recently or there is clear or white for a more natural look
. For cats, this has become a common alternative to declawing and removing the claws completely.
These little nail caps can be put on by you at home and are offered at many vets and groomers as well. After a nail trim a safe adhesive is applied inside the nail cap and then applied over the dog or cats nails until it has adhered where it remains for an average of 4 to 6 weeks and it’s time for the next nail trim.
This can help prevent scratching and clawing of people, other pets and helps save your furniture
in between the times a dog or cat’s nails need to be trimmed. With all the color choices you are sure to find one, two or even a few that tickles your fancy and suits your personal style and favorite color choices.
If you are considering nail covers it is usually best to read the size or breed examples specifically as other descriptions may be too general. 'Large' may mean a 10 to 15 pound Shih Tzu so be sure to check the size information.
How often do you clip your dog or cats nails and what method (s) do you use?