Michigan Humane Society

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Ask the Vet: Nail Trims

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Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Mondays to see common veterinary questions answered. If you have an immediate medical concern with your pet, please call your veterinarian! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org.

“I want to know how to cut a dog’s nails property. My dog’s nails are black and I have cut too close to the quick before, which is no fun for the dog or me!”

Almost anyone who has trimmed a dog’s nails has probably had the unfortunate experience of cutting too close to the quick. And it hurts! There are a few things you can do to help make the process easier.

First, gradually get your dog used to having his feet handled. You can play with his toes, hold his paws and offer treats and praise. Start this early with puppies and make it a fun, stress-free experience. Once you think your dog will tolerate a nail trim, gather all your equipment and pick a quiet comfortable area. Make sure you have a clean soft cloth and styptic powder (available at most pet stores) on hand just in case you cut a nail too short. Pick a position that is comfortable for your dog and for you, and trim just small amounts (approximately 2 mm) at a time. After each cut, examine the nail in cross-section. The center of the nail will start to look lighter in color the closer you get to the quick. Once you see this (it looks a bit like a bull’s eye) you should stop cutting.

It may help to cut darker nails more frequently, just removing the tips at each trimming. Also, you can contact your groomer or veterinary hospital and arrange for a nail trim demonstration.

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