How to Safely Trim Your Dog’s Toenails

Avoiding the quick is important when trimming your dog's toenails

While your dog’s nails will naturally wear after walking on a hard or rough surface, regular nail clipping should still be a part of your dog’s grooming routine. Most dogs do not enjoy having their nails clipped, but they usually learn to tolerate regular nail clipping.  If you haven’t trimmed your dog’s toenails before,  here are a few tips:

Make sure you have a pair of nail trimmers designed for use on dogs.  Pet nail trimmers come in several styles and sizes, so select a pair that is appropriate for the size of your dog, and that you are comfortable using.  The most common types of pet nail trimmers are scissors type and guillotine type.

The most important part of trimming your dog’s toenails is to avoid cutting the quick, which is comprised of blood vessels and nerves.  Accidentally cutting the quick can be painful to your dog and cause a lot of bleeding from the nail.  If your dog has light-colored nails, the quick will be visible as the pink area in the center of the nail.

Hold your dog’s paw and then trim the end of the nail, just before but not into the quick. This will be more difficult to identify if your dog has dark-colored nails.  In that case, just cut the very tip of the nail.  As you trim the nails, over time the quick will recede farther back into the nail.  Offer your dog praise and treats for cooperating with the process.  Don’t forget to trim the dew claws, which are located high on the inside of the paw. Since the dewclaw does not touch the ground, these can easily become too long and even grow into your dog’s foot.

If you accidentally cut into the quick, the toenail will bleed.  Apply pressure to the nail with a piece of gauze or a cotton ball until the bleeding has stopped.  You can also use a styptic pencil, styptic powder, or even corn starch applied to the nail to stop the bleeding.

If you are still not comfortable trimming your dog’s toenails, you can use a pet nail grinder instead or even take your dog to the groomer or veterinarian to trim the nails for you.

About author

Abby Rosenberg

Abby Rosenberg is a PetMeds employee and long-time cat lover. She was a volunteer for several years at a local no-kill cats only rescue shelter. This has prepared her for her most challenging role to date: secretary, photographer, social coordinator and treat dispenser for Daisy, and Daisy’s sidekick Harley. Daisy is a dilute calico Devon Rex cat, and Harley is a “cow-cat” who was adopted from the shelter where Abby volunteered. You can also find Abby on Google+

There are 4 comments

  • Nicola says:

    Thanks for the article, I have a question …..
    I have been lazy about doing one of the dogs feet as his claws are super tough and he hates having them done…is a real battle, I did them yesterday, but when can I do it again? His claws grow really quickly (especially since we changed to better quality food) so I want to do them again as soon as the quick has receded I guess…I need to get them back to an acceptable length.

  • Nicola Gabriel says:

    How long does it take for the quick to recede. My dog has very long claws…I am working to get them back to a ‘normal’ length, but need to know when I can trim them again? I just did them yesterday and want to trim again before they grow back to where they were…they grow really fast.

  • Abby PetMeds Pro says:

    Nicola, all dogs are different as far as how fast their nails grow. Try trimming just a bit once a week. Using a dremel-type tool can sometimes help the quick recede faster as can regular walking.

  • Thank you for infomation about cutting my dog.s nail.s very helpfull.

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