By: Linda Healy, Contributing Editor, Training + Grooming Expert
First, Nail the Anatomy!
Did you know, your dog's nails are made of a living pink “quick” and a hard outer shell? The “quick” controls the blood flow through the center or “core” of nerves with a surrounding shell. The closer to the quick the nail is trimmed, the more your dog feels it. Because shorter quicks result in a healthier paw, the goal in trimming nails is to clip as close to the quick as possible (removing excess nail that extends beyond the quick) without cutting into the quick. The perfectly trimmed pet nail will cause the quick to recede, resulting in a shorter quick and healthier paw overall. Understanding the anatomy of the pet nail is the first step to understanding the length your pets nails should be trimmed.
How Often Should My Pets Nails Be Trimmed?
Each dog’s nails wear and grow differently. The golden rule for nail trimming is “when nails need it, repeat it.” There are dogs with nails that wear down on their own, particularly if they walk on cement in their kennel runs,or are regularly walked on pavement. These lucky dogs can wait 4 to 5 weeks between nail trims. A monthly trimming will keep growth in check. If nails naturally maintain a healthy length, only clip as needed. Pets whose nails become overgrown, may experience pain when walking, sore paw pads, sore nail beds, or splaying of feet. Nail neglect can lead to foot deformities and even tendon damage overtime. If your pet's nails are overgrown, weekly to bi-weekly nail trimming may be required. Frequent trimming allows the quick to recede to a length where nails no longer drag the ground when walking. Eventually dogs nails will be a healthy length and you will be able to maintain a monthly nail trim schedule to keep them in check.
Is It Safe for Me To Trim My Fur-Kids Nails?
Trimming your dog's nails can be safe, and a great bonding experience. However before starting, complete our safety check (below). Any of these situations could jeopardize you and your pet’s safety. If even one applies to your fur family, contact a pet professional for assistance, before going solo.
- your dog reacts aggressively towards you for nail clipping.
- the nails crack and crumble as you clip them.
- A nail breaks on its own.
- There are signs of infection around the nail bed or pad (redness, crusty scabs, or pus)
- you are uncomfortable with the nail clipping process,
- the nails or dew claws are growing into the paw pad, or leg.
Pet Parent Panic: Dogs are very intuitive when it comes to your comfort level. Do a self-check, are you calm? If you are nervous, it will affect your pet, expect to clash. Keep plenty of GDB Calm Spray on hand. Before beginning, spritz yourself and your favorite fur-kid with GreenDog Botanics Calm Spray.
Medical Issues: Be alert for conditions that require medical attention. If paws are red, infected or swollen, treat the problem before attempting to trim the nails. Massage GreenDog Botanics Skin Balm, between toes and on cracked paw pads. Spray GreenDog Botanics Skin Spray on sore paws and nail beds. If the condition does not improve, contact your veterinarian. This will ensure your pets nails are attended to safely with optimum care and minimal stress. If you checked none of the above its all systems go! Follow this “how to” nail trimming guide.
With practice both you and your pet can establish a nail trim routine, that starts with training, and ends with praise to a happy fur-kid for a job well done.
Step 1: Paw Play
Play with your fur-kids paws. Massage GreenDog Botanics Skin or Calm Balm into paw pads often to acclimate having paws touch held and played with. Introduce the nail trimmer by rubbing it on and around dog’s feet while vigorously massaging dogs toes. Share a treat as a special reward. Repeat these sessions often in the days before the first nail trim. Your pet will get used to the feel of the nail clipper and associate it with pleasure.
Note: If you are introducing an adult dog to nail clipping, this process will lessen their stress. It may take longer to acclimate them to having their paws and toes touched, but the more pleasure they find in the foot massage, the better they will adapt to the nail trim process.
Step 2: Select a secure Groom-Space to perform the nail clipping process.
- A small dog or puppy may be held securely in your lap.
- A trained large dog may be put into a controlled sitting or lying down position on the floor, in a secure space.
- If you have access to a grooming table with an arm, and grooming lead, you can secure either a small or large dog on the table. This is particularly useful in controlling a dog that is not yet trained to sit, stay, or lay down.
- Find a grooming buddy to assist with holding and calming, while you proceed to trim nails.
Step 3: Prepare your Supplies
Station a bottle of GreenDog Botanics Calm Spray and Balm, within arm’s reach.
- Choose a toenail clipper and/or grinder that feels comfortable in your hands.
- Read product direction on how to hold and use the tool you chose.
- Have a cauterizing powder within arm’s reach, to stop bleeding if the quick is cut.
Tip: Before you begin the process, take time to calm your pet, with soft talk and foot massage. A spritz of GreenDog Botanics Calm Spray will get you off to a peaceful start. Once your pet is relaxed, you are ready to begin.
Step 4: Locate Nail Quick
- Use your left hand to hold the paw, placing your thumb on top of the toe and two or more fingers along the pad of the foot.
- Hold the hair away from the toes and examine the nail to find the quick. For a white nail look for a pink line. With a black nail, feel for a hollow ridge under the nail, right about at the curve of the nail, this is where the quick ends.
Step 5: Trim
- Hold each toe steady as you clip each nail. On white nails, clip in front of the pink line. On black nails, clip in front of the curve. Then look at the nail, head on. Is there a dark shiny spot or is it hollow? The dark spot is the quick, clip no further. If it is hollow take a bit more off.
- Check for dew claws on the front and back. Trim as needed.
- You may file or use a grinder to soften nail edges.
Tip: If you cut into the quick, you will need to apply styptic powder directly to the head of the nail, and apply pressure for 30 seconds, if the nail is still bleeding, reapply as needed. Remove excess powder, once the nail has cauterized.
Routine nail trims lead to healthier paws and happier fur-kids. With a little practice and patience, you can “nail it!”