Having pets means taking on a lot more responsibilities. Obviously, giving them food, water, and exercise are musts when adopting a pet. However, along with that should be regular grooming, and if you have a dog with fast-growing nails, this becomes especially important.
You’ll know it’s time to cut your dog’s nails when you hear their nails tapping on the floor or pavement while walking. When grooming, make sure you use dog clippers and avoid cutting too close to where the nail starts. It is recommended to use a file/grinder to reduce any sharp edges left after cutting.
Many people choose to get their dogs professionally groomed. However, contrary to popular belief, you don’t always need to defer to a professional groomer to take care of your dog’s nails. In fact, grooming your pet’s nails at home is easier than you think!
Why Should Dogs’ Nails Be Groomed?
You may be wondering why you even have to cut your dog’s nails in the first place. Yes, in the wild, animals’ nails do not get cut because there is no way of doing so. However, wild animals walk on rough terrain all day every day, which eventually wears their nails down.
In contrast, the roughest surface that domesticated animals walk on is usually concrete, but not for long periods. When a dog walks on these hard surfaces with long nails, the toe ends up getting pushed back into the “toe” due to the pressure against the surface, which can be quite painful for your pet.
The equivalent of this feeling for humans would be stubbing your toe, though the resulting pain would be more constant. Dogs feel so uncomfortable from this that they’re often no longer encouraged to walk anywhere, which of course, can be very problematic for their overall health.
If their nails are left this long without proper grooming, it can also not only cause long-lasting pain for your pup but permanently mess up their tendons near the paws and legs. In addition, the nails may cause damage to the nerves in their feet, making it more likely for your dog to injure themselves.
Of course, this is not to mention the amount of money you will have to spend on medical bills to help get your dog’s legs and paws back to a healthy state.
So, with these points in mind, generally, it is always recommended to have your dog’s nails groomed regularly for their overall health and safety.
Anatomy of a Dog’s Nails
Before you start cutting away at your dog’s nails, it’s essential to learn its anatomy. Knowing about its different sections and parts will help you understand how far down you can clip your pup’s nails without going too far and causing injury.
Although animals’ nails (or claws) are similar to ours, they are not exact. For example, dogs’ nails have a portion of their “toe” inside of them. This means that if you end up cutting too far down on their nail, you may essentially cut into their toe; this can produce blood and pain for the pet, which is never ideal.
There are many pictures online that showcase the parts of a dog’s nail. However, it is important to remember that each dog is different and may have different colors and lengths of anatomical features within their nails.
Lighter colored nails that are generally on lighter colored dogs often make the finding of these areas and cutting of the nails easier. If your dog has dark nails, it is best to have a flashlight with you to shine through it when trying to find the different parts.
The outside of a dog’s nail is a hardened shell, just like our nails. They are generally much thicker and tougher than our nails, though, since they touch the ground all the time and are not generally protected by shoes. This hard shell encases all the nail and part of the dog’s toe.
The center of the nail, which we have been referring to as the “toe,” for lack of a better term, is much softer. This is the part that you need to worry about and look for when cutting your dog’s nails. If you have any other pets, this is important as well since it is not just dogs that have nails like this—so do cats, rabbits, and other animals.
Inner Part of the Nail (Quick)
The inner part of the nail is where all the nerves are; this is also where you will find the dog’s vein, which can be the source of bleeding if you accidentally cut into it. You can think of this area of their nail like our cuticle, but it is called the “quick.” If you were to cut your nails past your cuticle, then it would be painful and bleed; the same happens for dogs.
In lighter nails, the quick area is pink or darker, and in darker nails, it merely looks like a darker color. The main point is that you never want to cut into it, so if you are a beginner to grooming dog’s nails, make sure you stay away from it! Ideally, you will want to cut only up to a few millimeters in front of it so that you don’t have to cut your dog’s nails too frequently.
Dogs with Long Nail Quicks
Sometimes, if you haven’t cut your dog’s nails in a long time, the quick section will be very long; it can grow within millimeters from the end of the overall nail. This is because it will adapt to the state that your dog’s nails are set in for a long period.
This can create problems for you when trying to cut your dog’s nails. If their quick—the one section you need to avoid when clipping nails—goes so far down the nail, how are you supposed to get them shorter?
Fortunately, there is no reason to panic if this happens; there’s a way around this. Simply cut within a few millimeters of where the quick ends. In a couple of days, do this again. As you cut closer to the quick little by little, it will start to shrink back to where it is supposed to be naturally. Make sure that you continue to regularly cut and groom your dog’s nails, so the quick does not have reason to grow long again.
Ultimately, the goal is to avoid waiting too long between grooming to cut your pup’s nails. If the quick gets this long, it has most likely been painful for your dog to be on their feet.
The last part of the nail is the nail bed. It can be found right where your dog’s nail connects to its paw. That area is like our first knuckle. When animals are declawed, this is where the nail gets removed, which means your pet is essentially losing a part of their toes. (This is often why most people recommend not declawing your pet.)
Best Clippers to Use for Dogs’ Nails
Now that you know the anatomy of a dog’s nails, it’s time to pick out your tools for grooming them.
What to Avoid in Clippers
It’s critical to remember that you should never use human nail clippers on dogs; their nail shapes are different from ours, so using the same tool will not only damage the nail but could be quite painful for them.
Human nail cutters only work from two sides, which will chip and crack the dog’s nails; this is like having a split nail for humans. The result is your pup’s nails will snag on items as they walk, causing pain.
Best Type of Nail Clippers
Fortunately, there are nail clippers made explicitly for dogs available at any and every pet store and many places such as Amazon. When shopping for clippers, you’ll notice that many of them take the shape of something like scissors; this is the right kind to buy. This shape can encase the roundness of your dog’s nail and cut evenly from side to side, so the nails do not get crushed.
Choosing the Right Size
There are many different sizes of scissor nail clippers, so no matter what size dog you have, there will be one that works best for them. If you get one too small for your dog’s nails, it could damage them due to not being able to encase the entire nail and thus crushing it. So, make sure to get ones large enough for your specific breed.
Note: Most manufacturers and brands will add a note in their product descriptions that details what sized dogs their tool is best used for.
How to Clip a Dog’s Nails
Make sure that your dog is as calm as possible and, in a position, where they will not be moving a lot or too quickly. If you go to cut the nail and they move, you could end up cutting somewhere you didn’t mean to.
Wiggly animals are difficult ones to cut the nails of. If you go on YouTube, there are many videos of how to essentially swaddle your dog with just one paw out at a time. This can make it much easier to cut their nails. It can also speed up the process so that your dog is not agitated too long. It may seem kind of mean to do this, but it is far better than the alternative of accidentally hurting them.
Then, follow these steps for clipping your dog’s nails safely:
- Once you have them in a good position, grab their paw with your non-dominant hand and place your thumb on their paw pads, other fingers on the top of their foot. Gently squeeze your finders together until your dog’s nails are practically poking out from their paw. As long as you are gentle, this will not hurt them; it will just make things easier on you.
- Make sure that you can see their quick from the position you are in. That way, you will know exactly where to cut so that you do not hurt them. If it is hard to see, have someone else hold a flashlight that shines through the dog’s nails; this should give you a better view.
Note: For those of you that don’t have someone else around while cutting your dog’s nails, you can always grab a sharpie and a flashlight and mark the spot on the nail where the quick is before beginning to cut; this will ensure the safety of your pet.
- Then with your dominant hand, get a good grip on the scissor-style clippers so that they will not slip while you are trying to cut their nails. Then simply apply pressure on the handles of the clippers when the blades are a few millimeters above the quick, and you are all done clipping one nail! Offer verbal praise to your pup or provide a treat to ensure they know staying still for this process is good behavior.
- Now just repeat that on all their nails, and your dog will have a brand-new pedicure. Be sure not to forget the thumbnails, which are a little further up on the paw. These are often fairly thick but still grow long and sharp just as the others do, so they need clipping just as often.
Can You Cut a Dog’s Nails Too Short?
As you might have guessed from the previous sections, if you cut your dog’s nails too short, it will hurt them. You are cutting into the nerve and the vein that goes through their nail; this will be painful when it happens and could lead to your dog having a limp for some time afterward. This usually only happens if you accidentally cut very deep, in which case going to the vet is advised.
If you barely snip the tip of the quick, you may see a drop or two of blood, but it will not hurt your pet for very long. If you want to stop the bleeding, there are solutions you can buy at pet stores to rub on the nails. Otherwise, corn starch works the same to stop the bleeding.
Overall, walking on nails cut way too short can hurt just as much for your dog, if not more, than walking on nails that are too long. To successfully cut your dog’s nails at home, you must find a happy medium.
What to Do if Your Dogs Nails Are Sharp
After clipping your dog’s nails, many people find that the edges of the nails are just too sharp. This is very common because when you clip the nails, it cuts off flat, whereas when the dogs’ nails grow, they are constantly rounded out.
For those who have dogs that don’t jump on you or want to be held, this may not be a problem. However, for many people, these after-clipper nails can cause lots of scratches on the body as well as furniture.
Just like with humans, when you want to round out a dog’s nails, get a nail file. Human nail files generally will not work because our nails are nowhere near as thick as dogs’. However, Amazon has some great options available.
Traditional Flat Files
Some files you find will be normal, flat files for dogs; they are just generally metal or much tougher so that they do not break when filing their thicker nails.
These are great options if you only have to file your dog’s nails occasionally. However, if you find yourself having to do it often or every time you clip their nails, then it may be beneficial to invest in something else since filing their nails can cramp your hand or hurt your wrist after a while.
Electric Nail Files/Nail Grinders
Electric nail files are an excellent investment for those who find themselves filing their dog’s nails regularly. On Amazon, options range from $10 to $50; it simply depends on what you are specifically looking for.
These electric nail files are often battery operated or chargeable; very rarely do they actually have to be plugged in to use. This makes it easy to file your dog’s nails no matter where they may be in or out of the house.
These clippers then use essentially sandpaper attached to a motor to file down your dog’s nails. You will still have to learn how to stop before reaching the quick, though. This may be harder than it seems since you are not able to see the nail the entire time. However, checking the nail often could take care of this issue.
Overall, electric nail files are great tools to round out your dog’s nails. Or if your dog’s nails just need a little trim, using a nail grinder is often easier than getting the clippers out and then filing them down.
Learning how to groom your dog yourself can be very nerve-wracking. Many pet parents want the best for their pets but are worried about hurting them in the long run. Luckily this article should’ve given you a complete overview of many different factors around grooming their nails, including why to cut your dog’s nails, your dog’s nail anatomy, the best products to trim your dog’s nails with, and how to cut your dog’s nails.
If you are still worried about doing this at home, bring your dog in to have their nails cut with the groomer and ask if you can watch. Then next time, try it at home; even if you just cut little by little, it is better than nothing. Just make sure not to let your dog go too long without a nail trim as that will harm them more than help.
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