Life gets busy, and, even we pet parents with the best of intentions may allow our pup’s paws to go unattended a little longer than usual. Perhaps a pet parent has inherited a rescue dog that has been neglected. Still, others may have had an illness that affects their ability to keep their dogs groomed in a timely manner. No matter the reason, there may be times when your dog’s toenails get longer than usual. You need to trim them, but you certainly want to do so correctly. Let’s take a look at how to trim the overgrown nails of your dog.
First, you must understand why long nails can be hazardous to your dog (and you too!). According to the American Kennel Club, “overgrown dog nails can cause discomfort as well as health issues.” If you can hear your dog’s nails “tapping” on your tile floors, then you can be assured it is time to trim them. Nails that have grown to this length can cause your dog’s toes to play, which puts unnatural pressure on the foot and leg of your precious pup. Eventually, this can lead to injuries of the tendon. Your dog may even develop deformed feet. Plus, these overgrown nails will become uncomfortable to your dog, even if they never cause actual injuries.
It is important to remember that a dog’s nails MUST be trimmed safely. Just as we humans have an area just below our fingernail and the nail bed called the “quick,” so do dogs. However, whereas we humans are able to see where the fingernail ends and the nail bed begins, this task can be daunting for pet parents. Dogs with black nails make finding the “quick” even more difficult. You see, when dogs with light-colored or white nails need a trim, we can see where the blood vessels and nerves begin (that’s essentially what the “quick” is). However, with dogs with dark nails, we can’t see this area. Plus, dogs with long nails will have a more extensive quick, meaning it could be longer than usual.
The best approach to trimming a dog’s overgrown fingernails is to clip them gradually. We highly recommend utilizing one of today’s best dog nail grinders. We’ll discuss how to use them and why they are your best bet, momentarily. What you’ll need to do is to begin trimming your dog’s nails about once a week, gradually getting them back to a more natural length (i.e., since you can’t be sure where your dog’s quick is located, it is best to snip only a small amount of the long nail at a time—a small amount one week with a little more the next week). What will happen is that your dog’s quick will begin to recede.
How To Trim Overgrown Dog Nails
1. You must make sure your dog is comfortable.
If the dog in question is a rescue or has been neglected, you can almost bet no one took the time to socialize the dog to having her nails trimmed. You may have to do a little work to get her to a point where she’s not nervous when you trim your dog’s nail. Dog nail clippers make clicking noises, so if there is a way to imitate that so that your dog gets used to the sound, then do so. You may need to spend some time rubbing her paws and making sure she understands what you’re about to do won’t hurt her. Let your dog see the clippers, and let her sniff them or whatever else she needs to do to be comfortable. You may have to carry this socialization out for a week or two before she relaxes and allows you to trim her nails. In fact, you want to work with her until she seems happy to see the clippers come out. Treat her for behaving well. In just a small matter of time, she will be ready for you to trim her overgrown nails.
Now, if you think it would be best to trim her nails with a nail grinder, you must prepare her for the experience. Nail grinders can be noisy, although there are some that operate quietly, so you’ll want to show her the tool just as you would show her the clippers. Let her sniff the tool. If she seems fairly comfortable, then turn it on at a low speed. Now, many nail grinders today offer “whisper-quiet” noise, so you may want to invest in one of these to keep her from becoming nervous. You should also take the nail grinder and run it over her legs and her body, but only if she seems calm. Let her see the noisy tool won’t hurt her.
Always treat and praise even the smallest positive experiences when you are attempting to socialize her to nail grinders or nail clippers. Often, dogs will get upset and jump while their nails are being trimmed, and this causes individuals to unwittingly clip the “quick” of their dog’s nails—resulting in a painful experience for your pup. In fact, it could be so painful that Fido will never let you trim his nails without a fight. You must know how to stop dog nail bleeding if it unfortunately happens!
2. You want to trim your dog’s nails ONLY when she is relaxed and comfortable.
Sometimes it is a good idea to have someone assist you in dog nail trimming. This second person is not supposed to forcibly hold the dog but to allow the dog to rest in their lap as you trim the dog’s nails. It also helps if your assistant will rub your dog and speak soothing words to him.
When you pick up your dog’s paw to trim the nails, hold the paw close to the dog’s body. This will prevent the dog from pulling her leg back and possibly causing you to clip the nail in the quick. It is best to hold the toe of the nail you’re trimming firmly in your hand, then moving to the next toe.
3. You MUST figure out where the “quick” is.
For dogs with light-colored or white nails, finding the quick is easy. The quick looks like a pinkish yet darker portion of the nail. Aim to trim your dog’s nails a good bit above this area.
If your dog has dark or black nails, finding the quick isn’t so easy. What you’ll need to do is to slowly trim very small sections of the nail at a time, looking to see a gray-pink oval-shaped section appear. This is the quick, and you do NOT want to cut down on this. Some dogs with dark nails will have a black dot in a white portion of the nail. This is the quick, and you will want to stop cutting at this point.
4. Now it’s time to really begin trimming the nail.
Whether your dog has light-colored or dark nails, you should trim only a very small section of the nail at a time. Again, if the dog’s nails are very overgrown, you will want to trim a small bit over days prior to trying to trim the entire overgrown area. It is important to remember that your dog may become sore when all of the overgrowths are trimmed at one time. Trimming the nail slowly will help to prevent this.
Begin by cutting at a slight angle across the nail, trimming one side then the other. You want to follow the natural shape of the nail. Remember to look for that black dot that means you’re getting close to the quick, and stop. Remember to act as naturally as possible, never letting your dog know that you might be nervous. Your dog can pick up on this type of thing, and he may become more nervous about getting his nails trimmed simply because you are not calm .
Repeat this process for each nail you trim. You can take breaks in between if you need to do so, and you may want to provide Fido with a treat after each paw is completely trimmed. Some pet parents will trim one paw a day just to keep from getting Fido too anxious.
Now, let’s talk about using the nail grinder to trim overgrown nails. You will still want to begin by trimming the longest part of the nail down. Trim at a slight angle, cutting first one side, then the other. This is to get off the most damaged part of the nail. When pet parents simply clipping the nail might continue after three or four clips per nail, you will want to simply trim off the worst area of excess, then begin using the nail grinder. Just as you would with the clippers, you may want to trim only one paw a day until you are completely done. There are some pet parents who trim one nail a day until they get the dog used to the process and get all excess off the nail.
5. What should I do if I happen to cut into the quick?
First, you need to keep styptic powder handy in order to stop the bleeding. If your dog has remained calm, you may want to give him a treat. Then, it’s probably best to stop for a while or even for the day. When you resume trimming the nails, you will try to speak in soothing tones, and you want to provide treats as long as Fido stays calm.
1. How do you cut a dog’s nails that are black?
You’ll want to do so slowly. Dogs with darker nails have a white area just before the quick. Look for a black dot within this white section that indicates you’re getting closer to the quick. You will want to stop trimming the dog’s nails before you get to this point.
When it comes to a dog with black nails, it is best to err on the side of caution. It is fine for a dog to have slightly longer nails in order to protect the quick. Just be sure not to let them grown so long that they cause the toes to splay out or “tap” the floor when Fido is walking on hard surfaces.
2. How can I cut my dog’s nails at home?
You can trim your dog’s nails at home easily, or you may choose to use a nail grinder, which can protect the “quick” from injury. The best way to cut your dog’s nails at home is to keep her calm, locate the quick, then trim bits of the nail, following the dog’s natural nail curvature.
3. What is the best way to trim dog nails?
It is best to have socialized the dog prior to nail trimming, but if you can’t, get the dog ready for this part of grooming by introducing her to the clippers or the nail grinder. When she seems comfortable, you can follow the suggestions above for trimming her nails.
4. Does it hurt a dog to trim nails?
Not at all, as long as you can keep from cutting into the quick of her nails.