How do I cut my pets' nails?

This question has been plaguing pet owners for years.  Many owners are unsure of how far to cut, and how often to cut their pets nails.. Let’s not forget the dreaded black nails, these black nails induce fear in even the most skilled nail cutter.   Nail trims can be scary for both pets and their owner, it is important that we always remember that our pets are very in tuned to our emotions, so be calm.  If you have never trimmed your pet’s nails before you have to start slow and small so that you and your pet become comfortable with all the variables involved in a smooth nail trimming experience. 

Get your self comfortable, find a quiet and comfy place for both you and your pet for the nail trim, ensure that your nail trimmers are the right size for your pet and that they are sharp.  Place the nail trimmers on the floor or couch in front of your pet and allow them to sniff them and explore them.  Once they have relaxed, start petting them making your way to their feet.  Begin playing with their feet, rubbing them, separating the toes, and holding individual toes.  Take note of how you feel and how your pet is feeling and reacting to this touching.  If they are nervous and are attempting to withdraw the leg than you will need to spend more time getting them used to touching and manipulation of their toes before you even attempt to trim their nails.  If you pet is seemingly uninterested in what you are doing then you can try trimming one toe nail and re-assess the situation.  Never push your pet past their comfortable zone, never make them sit for a nail trim if they are uncomfortable and never get angry at them for being frightened.  Conditioning your pet to nail trims can take some time but if your take the time to do it properly nail trims will be the easiest thing you have ever done and other pet parents will be very jealous. 

So, what’s the anatomy of a toe nail?  In the diagram below you see that there is a very sensitive area that supplies blood to the nail called the Quick.  Cutting through this will cause pain to the pet and will also result in bleeding.

If your pets nail has white nails then you will be able to see the quick, you can then proceed with taking the tip of the nail off at a 45-degree angle.  Should your pets’ nails be black this is slightly more difficult.  There are a few tips to trimming a black nail that may help you become more comfortable.  There is often a texture change on the outer surface of the nail as you move away from the quick.  Start well beyond this, taking small bits off the tip and looking for a small dark circle to appear in the cut area.  This indicates that you are getting close to the quick and you should stop.

If your pet has over grown quicks you will need to be patient but with frequent trims, every 2-3 weeks, you can regress the quick and get the nails shorter.

The proper length of your dogs’ nails is fairly easily determined.  When your dog is standing the nails should not touch the ground.  If they do they can change the angle of the actual digit as it is being used and could result in pain and damage to the toes over time.


Should you cut the nail too short, don’t panic and get your pet frightened.  Hold pressure on the nail, dab with a towel and apply a coagulation solution.  If you have kwik dip at home this works well, you can also use corn starch.  Keeping the pet calm will help keep the blood pressure reduced and make stopping the bleeding much easier. 

In the event that you are unable to stop the bleeding, place a bandage on the area and consult your veterinarian immediately.

Our friendly and gentle staff of groomers at Touch Animal Rehabilitation are always here to lend a helping hand and to trim your pets nails for you if you or your pet is nervous.

For more information about desensitizing your pet after a fearful event follow our blogs at www.touchanimalrehab/news/


Stay calm and clip on..