Trimming your dog’s nail: How To Do It And Why?



Just like humans, our dog has nails that need to be trimmed periodically.

When the dog is in the wild, its nails wear down naturally by walking on hard ground. This process is unnoticed by the dog. However, when a dog lives in an apartment whose flooring is made of tiles, or even more delicate materials, the wearing process does not occur. Then, it is up to the owner to trim the dog’s nails. Nails that are too long can be annoying for the dog when it walks or runs.

Although many resorts to dog groomers or veterinarians who are experts in performing the process, trimming the dog’s nail is not a complex task, so you can also do it at home by knowing only the basic rules to do it.

How Is A Dog’s Nail Composed Of?

The dog’s nail is a rather complex structure, at least at its base. The most difficult parts to deal with are, in fact, at the base of the nail, which is impossible to cut (even the base of a human nail is impossible to cut).

In the distal portion (the outermost part that fingers can touch), two parts are important to differentiate before cutting your dog’s nail: the quick and the horn-like nail.

If we look at humans, the “quick” is called nail plate, which refers to the large pink part, while the free edge (the cut line in dogs) would be the white portion that grows out from the finger or toe. As we all know, the white part can be cut without problems, but if we cut the pink one, it will hurt.

Be Careful With The Both Parts Edges

When trimming our dog’s nails with a nail clipper (similar to the one we use), we should be careful with the margin between the quick and the horn-like cut line. If the quick is cut, the nail will bleed as it consists of blood vessels.

Nail trimming is quite simple in dogs with clear nails because the boundary is easy to distinguish: The body nail is opaque, while the tip is semi-transparent and lighter. We hold the dog’s nail and measure 0,30 inches in length from the quick and trim. We will be able to do it without any problems.

On the other hand, it is more difficult to perform this task on dogs with dark nails. In this case, the “boundary” between the two parts is not clearly visible, or rather not to the naked eye. What changes is the nail structure, which is only noticeable with some experience and, above all, if you know the dog and its nails.

So, if your dog has black nails, ask your veterinarian how to trim its nails when you go for a checkup, or the like. The veterinarian will teach you how to recognize the nail’s border and show you how to trim it. A little practice and personal observation will allow you to recognize the boundary between the two parts of the nail and trim it safely.

Finally, trimming is very simple: Place the nail clippers properly and squeeze, just as we do with our nails.

Obviously, not all nail clippers are the same. Different dogs have different nail clippers (in terms of size).

Instruments For Trimming Dog Nails

In order to trim your dog’s nails at home without hurting your friend, it is essential to use the right tools. For this reason, do not try to save money and do not choose poor quality products: We are talking about your dog’s health.

In the market, there is a wide variety of scissors to trim dogs’ nails. There are different shapes and sizes. The most commonly used are the scissors type and the guillotine type.

Trimming Your Dog’s Nail With A Scissors-type Nail Clipper

This type of nail clipper is similar to the instrument with which we cut out nails, but this is customized to the shape of the dog’s nails. Some of them also have a spring to facilitate movement. You must hold the nail and exert just the right amount of force to cut it quickly to use them.

When choosing a nail clipper, you should consider the size and pick the one that best suits the dog. Although they can be useful for all dogs, scissor-type nail clippers are particularly ideal for small dogs because there is no need to exert much force to trim the nails.

Trimming Your Dog’s Nail With A Guillotine-type Nail Clipper

This tool has a built-in spring that facilitates trimming the dog’s nails. To use it correctly, simply stick the end of the dog’s nail in the hole and at a right angle to cut. The difference lies in the fact that it allows you to exert more strength without obstacles.

For this reason, guillotine-type clippers are suitable for trimming large dog nails or dogs with thicker and harder nails.

How To Trim Your Dog’s Nail: Step By Step

Once you have found the type of clippers that best suits your dog, follow instructions step-by-step: The first thing to keep in mind is the anatomy of the dog’s nail, because there is a living tissue inside that should not be cut in order to not harm the animal.

Look at the nail to find it: You will recognize it because it is a pink line inside. After identifying it, follow these steps:

  1. Create a calm environment for the animal. It is recommended that you start trimming its nails from puppyhood so that your dog considers it a normal activity. Besides trimming its nails when necessary, touch its paws gently daily. It may seem a pointless action, but this will help your dog not to be frightened when you touch its paws.
  2. Once you have created optimal conditions for your dog, make it stand on all four legs to observe exactly how and where to trim. The ideal length is at ground level.
  3. If it is the first time you trim your dog’s nails, touch its paws gently with the clipper and reward it with a treat so that he associates the instrument with a positive experience. Repeat the previous step until you see that the dog is calm.
  4. To trim the dog’s nails, place the clippers at the correct height and apply the necessary pressure to make a clean and precise cut. The trim should be straight or slightly inclined downwards.
  5. Avoid cutting the dog’s nails diagonally upward. See the picture.
  6. Once you have trimmed the nails on the first paw, reward your dog with a treat before moving on to the next paw.

How to Trim Black nails

If the dog’s nails are transparent or semitransparent, it is easier to identify which part to trim without touching the living tissue. However, when its nails are completely black, it is impossible to identify said tissue at first sight. To avoid harming the animal, you have two options:

  • Trim the nail gradually: Start by cutting only the dog’s nail tip, then check carefully: If it is completely white, you can continue trimming a few millimeters more; but if you see a black spot, you should stop as this means that the tissue is close.
  • Trim the nail without lifting the paw: When your dog is standing on all four legs, get in the correct position to cut the nail without lifting the paw. By doing so, you will be able to clearly see the nail’s size and identify the exact spot to cut it.

What To Do If You Cut Your Dog’s Nail Too Short:

It may happen that the dog moves at the exact moment you are cutting the nail or, if it has black nails, you may have cut them too short and they may start to bleed. Should this happen, stay calm.

The first thing to do is to take a clean and sterile gauze. Then, dampen it with hydrogen peroxide and clean the nail to disinfect the wound and stop the bleeding. It would be better to use Chlorhexidine Gluconate if you have it at home, instead of hydrogen peroxide because it allows you to disinfect better without irritating your pet’s skin.

You should ideally keep disinfectants close at hand before you start trimming your dog’s nails, so that you can act as soon as possible if your pet accidentally gets hurt. If you want to be more confident, you can ask your veterinarian for an antiseptic powder specifically for dogs as it is much more effective than hydrogen peroxide at stopping any bleeding.

If you believe that trimming your dog’s nail is too difficult for you, take it to the veterinarian or a dog groomer. It can be a challenging task to do in dogs that have been adopted as adults and who are, therefore, not used to having their paws touched or who have had traumatic experiences in the past.

How To Know If The Dog’s Nail Length Is Correct?

It is pretty simple. Just look at the dog standing on all four legs on the floor.

If the nails touch the floor directly, you should trim them. If the nails sound is too loud when it walks, it is likely that the nails have grown too long, so it would be a good time for trimming and filing.

It is important to know that nail growth may result in irregular and painful discomfort such as ingrown nails. This may occur in dogs with domestic and sedentary life.

If in doubt, consult a professional who will give you good assistance and answer all your questions.

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