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Nail Trimming 101

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

Trimming your pet’s nails can be a difficult task, especially when the animal is unwilling. These are my steps and tips for successfully cutting your animal’s nails, whether it is a dog, cat, guinea pig or any other furry friend.

Keep them calm. An animal that is scared or in a playful mood will not make for an easy trim. Not only will it be difficult, but it could be potentially dangerous for your pet. You can also give them a few treats to help keep them happy.

Hold/restrain them in a comfortable way. Above are some pictures of my favorite ways to hold different animals while trimming nails. Make sure that your animal is comfortable, yet keep a firm hold to avoid injury. For larger and/or more difficult animals, it might be easier for one person to restrain and/or distract the animal while another does the trimming. Always keep yourself safe and bring in help if needed.

Locate the quick and cut. The quick is the pinkish blood vessel that runs through the nail. In white or light colored nails it is usually easy to identify, but in darker nails it can be more difficult. You should cut just below the quick, but not too close to avoid pain and bleeding by accidentally cutting the quick. If you can't find it, just snip off the very tip of the nail. Sometimes what you can see through the side of the nail is only part of the quick and it may extend further down.

In these pictures, I am pressing on the top of the cat's toe and gently squeezing to push out the nail. Cats are the only animal who's nails can retract and need to be pushed out for trimming.

What to do if you cut the quick. If you cut too high up and the nail begins to bleed, don't panic. Always have something on hand to stop the bleeding. There are commercial products that are sold for this purpose (styptic powder), but flour, corn starch, or baking soda can be used in an emergency (they just don't work as well). Just place a small amount into your hand and touch the tip of the bleeding nail to it. The bleeding should stop and your animal should heal fine, but always consult a vet if you are concerned or the bleeding doesn't stop or gets worse.

Don’t feel like you have to trim all the nails at once. If your pet is too squirmy, it might be a good idea to clip a few nails and do the rest later. It is important to make it as positive an experience as possible. It can take some practice, but in no time it will become much easier for both of you! If you find your animal too difficult to trim at home, it would be recommended to take them to a groomer or your veterinary clinic for nail trims.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions or suggestions!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Anything expressed in these posts is my own personal opinion and is not to be taken as medical advice.

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