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Trimming a dog’s nails is a necessary part of good animal husbandry and completes a healthy grooming regimen. Though it may not be fun or easy, keeping your dog’s nails at an appropriate length keeps your dog’s paws healthy and minimizes scratches on your floor. Long nails will affect the shape and conformation of the toes and feet, which can in turn affect a dog’s legs and posture. To help keep dogs’ nails in tip-top shape, the American Kennel Club (AKC®) offers tips for trimming your dog’s nails.

  • Get accustomed: Trimming a dog’s nails can often be a source of anxiety for both human and dog. Many dogs are not familiar or don’t like having their feet picked up and touched and may become anxious due to the lack of control. Getting a dog used to having his feet handled is best done if started early on in life and if there is no ulterior intention, and then rewarded for good behavior. Practice the act of picking up the paw and letting him see and hear the trimmers without actually doing anything first.
  • Establish a routine: How often and how much nail to trim is very individual and will depend largely on how fast a dog’s nails grow and the surfaces the dog typically walks on. Getting into the habit of checking your dog’s nails every 1-2 weeks will be helpful to establish a routine and get your dog used to his paws and nails being touched.
  • Know the anatomy: It is important to know the basic anatomy of a dog’s nail. The portion of the nail that you want to trim is the tip of the shell. Inside each nail is known as the “quick”, the portion which contains the nerve and blood vessel. Light nails are easier to trim because the quick will be much more visible.
  • Equipment: Be sure to have a nail trimming tool that you’re comfortable with. The classic Guillotine style and other trimmers do the quickest job, though they can cause accidental bleeding. If you aren’t comfortable using clippers or if you’re just doing a quick touch-up, consider a grinder or Dremel tool. These are often battery operated and grind the nails down gradually, rather than clipping them, making it easier to avoid accidents. Always have a syptic powder on hand in case of an accident.
  • Accidents happen: Trimming a dog’s nail too short, causing bleeding, is extremely common and you shouldn’t feel guilty nor should you panic. Most nail trimming accidents are minor and can be treated at home by using Styptic Powder, which has anti-hemorrhagic agents that work by contracting small blood vessels. By clotting the blood, it prevents most bacteria from entering the bloodstream. Follow the instructions for using the powder and the bleeding should stop in about 20 minutes or less. If bleeding continues beyond this, it may be time to call your vet.
  • Use a professional: If you are uncomfortable trimming your dog’s nails on your own or it becomes too much of a challenge, you can always make an appointment at your veterinarian or professional groomer to have it done.
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