Pedicures for Puppies (and kitties) – What you need to know about clipping nails!
on June 28, 2011
Posted in Cats
Clipping a dog and cats nails is not as easy as it looks. For one thing, a moving target is a real challenge. If your pet is difficult, or you are just starting out, make sure they are calm and comfortable, speak softly and gently and have treats for rewards and to distract (great to have someone helping, feeding treats while you snip). Clip only one nail, then reward them. If they are OK with it, do more, but if they are afraid, stop with just one. You can literally do one nail a day, or one nail a week to get them used to it.
A medium size clipper works for most breeds. We prefer clippers that have a pliers type of action, as opposed to the guillotine style where you have to fit the nail into it or a scissor type which looks like scissors with notches in the end. Pliers style clippers look like pliers with notched blades that the nail fits into. They are powerful enough for thick, dark nails and enable you to see where you are cutting. For cats, small pliers type clippers work well, however the scissor type are most often used and you can in fact use a pair of large “human” nail clippers which can give both accuracy and power!
To clip a nail, it is important to know where the quick is. This is the area inside the nail that carries the blood supply. The quick is easy to see with dogs that have white nails, and cats. Cut the nail to about 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch away from the kwik. You cannot see the quick with black nails so start by clipping only the tip. If it seems you can clip a bit more, then do so. By adequately clipping one nail, you will know how far to clip the rest. For nails that are overgrown (really long) clip only the tip and no more. With long nails, the quick has often grown out almost to the end. Each week you can clip a bit more and the quick will recede, enabling you, over time, to clip the nails to a shorter length.
If by chance you happen to cut the quick and the nail starts to bleed, don’t allow your dog or cat to wrench away from you and run around. If you hold him firm and reassure him that you know it hurt, he will trust you. To stop the bleeding, get styptic or corn starch powder onto the end of the nail. Press the powder to the end of the nail until the bleeding stops. You may have to keep packing powder for two to three minutes, but the longer you are able to apply steady pressure, the more effectively you will stop the bleeding. (Don’t be concerned if your dog wants to lick the wound after initial bleeding stops but do keep him from prancing about for at least fifteen minutes). If the nail is bleeding freely after thirty minutes of applying pressure and powder, call your veterinarian. At times, you may be able to take him/her to a groomer who can remedy the problem. If you have a dog who has been traumatized badly enough to try to bite when you grasp the paw, it is probably kinder and less traumatic for him to be taken to a vet for nail clipping.
If your dogs nails are touching the ground when they stand normally, then they are too long. For most cats, long, sharp nails are not a big concern, other than scratching you and the furniture. We believe that cats that go outdoors should keep their nails sharp for defence. If you clip kitties nails, they will also get right to work sharpening them again!
Well groomed nails prevent painful injuries such as gait deformities and dew claw rips. A dew claw is the ‘thumbnail’ of a dogs paw, when allowed to grow too long they often become snagged and ripped from the paw, causing severe bleeding and pain. Dew claws also curve and left untended, grow into the pad of the dog’s paw, this is extremely painful and can cause limping for a strange, painful looking gait. This happens with cat nails as well, especially with older cats who are no longer sharpening claws on scratching posts. Their nails will grow into their pads, causing them to bleed and become infected.
It is very important to check your animals’ nails on a regular basis as nail grooming is a major issue for your pet’s well being 🙂
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan