Your dog’s nails or claws will grow regularly, just like our nails do. If you walk your dog often, particularly on hard pavements or roads, they should be naturally filed down, saving you the job of trimming them!
This isn’t always possible though and dog nails can grow long, causing discomfort and even pain if they break off and start bleeding. For older dogs that don’t go out for so many walks, or if they have arthritis in their feet, long nails can cause them additional pain.
Dewclaws in dogs, which are the equivalent of our thumbs, tend to grow further up the paw and do not get worn down like their other nails. They can sometimes grow long enough to curl around and into the soft tissue. The best thing to do is to check them regularly and learn how to cut claws safely. Dewclaws are likely to need trimming at some point.
How to cut claws safely and how far to cut your dog’s nails
Firstly, you need a good pair of sharp dog nail clippers. There are plenty available either in the shops or through your vets. Don’t use human nail clippers as they can cause injury. If your dog is nervous or worried and you think you might not be able to trim them safely, contact your vet or local dog groomer. It is a service they often provide.
Keep your dog calm and feeling safe. If they are small enough, sit them on your lap or sit with them on the floor to reassure them all is well.
An extra pair of human hands is always useful, even if they only provide a bit of distraction for your dog while you get on with the job of trimming their nails.
Hold your dog’s paw pad and gently press on it. This will push out the claw making it easier to trim.
Don’t go straight into the base of the nail and cut it back. You are likely to hit the ‘quick’ of the nail, which is the soft part that can start bleeding and be tricky to stop. You can see the quick more easily in white nails as it is a slightly reddened colour. It’s much harder to spot the quick in dark nails so just clip the nail back a little bit at a time.
Use your nail clippers at a 45-degree angle with the blade end of the clippers pointing towards the paw. Slowly clip the nail back. Should you accidentally clip the nail back too far and it starts to bleed press a cotton wool ball onto the area. You can apply silver nitrate to the end of the nail which helps to seal the nail if it starts bleeding. This is available from your vet.
If you are unsure of how to cut claws safely or how far to cut dog's nails take advice from your local vet or veterinary nurse who can show you exactly what to do. Alternatively, they can do it for you if you are worried about doing it yourself.
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