How Do I Cut My Dog’s Nails?

Everything you need to know 💅

dog nail trimming

Are you covered in accidental scratches from your dog? Does he have trouble gaining traction because his nails are so long? Well, it might be time to get them clipped.

You can easily take your pup to the vet or the groomer to get his nails professionally cut.

But if you want to save some money and do it yourself, it’s super important to know the proper way to do it safely.

The Dodo spoke with Kirsten Butler, a certified veterinary technician and practice manager at the The Center For Animal Wellness in Denver, Colorado, to guide you through trimming your dog’s nails.

Why you should trim your dog’s nails

Clipping your dog’s nails is simply a normal part of grooming.

“Just as our nails continue to grow and need [to be] trimmed, so do theirs,” Butler told The Dodo.

It’s really important to keep up with trimming your pup’s nails, because there could be physical and medical consequences to letting them grow too long.

“Untrimmed nails could lead to split or torn nails that may require a course of antibiotics and/or a bandage,” Butler explained. “In the worst cases, nails can curl around and embed themselves in the paw pads, which is very painful.”

How frequently your dog’s nails need to be cut depends on how much exercise he gets.

“Active dogs who run or go for regular walks often don’t need their nails trimmed as often because they will wear them down with regular contact on pavement,” she said.

But no matter how frequently your dog needs a trim, make sure you’re using the right kind of clipper.

Try these clippers from Chewy for $8.59

What NOT to cut when clipping your dog’s nails

When you’re clipping your dog’s nails on your own, it’s super important to avoid cutting the quick — aka the nail’s blood supply, which is basically a small vein that runs vertically through the nail.

To avoid accidentally cutting the quick, you should know what it looks like.

“The ‘quick’ can be easily seen on dogs with white toenails. Where you see pink through the dog’s nail is where that blood supply starts, and [that’s] the area to avoid when trimming,” Butler explained.

She warns that it is harder to tell where the quick is on darker nails.

“In this case it is best to trim little by little until you start to see a color change in the center of the nail, as it will appear much darker in the center the closer you get to the ‘quick,’” Butler said.

What to do if you cut the quick

First thing's first: don’t panic! It happens, and while it might hurt your pup for a few seconds, it’s usually not a big deal.

According to Butler, if you do clip the quick, you can use styptic powder to stop the bleeding (so it’s good to have a bottle nearby before you start).

Get it from Chewy for $4.59

But if you don’t have styptic powder handy, there are other at-home remedies you can use.

“You can also use flour or [cornstarch] to help clot the blood ... while applying firm pressure with your fingers,” Butler explained.

How to make it as enjoyable as possible for your dog

For the most part, dogs don’t love having their nails clipped. But there are ways you can make it more comfortable for your pup.

“[Nail trimming is] most easily performed if the dog is standing, picking up one paw at a time to trim, or lying on their side,” Butler said.

You could also *ahem* bribe them to sit still with some treats.

“Try a whopping spoonful of peanut butter or cream cheese to occupy your dog while you trim [his] nails,” she added.

Or try this wall-mounted treat dispensing mat from Amazon for $10.59

To make sure your dog is the most comfortable, start trimming their nails when they’re just puppies so they grow up used to it.

Butler also recommends touching your dog’s feet as often as possible, so he can get used to the feeling of people poking, prodding and lifting them.

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