Vet Blog

Tips To Trim Your Dog Or Cat’s Nails

March 07, 2017

Dog/cat nail trims are important.

We know trimmed nails help save our floors, furniture, and sometimes our skin, and… nail trims are good for our pets too. But why do so many dogs and cats refuse, hate, or flee when it's nail trimming time?

In order to answer this question, we first must dive into the actual anatomy of your pet's claw. Although similar to our fingernails the anatomy is a bit different. For humans, we know exactly where our fingernail ends and where our finger begins. For dogs/cats, it's a bit different. Their nail is made up of an outer portion (which is like our fingernail) and an inner portion (which is like our nail bed). In cats/dogs, the inner portion is where all the nerves are located. When you trim their nails, it is imperative that only the outer shell gets trimmed. Otherwise, you "cut" into the nerve OUCH!!! It's not difficult to see where the outer and inner parts begin and end EXCEPT if your pet's nails are naturally dark. In this case it is almost impossible to detect where the nail bed begins.

There is only one-reason dogs hate having their nails clipped: PAIN! If your dog's nail has ever been cut too close, even just once it is a sensation that is never forgotten. Keep in mind for animals; nature provides pain as protection and if something hurts, it is an instinct for that animal to avoid that experience at all cost. This is true for cats as well.

Also, some short-legged breeds like the Bassett Hound or Dachshund commonly have joint problems. When their leg is pulled out to trim the nails it hurts. Again, the pain associated with pulling that leg out is something your dog will not forget…and he/she will avoid that discomfort at all cost. For cats, their paws must be pinched to expose the claw, this is uncomfortable and if the paw is pinched too hard it's painful.

What Can You Do?

There are several tips you can try to help with the challenge.

Let Your Veterinarian Help

Sometimes having a professional handle nail clipping is the best option.

Small Steps Are Always Best For Nail Trims

If you have a puppy/kitten start him outright. Small steps are always best. Patience will be required but worth the wait. At the first "clipper introduction" try smearing the nail clippers with peanut butter or a treat. Make sure your furry friend associates the clippers with a positive experience before using them to actually cut the nails.

  • Once your pet realizes the clippers bring "joy" trim one nail, give a treat, and put the clippers down. Again, the process is going to take patience but your pet must have confidence in the process.
  • If you have an older "wiser" dog/cat try clipping ONE nail and immediately put the clippers down and say "Ok, let's go for a walk" or "time for some love". Do the same thing the next day. After 3 or 4 weeks all the nails will be clipped. The process then starts over again. Eventually, you will be able to trim more than one nail at a time.
  • If your pet is a breed that will require professional grooming, seek a groomer that has a puppy/kitten table training program. This will enable your pet to understand the grooming process including nail trims. Programs like these can also save you money, as sedation is often required for unruly pets (especially cats) who refuse to allow that summer "shave" to be performed.
  • Try touching your pet's nails with objects other than the clippers. Use a pencil eraser, a spoon, a favorite toy, again be patient. After some trust is built, touch the nail with the clippers. Do not clip just touch then reward with a treat.
  • Bring the clippers out and let your pet hear the sound of the clippers without clipping the nails. Leave the clippers out at all times for your pet to view. Several times during the day, pick them up and let your dog/cat hear the clipping sound without having his/her nails clipped. Reward with a treat.

These are just a few suggestions on ways to improve the nail clipping experience. Owners must understand, patience is required for this process to be successful. So whether you plan on clipping your pet's nails or using a professional source like your veterinarian or a groomer be willing to allow as much time as needed for your pet to feel comfortable.

City ordinance required that by 5/4/23, every dog or cat will need a microchip. Visit the article here. Ask us about microchipping!