Expert advise

Cutting dog nails: how, why and when

Cutting dog nails can be seen as a kind of quality time with your dog. You can make a moment of pampering it and of course make sure that this is not a painful situation for your dog, but if you do this regularly and correctly, it is pleasant for the dog. You can manage the nail length quite well and, most importantly, make it familiar to the dog when it is still a puppy! So nail trimming will be a pleasant moment for both the dog and his owner.

If your dog jumps on you, you will immediately feel whether the nails are too long. Rough surfaces and long walks cause natural wear and tear on the nails, but on dogs that live indoors or only walk on soft surfaces, the nails must be checked regularly. Nails that are too long can cause toes to grow and all kinds of problems. Too much hard surface can cause damaged foot pads, so they also have to be checked.

A part of the nail is numb, so dead tissue, but there is also a part that comes closest to the leg where blood vessels, called quick, flow through. The trick is to cut the nails just enough without touching these blood vessels.

Getting the dog used to nail cutting

For dogs who are not used to nail clippings, this can be a very nasty or even traumatic experience because, out of fear, not knowing what happens to it, they can react very strongly and even bite. That is why it is very important to see that a dog in a panic is properly secured on a trim table with good table straps. A frightened dog will have to learn, step by step, that nail trimming is not painful. The groomer or veterinarian will have to build confidence in the dog in various turns. That is why it is so important that a dog is used to this from an early age. You can start with this to properly and regularly grasp the legs and especially the feet of the dog. You should also put all your cutters ready so that the dog has already seen this and he does not have to be afraid of it. And furthermore, it is very important that the person who cuts the nail remains very calm. If this person radiates peace, the dog will take over.

Cutting the nails does not apply to every dog. Some dogs wear their nails to the ground naturally or it happens that the nail grows so slowly that it only rarely needs to be cut. If in doubt, it is best to ask your groomer or vet for advice.

If the dog's nails are not properly maintained, this can cause major problems. Take as a rule that if the dog puts his paw straight on the ground, his nails should not touch the ground just to be good.

Does it hurt to cut the dog nails?

If everything goes smoothly, nail trimming is a painless event, but you must of course be careful:

  • Never cut the quick of the nail
  • Use materials that are not blunt
  • Cut quickly because otherwise you put too much pressure on the nail, which is painful for the dog.
  • Make sure the dog is properly secured on the grooming table in advance

What about an anxious dog?

  • Reassure the dog, talk calmly to the dog and make it clear what you want from him, namely that he gives his paw and that he allows you to hold his paw properly.
  • If you touch his legs, ignore his fearful behavior, but of course stay alert about his reaction so that nail trimming can be done safely.
  • Stay calm yourself because the dog senses when you are nervous yourself and will take over this feeling.
  • Do not pet or hug the dog because that is how you reward him for his fearful behavior
  • Make it a habit that the dog gets a reward after the nail haircut, so he will know in the future that he will be rewarded for good behavior. This is possible with a candy or his favorite toy, but also with a hug or a play moment together

What materials are needed for cutting dog nails?

The most important thing is that you have a good and sharp nail clipper. There are different models, sometimes it is time to figure out what you can best work with. This also depends on the dog, if this is a puppy or a large dog, you can use a custom nail clipper.

Nail clippers: with this nail clipper you can exert a lot of strength with harder nails if necessary. With a nail clipper such as the Show Tech Comfort Nail clipper you can see well how far you will cut the nail. It is also easy to cut the nail in layers which is recommended for black nails. A classic nail clipper such as the Show Tech Classic Nail Clipper can be used for both light and heavy cutting, as this nail clipper is strong due to its metal construction.

Files: Nails of dogs are much harder than human nails, and therefore they need a special file. A nail file can be used to shorten the nail as well as to finish the cut nail and also to work the nail in between 2 cuts. You can also use the Oster 2-speed Li-Ion nail file. This wireless nail file quickly files the broken or long nail of the dog so that nail clipping does not take too long and the dog is helped quickly. It is a light device that is easy to use.

Small nail scissors: the Show Tech Scissor Style Nail Trimmer for Puppies: This nail clipper is specially designed for small pets such as puppies, kittens and birds and rodents.

Show Tech Guillotine Comfort Nail clipper: this has hard steel blades with which you can cut the nail very accurately.

What if the nails are not cut in time?

Then you can expect big problems!

  • If the nail that is already touching the ground continues to grow without being cut, this nail will grow obliquely and the dog's toes will also be tilted, the dog will misplace its entire leg towards it which will cause painful deformations in the leg.
  • Some nails will continue to grow curly. Hereby they can hit the pad under the toe and in bad cases, the nails even pierces this pad and he grows all the way through. If this nail is cut, the cushion will have to be well cared for and disinfected so that it can heal.
  • If the nail really gets too long, then the quick will also grow longer than normal, so when the nail is eventually cut, you will have to proceed very carefully and the nail will not be able to achieve the desired length in one go.
  • If the nails really get too long and get in the way, they can also crack. Then there is a good chance that the life or skin around the nail will infect.
  • The dog will experience nail trimming as a painful experience and in the future he will not just let this happen. He will resist until he regains confidence that with a regular haircut he will no longer experience pain.

What if the nail bleeds?

If you also cut the quick while cutting the nail, this can bleed very violently and of course this is painful for the dog. Certainly do not panic, but calm the dog and immediately stop the bleeding. In order to be able to start immediately with this it is important that you have already prepared the Show Tech Stop Bleeding powder with Holder before you start nail cutting. The holder must be filled up ready to be able to proceed quickly. If the quick was cut, simply take the filled container and put the bleeding nail in it. You hold it in for a moment so that the powder can do its job and form a crust and you will see that this immediately stops the bleeding.

In severe cases where the bleeding does not stop, it is best to consult a veterinarian.

How do you proceed?

If the dog wants to cooperate, nail trimming is easiest when he wants to lie or sit down.

Hold the bottom of a leg with your hand, grasping the nail to be cut with your thumb and forefinger.

Check if you can see the quick: with a white nail the quick is the pink part inside the nail. This quick cannot usually be seen with a black nail. When cutting the white nail, always stay a few millimeters away from the quick. With a black nail you cannot cut the nail in one go. It's better to do this in small layers. You can see on the inside of the nail if you are almost at the quick due to a change in structure and color. Once you see this you must stop, you cannot cut the nail shorter. Because of the pressure of the nail pliers on the nail, the dog can also start to react and then you certainly cannot cut it.

After cutting the nails, you can file them if necessary so that all sharp edges are removed. This can be important for dogs that jump up and can hurt you with their nails.

Always keep an eye on the dog's behavior, certainly an anxious dog, because when you are nail clipping you are very close to the dog that might bite in a panic reaction. So take care of your own safety and prevent accidents by being very alert yourself.

Don't forget!

It happens that the thumb is forgotten because this is a bit hidden and usually does not touch the ground! And the same goes for the dogs that have a hubertus claw on their hind legs. The hubertus claw sits just above the back foot and usually consists of 1 toe bone with a nail, without connection to the rest of the foot. It is impossible to wear this nail because it does not touch the ground. Hence this nail becomes long very quickly and certainly needs to be trimmed regularly. The hubertus claw can very easily grow in and stay stuck everywhere which can cause painful situations.


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