It’s fairly common for a pet’s nails to become overgrown, particularly during the cold months when they may not be going on as many walks as usually possible. Some pets with very active lifestyles may not need their nails trimmed, but many pets do.
Having nails trimmed by a groomer or veterinary office can become expensive, so many pet owners attempt the task at home. This attention to nail upkeep is important because excessively long nails can be uncomfortable, lead to pain, infection, and even wounds if left to grow long enough.
It’s helpful to have 2 people present when trimming a pet’s nails, one to restrain the pet and help hold the paw, the other to trim the nails. There are many types of nail trimmers; some are like scissors, others are “guillotine-style”, and new trimmers are even available with rotating grinders. No one style is better than another, it’s more about what your pet is comfortable with. Human nail clippers are an option for most cats too.
For cats and dogs with white nails, it’s easy to see the “quick” or blood supply to the nail as it is pink in color, similar to our own nails. This makes the area that needs to be trimmed clear. The quick cannot be seen on pets with dark nails, so little bits should be trimmed off at a time to avoid injury.
Trimming you pet’s nails shouldn’t hurt any more than trimming your own nails, but many animals don’t like their feet being touched. It is important to make this a positive experience for your pet. You may start by just touching their feet, and if they don’t run away, give them a treat. You can slowly work up to trimming just one nail per day and eventually be able to trim them all at once. Reward your pet with love and treats if they do a good job!
Even the most careful trimmer may accidentally clip the quick and cause a little bit of bleeding. Remember to stay calm, some bleeding may just be a drop or two and then it’s done. It’s a good idea to have supplies handy to stop the bleeding if an accident does occur.
Many quick stop powders or silver nitrate sticks are available at pet stores, and when applied to the area will cause the bleeding to stop quickly. Remember that silver nitrate sticks can “burn” and be a little uncomfortable. Corn starch may be used as an alternative if you do not have these products available to you. Keep in mind that your pet may be uncomfortable on that paw for a few days- so make sure they have an opportunity to rest in order to prevent them from reinjuring their paw.