A guide to toenail clipping your pet
TOENAIL clipping is an acquired skill but with practice and patience anyone can learn to do it well.
To begin with, nail clipping in all but the most placid animals is a two person job - one person to hold the animal and one person to clip the nails.
Good restraint is necessary to keep the dog or cat still.
In cats wrapping them up in a towel can be a good way to keep them still while one leg is pulled out at a time.
If your pet doesn’t like having its nails done then doing it progressively, one foot at a time over several days can be an effective strategy.
If the pet is getting very upset it is best to give up and come back to it rather than persevere and ingrain the toenail clipping as a bad experience. Using good equipment is helpful. A quality pair of nail clippers may be up to $50 but they will last a long time, especially if they are just used at home. Using a smaller pair for cats is helpful too. The main key to clipping the nails is avoiding the quick which is perfused with blood and will bleed if cut into.
In dogs and cats with white to clear nails the quick can be seen as a pink triangle encased in the nail and should be easily avoided by careful placement of the nail trimmers.
If the nails are dark or black the quick cannot be seen and a more cautious approach taking a small amount off regularly is recommended.
In dogs we generally take the nails off level with the flat surface of the toe pad, but if the nails are overgrown this may lead to bleeding as the quick lengthens with the nail.
If your pet’s nails are very long it is best to take a small amount off regularly (weekly) and the quick will retract back to its normal position allowing gradual shortening of the nail back to its original position.
The need for nail trimming is very variable between animals.
In general as animals get older and less active the need for trimming increases.
If you are not keen on trimming your pet’s nails yourself then your veterinary clinic will be more than happy to help for a small fee and will able to show you how it is done as well if you ask. Tim Craig BVSc, veterinarian