Toenail Trimming: The Do’s and Don’ts

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Toenail Trimming: The Do’s and Don’ts

We understand that trimming your pet’s nails can be an intimidating task. Just like anything else, it takes some practice and perseverance. After some time and experience, you can become an expert pet manicurist just like all our staff at SWVH!


Before trimming your pet’s nails, it is important to take some time to examine the nails, nail beds, and paws to see if there is any evidence of discomfort. If there are chew marks on the nails, this can be a sign of food allergies, nail bed infections or just boredom. If there are areas of uneven wear, it can be a sign that your dog is dragging or sweeping that paw. This can be a sign of lameness, underlying injury, or pinched nerve. Frequent handling of your pets paws will help them become accustomed to nail trims too.


Trimming nails can be done with a guillotine-style trimmer, dremel, or combination of both. The following are some tips that you can practice to better your technique and keep your pet’s nails comfortable and short:


1. Take a deep breath and relax. 

2. Before even attempting to trim nails – your pet must be comfortable with their feet/nails being touched. If you plan on using a dremel, it is best to get the dremel out and let your pet sniff it. Giving treats while your pet is examining and exploring it while it is off and also for not being afraid of its noise when on. Eventually, your pet will relate the dremel to having a good experience. Start with one nail at a time, giving a treat after each nail is done. Do not spend more than 5 seconds on one nail with a dremel or apply too much pressure, as you may cause an painful burning sensation for your pet. If your pet has long fur around the nails, it is possible that it may get caught in the fast rotations of the dremel. Hold back the fur as you dremel, or use old pantyhose to force the nail out through and keep the hairs held back.

3. Understanding the unique anatomy of dog’s toenails can help you get your dog’s nails shorter over time. When you dremel or clip nails, you bring the outer protective edge and covering of nail (the meat and shell) back closer to the quick. When the sensitive quick has less protection around it, it will slowly start to recede. Frequent trimming, ideally once every 1-2 weeks, is best to keep your pet’s nails short.

4. Make sure you are using sharp nail trimmers. Dull nail clippers will squeeze the nail causing discomfort.

5. If bleeding occurs – do NOT panic; use quick-stop powder or flour on the exposed quick to stop the bleeding. Remember elevated blood pressure of you and your pet will cause prolonged bleeding.


The staff at SWVH are always happy to provide a lesson or demonstration! Once you practice the above techniques, you will effortlessly be able to keep your pet’s nail trimmed all year long. An ideal trimmed nail is one that is not sharp, not touching the floor, and is dremeled smooth to prevent scratching. A nice finishing touch is to apply some Vaseline to add some gloss to your hard work!

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