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For the love of you pet: Mani pedi time for pets

By By Shana Bohac
Oct. 31, 2013 at 5:31 a.m.


How do I know I am trimming my dog's nails correctly? What can I use to stop the bleeding when I cut one too short? How do I keep it from being a fight each time nail trimming comes around?

Nail trimming is an important part of your pet's regular grooming routine. Long nails can cause breakage, which can be painful and even lead to infection. Long nails can lead to an irregular gait that can cause lameness issues and arthritis. For many pet owners, trimming their pet's nails is something that they don't enjoy doing. This may be because of the fact that they don't know where exactly to cut the nail, what to do when you trim the nail too close, or what to do if your pet seems uncomfortable or anxious during nail trims. It is best if you can keep a consistent schedule and make nail trims a treat instead of a stressful event.

Make nail trimming a pleasant event to teach your pet to tolerate the process. Try to reward your pet with something special after each trim. For example, give them a special treat or a new toy or play a game or take a walk. Try not to frighten or overwhelm your pet, as this will discourage them. Slowly introduce the nail clippers and don't plan on doing all the nails at one sitting for the first few times. Soothe and calm your pet by talking to them and offering comfort throughout the process.

If you have never trimmed your pet's feet before, spend some time handling their feet. Pick up each foot and gently touch each toe and nail. After doing so, give your pet a treat so that they associate getting treats with you touching their feet. Once you do this for several days, then you can begin to pick up your pet's paws and touch the clippers to one of the nails, but don't actually trim the nails. You can positively reinforce your pet by giving them a treat. You can practice this step for several days. Following faux nail trimming, you can begin to trim a nail or two at a time. Again, positively reinforce them with treats.

Pick nail trimmers that are most comfortable for you. There are two common types, scissor-type and guillotine-type. Make sure you have some sort of commercial clotting powder or baking flour handy in case you quick a nail. Choose a nail to trim and hold it firmly, yet gently between your fingers. Choose the appropriate length, by either looking for the quick in light colored nails or cutting small amounts at a time on dark colored nails. As you trim dark nails, a pink or gray oval will begin to appear. This is when you know to stop. You can also use a flashlight to shine behind each nail to see the quick. Remember to trim your dog's dewclaws as well.

If you do happen to cut a nail too short, your dog will likely yelp and bleed profusely. Comfort your dog if this happens and use a hefty amount of either flour or commercial clotting powder to slow the bleed. It is typically best to stop the nail trimming session at this point, treat your pet and then try again in a few days.

Dr. Shana Bohac has a veterinary practice at Hill crest Animal Hospital in Victoria. She works on both small animals and equine patients. Submit questions to drshanabohac@hotmail.com.

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