The Importance of Clipping Nails and How to Do It

The Importance of Clipping Nails and How to Do It

Any household with pets has the same scene playing out every week – owners chasing their cats and dogs around, nail clipper in hand, trying to trim their nails. More often than not both come away from the encounter a little worse for wear. Fortunately, trimming nails is part of a healthy grooming routine that doesn’t have to be painful. Crate Escape Pet Care examines some excellent reasons to maintain nail health, as well as ways to start a good routine for nail trimming.

Why Pet Nail Health is Important:

In the wild, cats and dogs would use their nails so much that they would be naturally worn down. Through constant running, hunting and scratching, nails would never be able to grow fast enough to reach the length commonly found in domestic animals. Today’s cats and dogs lead pampered lives that do not require using their nails at all, leading all pet owners to constantly fight the battle of the claws.

The health problems that come from nail overgrowth seem innocent enough, but can get out of hand quickly. Once a nail grows long enough to be in contact with the ground when a cat or dog is standing, there is constant pressure on the nail bed. If a nail is only slightly overgrown this is only uncomfortable, but if nails are left to grow for a long time this can lead to pain when walking. In extremely overgrown nails, this can even lead to toes being constantly bent at an angle, resulting in difficulty walking, and malformed nails that grow into the paw. Depending on how often your cat visits the scratching post, nails can become overgrown in as little as three weeks.

The only answer? Make peace between the clipper and your pets’ paws.

The Basics of Nail Clipping:

Many owners are afraid to jump into clipping on their own because of intimidation – some prefer to pay a professional. With a little bit of knowledge, this can be money kept in your pocket. With trims being recommended bi-weekly, this is a good chunk of change. Most vet clinics and groomers are more than willing to show you the technique of clipping nails, and through familiarity you can start trimming at home. Understanding what a nail is and the best equipment for the job is the first step.

Cats and dogs both have the same structure to their claws. A hard-outer layer, which is without sensation and is similar to hair, and an inner ‘quick’, where blood vessels and nerve endings are located. The goal of nail trimming is to cut away the maximum amount of nail without reaching the sensitive quick of the nail. This is easily seen in darker nails when the dark, hard part of the nail is removed to reveal the paler inside. The quick is visible as a darker section at the very center. Go too far and the quick will start to bleed and the cat or dog will let you know they felt it.

The Best Equipment for Trimming Nails:

Second most important to knowing how to cut nails is having the right equipment. Check with your local vet or groomers if you feel more comfortable with someone helping you choose the right tools. For all pets, nail trimmers should be appropriate to their size. Cats and small dogs need smaller sized cutters, and Newfoundland’s will need the biggest size available. The style of nail trimmer is up to you; there are guillotine type, emery board grinders (sometimes called dremel nail files), scissor-style, even clippers that look similar to human nail trimmers for very small claws. Different sources recommend different styles, but all will achieve the same result. Go with whatever type you feel most comfortable using.

Additional tools may be necessary; trimming cat nails will need a thick towel to put on your lap before attempting, treats for bribing and it is always a good idea to keep a styptic powder to stop bleeding if the quick is trimmed (cornstarch in a pinch).

Training Your Pet to Enjoy Trimming:

The trick to having a cat or dog line up for the biweekly trim is treats and praise. Start getting your pet used to their paws being handled as soon as possible, just leave the tools out of picture for the first week. Start by bringing them onto your lap, your cat with a towel underneath, as if you would be cutting their nails. Give them treats and plenty of praise for staying with you calmly. Then start handling their paws, with dogs just by lifting up their feet and handling their toes, and cats by manipulating their claws by pushing gently on the pads of their feet.

With praise and food, pets will soon view this attention as welcome. Slowly introduce the nail clippers, bringing them closer to the paws in addition to continuing treats. After two weeks of daily interactions like this, starting to clip the actual nail can start without any negative reaction from your pet.

While trimming claws can be intimidating to start, the result is immediately rewarding – no more razor-sharp needles when they visit your lap, a healthier gait, and less damage to your floors. If your cat refuses to visit the cat tree scratching post (or prefers your couch) and your dog is on the lazier side, save some money by learning to trim the paw yourself. It is definitely easier than you think.

Any claw disasters happen to you? Feel free to share your experience in the comments.

By Lauren Pescarus