Clickety-clack, clickety-clack. It's obvious that your dog's nails are getting long when you hear them tapping as they walk across the floor. Keeping them trimmed regularly prevents damage to both your flooring and your dog's feet. However, nail trimming time can be a source of anxiety for both dogs and owners alike. Picking the right trimmer for the job is a crucial start to a positive experience.
Clipping pros and cons
It might seem like a no-brainer to just snip away the sharp ends of your dog's nails – especially if it's small – with scissors or a human toenail clipper, but don't do it! Not using the correct tool for the job will cause your dog more stress and discomfort from the pressure of squeezing and twisting. It could result in a painful split nail, requiring a visit to your veterinarian.
Using a dog nail clipper is a better choice, but not always the best one. Professional pet groomer Renee Rice, owner of 4 Pawz Grooming in Sedona, AZ, shared why she prefers to use a nail grinder rather than a nail clipper whenever possible.
"When you're squeezing the clipper, the dog can feel that and anticipate the clip," said Rice. This sudden movement makes it likely that they'll jerk their paw just as the blade cuts into the nail, and the blade will cut through somewhere other than where you planned.
Should the blade clip too low on the nail, it will cut through the quick — the place where the blood comes into the nail. This is painful to your dog and results in bleeding. Not to mention, your dog will develop more fear around getting her nails trimmed. "Once that happens, they're pretty much done with nail trimming for the rest of their life," said Rice.
Dogs with thick, dark nails are the most difficult to trim as close as possible. "It's easy to clip nails too short or not short enough, especially with dark nails," said Rice. "On clear nails, you can see the pink quick, and they're easier to clip, especially on smaller dogs."
Always stay sharp!
Should you choose to use nail clippers for your pet, the number one thing to look for is sharpness. Those old clippers you found in the attic or bought on a yard sale for a buck should go in the trash. "When they're not sharp, they squeeze the nail," said Rice. This compression causes the nail to fragment or split.
A split or fragmented nail can cause excruciating pain for your dog and require a trip to the veterinarian to fix it. But the risk of a broken nail isn't a valid reason to delay trimming your dog's nails – your dog's overly-long nails could also split from catching on the carpet or break from impact when jumping off the bed.
Keep a fabric muzzle in your dog's first aid kit to prevent your dog from nipping defensively as you try to minister to the injured nail. Guardian Gear Fabric Mesh Dog Muzzle lets your dog breathe easily, eat and drink.
Wrap the paw in a towel or apply a PawFlex Medimitt Paw Bandage to keep your dog from chewing the injury while you get her to the vet. If the nail is bleeding, apply a pinch of Remedy+Recovery Styptic Powder and light pressure until the bleeding stops.
Sturdy does it
Clippers come in two basic styles, guillotine type – where the nail gets through a hole and a blade cuts the excess portion of the claw – and scissors style. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends the guillotine type only for small or medium dogs. Large dogs with thick nails are best off with the scissors-type which delivers extra force to cut through the nail without breaking.
Whichever type is appropriate for your pet, choose a model with a sturdy design with sure-grip handles that won't slip around if your palms are moist. One of Rice's tools of the trade is the Four Paws Super Pet Nail Clipper. The unit has non-slip handles, a rugged design, and comes with a 3-year guarantee of blade sharpness.
However, Rice advises that you shop for a sharp, sturdy nail trimmer that suits your personal preferences. "They're pretty generic. You can't really go wrong." Gorilla Grip Premium Dog and Cat Nail Clippers, for example, have a silicone grip designed to be easy to hold steady even in the face of sweaty palms and wiggly pets.
To ensure you're getting a sturdy product that will hold up to multiple uses, look for nail trimmers by companies with long-standing good reputations in the pet care industry. Furminator Nail Clippers for Dogs and Well and Good Guillotine Nail Clippers are two examples.
Beware of innovative-looking products with no brand association as these are sometimes cheaply-made products that will loosen or break after just a few uses.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.