A Guide to Cutting Pet’s Nails

Written by Lucy Marcham, Academy Trainer

Nail trimming is an essential part of the regular grooming routine for dogs, cats, and small animals. Overgrown nails cause pain, discomfort and have the potential to lead to arthritis or even deformity.

As the nail grows it pushes the foot backwards and stretches the ligaments and tendons in the legs. This puts pressure on the areas your pet doesn’t normally stand on causing pain an discomfort. 

Long nails are also much more likely to catch or break which will be very painful for the pet and bleed a lot.



When should I start trimming my pet’s nails?

You should begin getting your pet used to having their feet and nails touched and played with from a young age. It is very common for pets to not like their feet being touched at all, which will make future nail trimming more stressful for both pet and owner.

Start by touching your puppies or kittens feet from the day you bring them home. Once comfortable start playing with and moving the nail. This can be an especially strange sensation for cats , so it is important they get used to it.

Next, get them used to the sight and sound of nail trimmers. Reward them with tasty treats when you get the trimmers out, this will help build that positive association with them.

If your pet is nervous of sounds, try clipping dry spaghetti to get them used to the snapping sound. This can greatly reduce the noise anxiety.

Sometimes show can be just as helpful as tell. Find your local Dogwood Natural Grooming Spa and take your new fur baby in for an introductory session. 


How do I trim my pet’s nails?

It is important to take your time and not rush clipping, there is a risk if you are too hasty you might clip too much off and cause pain.  Pets with clear nails are much easier to trim as we can see the ‘quick’. This is the nerve and blood supply to the nail. If you cut the quick it will bleed a lot and be very painful for your pet. 

Before beginning nail trimming it is best to try and find where the quick is. Shining a torch against the pet’s nail can help you see where the quick sits within the nail cavity.

1) Hold the pet’s foot firmly so it can’t wiggle free or suddenly move. Another pair of hands can be beneficial.

2) Start with taking just tiny pieces off the end of the nail so you can keep checking to see where the quick is.

3) Keep taking tiny slithers off until you think you can’t go any further. When done regularly (every couple of weeks depending on the individual pet’s nail growth), you should only ever need to remove 2-3mm at any one time.

4) Don’t forget about the dew claw. This is the nail slightly higher up the inside of the lower leg.

Remember, some pets will wiggle and squeal, however if you haven’t caught the quick it won’t have caused them pain. Their reaction will be due to the strange feeling of having their paw held and the action of the trimmer cutting their nail.

Continue with training to get the pet used to the routine.


Top Tip

If you hear your dog’s nails tapping on the floor, while they are walking at a normal pace, chances are the nails are too long!

Walking pets on hard ground will help to keep them shorter but they will still need trimming. Aim to clip them at least weekly, however, all dogs’ nails grow at a different rate.

Remember you don’t have to trim all the claws on the same day, you can always do one paw at a time, or even just a couple of nails. Nail trimming can be scary for both pet and owner, but the more often you do it the easier it becomes.

For more advice on how to keep your pet brushed and pampered, read our grooming guide.