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Trimming Your Dog or Cat's Toenails

Catherine Forman
Category Grooming

The easiest way to make a toenail trim NOT an ordeal is to start when your pet is very young. If they are acclimated to the trimmer from an early age, they won't fight you when that cute puppy becomes a hundred pound monster.


Too bad we haven't invented time travel yet! Not everybody starts off with a young, impressionable puppy or kitten. I sure didn't. I have yet to have a dog that actually liked having their toenails cut, but I have learned a few tricks over the years.

  1. Make sure your nail clipper is sturdy, and the blade is sharp. You think nail cutting is bad? Try having the clipper break in your hand while you're trying to chop through a toenail.
  2. Distraction can be very helpful. Have someone else help hold your pet steady, and cover their eyes so they can't see what's coming.
  3. Space it out over a few days. Clip two nails at each session, quick and easy, before your dog or cat can get too upset. This will help them get used to the clippers because they are out more often, and will help the experience be less traumatic all around. There's nothing quite like wrestling an animal who is already upset and desperate to escape to safety behind the couch!

For dogs and cats, toenails have two parts. There's the hard outer layer and the softer inner layer, known as the quick. If you cut the quick, your pet is going to bleed. Don't worry, they're not going to bleed to death. If you have a little corn starch handy, you can pack the nail bed and stop the bleeding that way. A bit of tissue works just as well.

For dogs, I think the easiest thing to do (besides calling the vet or the groomer to do it for you!) is to flip the paw or position your dog so you are looking at the underside. This way, you can see where the quick is, and avoid it. For cats, a little pressure on the pad of the paw will cause the nail to come out.

It's always better to cut too little than too much, I think. Snip a bit off, and if that doesn't seem short enough, attack again in a few days. And if you're really not sure what's going on, ask your vet or groomer to show you how to do it before you give it a try on your own.

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April 24, 20060 found this helpful

Handle their paws from the time they are kittens and puppies and they will be used to their feet being touched. Clip nails when they are very relaxed, maybe just waking up, not when they are very excited. I also always give a treat after clipping.

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 17, 20060 found this helpful

I have two dogs, both Chi X rescues. One is fine with the toenail trim, the other is a maniac. The vet double and triple charges because he is such a pain. The groomer has gotten to where she trusts the dog not to bite me, and she will let me hold him. We all three end up exhausted, with the groomer and I scratched and battered. Dog exhausted, but fine, usually with only a couple of toes done. I've tried wearing him down with a long walk ahead of time, no dice. Is sedation an option? I hate having him so miserable!
captain susan gibson @ yahoo dot com
(remove spaces, dot the dot)

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May 3, 20120 found this helpful

I have a border collie who runs about so much she actually wears her nails down almost too much. Also have a papillon and a chihuahua who were never happy about the nail trim.


The papillon, Cookie, is a wriggler which makes it harder to only trim a small amount off,.But after some time at the nail game, now just gives a long-suffering token wriggle and a mournful sigh, but we get the job done. Renn, the chihuahua, was so bad, we had to have a big red 'may bite' on his chart at the vet (shame!) But perseverance, a couple of nails at a time, like Susan suggested, we are now at a point where lots of mooshy cuddles and beef jerky have stopped the snapping etc.

I confess that all my pooches would turn somersaults for homemade beef jerky! Another thing I tried was to leave the clippers on their bed. They got so used to seeing it that it wasn't so traumatic when they were used.

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