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How to Care for Your Pet's Nails

Posted by Henry Jackson on

To many pet owners, the idea of cutting their pet's nails can be quite scary! You obviously don't want to hurt your pet, or to cause them to become wary or distrustful of you for the experience, but it's important to keep your pet's nails trimmed and well-kept. In this article, we will present you with everything you need to know on how to cut your pet's nails  - whether dog, cat, or another small animal. We'll also add in some other tricks and tips for how to help your pet maintain their nails themselves!

Without further ado, let's begin by explaining how you should prepare the pet for having their nails done. By far, the easiest way to cut a pet's nails is to sit them in your lap, with their back against your tummy, so that they are facing the same direction as you. If the pet is too large for you, like a big dog, you may instead wish to train the pet to sit still and give you their paws instead, and clip their nails whilst sitting on the floor with them. This alone may be tricky with some animals, especially if they are a feisty fellow or are not used to being handled, but with some time and practice they will become used to this process. To help encourage their co-operation, it can be a good idea to handle the animal this way several times on different days prior to when you start cutting their nails, and instead of getting the clippers out, simply pet them and/or offer them treats so that they feel more comfortable with the routine. Another option is to get your hands on some calming spray or wipes, which should definitely help the pet feel calmer! We stock some such products ourselves, and heartily recommend the Pet Remedy brand for these purposes! 

Once you have the pet nice and comfortable (or more importantly, still!) the next step will be to take each paw separately and retract the pet's nails manually. To do this, the most effective method is to hold onto one of the pet's paws, and to roll the skin back to expose the nails. You can do this by placing your thumb on the bottom of each digit, roughly where the pad is, and placing your forefinger just above the pet's nail, and gently sliding both fingers in a motion that pulls the pet's skin away from you, such that the forefinger is sliding forward, and the thumb backwards.

With the nails are exposed, it's important to know exactly where to start clipping the nails. This is much easier with pets with white or light-coloured nails than with darker nails, but it can be identified either way. The important thing here is that you avoid cutting something called the 'quick', which is a part of the nail where blood vessels and nerves meet the nail itself. In pets with lighter-coloured nails, you can see this fairly easily as the nails will have a pink hue inside of them. However, if the pet's nails are too dark or you have difficulty seeing any such colour, the easiest way to identify where to cut would be to look for an end of where the nail begins to curve. Once you do find the right spot to cut the nail, do so horizontally, in a single, straight cut.

This can take some practice, and can be quite nerve-wracking for both you and your pet! Because of this, it's usually a good idea to only cut small amounts of the nail on each treatment. Especially when you first start doing this, the pet could eventually get too antsy and you might struggle to keep control of them. In these cases, it might be best to let them free for the day, and just make a mental note of which nails still require clipping so that you can come back for it the next day, or whenever you next have the opportunity to finish the job. It's also a good idea to reward the pet after each clipping session too, as this will help them get comfortable with the procedure. In the event that you do accidently cut into the pet's quick, it's very important that you do end the clipping session there, as you don't want to reinforce the idea that this is a painful procedure in the pet's mind. It's also best practice to apply some coagulant, such as Trimmex, in these situations, which will ease the bleeding and pain for your pet.   

Once you do get their nails nicely cut, you may find yourself wondering when the next time to cut them would be! Sadly, there isn't really a standard set of time that we can recommend, as each animal will have a different rate of nail growth. The best thing to do is to just ensure you regularly check the pet's nails, and to keep an eye out for behaviours that might indicate that it's time to do so, such as if the pet is getting their nails caught in fabrics or other materials. 

One last thing that you might want to consider is what you can provide your pet that can help them to maintain their nails themselves! For dogs, one of the most efficient ways to keep their nails well-maintained is to take them for walks in areas with pavements or rough stone. Doing this will cause long nails to naturally wear away. For cats, providing a cat scratcher will have a similar effect, and will also provide the cat with an activity to help prevent boredom! 


Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand the process behind cutting your pet's nails, and given you all the advice you might need to do so! If you need the supplies for doing this, or if there's any unanswered questions you have left, feel free to drop in to one of our stores, or you could click here to see ways that you can get in contact with us remotely.  

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you again soon!
Henry Jackson,
Head of IT for Pet Food Plus More.


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