Nail Trims

For this weeks post I’d like to talk about nail trims. I’d like to give a “how to” with some tips and tricks I’ve learned from working at an animal hospital. I’ve done many nail trims on animals with many different temperaments. I am not incredible at it, but I can do it. They may need to be done pretty regularly depending on how active the animal is. Dogs that walk on tar a lot wont need them as much as a dog who is only carried. Waiting too long can result in nails that are painfully growing in their toe pad and very difficult to cut.

The Quick

A quick is blood vessels and nerves in the nails of most animals. They vary in length and will bleed if the nails are cut too short. In clear nails you can the quick as a pink triangular shape in the nail. Black nails are tricky because you can’t see the quick until you actually start cutting. If you are using clippers you usually stop cutting once you see a black dot in the tip of the nail. An electric filer is an excellent way to avoid hitting the quick and getting the nails very short because of the slower process of having length shaved off until you see the dot. Now if you do hit the quick we use a thing called “quick stop” which a special powder you press into the bleeding nail to congeal and stop the blood, but flour also can work to stop the bleeding.


Easy cats you can just hold the cat and grab each paw and expose the nail and clip it. Almost always cats nails are clear and they have shorter quicks so they are easy to clip. Difficult cats can still be done, if you have someone to help, one person can hold them by the scruff  (back of the neck) which basically demobilizes them. A trick we use a lot is wrapping a cat in a towel and sitting with them on your lap and pulling each paw out and doing them. That way they can’t bite or scratch you and you don’t need a another person to help you.


Dog nails vary a lot because they can be clear, black, long quick, short quick, or even having a mix of all four on one dog. Some dogs are super easy and will just sit in your lap while you do it. Others may try to fight and or bite you. We get a lot of wigglers who don’t want their nails done, but also don’t want to try and bite you and in that case it just takes another person to help you. We usually hold dogs close to our bodies with one arm under their belly’s close to the back end and the other arm under and around the neck and head. You could also try to distract the dog with a toy or some treats while you do the nails. Its easiest to fold the paw in the joint so you can see the bottom of the nails better. If the dog has trouble balancing on three dogs you can lean them on you so they can stand while you clip.


It can be stressful situation for both you and the animal. The last thing we one to do when clipping nails is stress the animal out too much especially older ones. That is why we try to make it not such a forced activity and try to use more distraction methods. Its stressful for me because I don’t ever want to quick the animal and hurt them. You want to take as much as you can off, but you also can”t too greedy with the cutting.

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