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Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

March 15, 2023

Did you know that overgrown nails can be quite problematic for dogs? Fido may not be thrilled about having his claws cut, but it really is in his own best interest. Overgrown nails are not only uncomfortable, they can make it hard for dogs to get good traction. They can also rip and tear on things. Ouch! A Salem, VA vet offers some advice on giving your furry pal his pawdicures in this article.

Start Slow

Start by letting your canine buddy get used to the feeling of clippers. At first, just gently massage Fido’s paws, and run the clippers over his nails. Incorporate yummy treats and praise, so he forms a ‘pawsitive’ association with the process. Once he’s used to this, start making the clippers ‘click’ so he gets used to the sound.

Choose Good Gear

There are a few different types of clippers and pawdicure sets for Fido. The old-school, guillotine-style clippers are likely still the standard basic. You can also get your pup clippers that have sensors in them, which indicate exactly where to cut. Nail grinders are another option. If you aren’t sure what will work best, ask your vet. Of course, you’ll also need to let your canine friend have his say. For instance, if your pooch won’t tolerate the vibration of a grinder, it’s best to stick with clippers.


If your pooch resists having his feet handled, you’ll need to work on desensitization. Teach him that good things happen when he lets you touch his furry feet. Offer your four-legged pal a yummy snack when you touch his paws. This should be something high quality, such as a bit of steak. Then, just let him go. Fido may even decide that he enjoys paw massages!


You don’t have to do all four of your canine companion’s feet at once. Do one paw at a time, and keep rotating. This may actually be easier for both you and Fido!


Keep an eye out for signs of other issues, such as cuts, bites, and foreign objects. If Fido has toe fur tufts, you may also want to trim those down. These can trap gunk and get matted, which would be quite uncomfortable for your furry bff.

Our Advice on Trimming Your Dog’s Nails in 2024

Why is it important to trim a dog’s nails?

Trimming a dog’s nails is crucial for several reasons. Overgrown nails can cause discomfort and affect a dog’s gait, leading to joint pain and posture problems. Long nails also risk snagging on surfaces, resulting in painful tears or breaks. Furthermore, when nails touch the ground, they exert force back into the nail bed, causing discomfort or injury. Regular nail trimming prevents these issues, ensuring your dog can walk, run, and play comfortably. It’s essential to maintaining your dog’s overall health and well-being.

What types of nail clippers or pedicure sets are recommended for dogs?

For dogs, three types of nail clippers are recommended: guillotine-style, scissor-type, and electric nail grinders. Guillotine-style clippers are suitable for small to medium-sized dogs and are easy to use by inserting the nail through a hole to slice off the tip. Scissor-type clippers, resembling giant scissors with a notch in one blade, are better for larger dogs with thicker nails due to their strong cutting force. Electric nail grinders provide a smooth, rounded edge to the nails and are ideal for dogs that tolerate the vibration, offering a gentle alternative to clipping. Selection should be based on your dog’s size, nail thickness, and tool operation tools.

What should you do if your dog resists having his feet handled?

If your dog resists having his feet handled, start with gradual desensitization and positive reinforcement. Begin by gently touching your dog’s legs and paws without clipping, rewarding him with treats and praise for calm behavior. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of the handling. Introduce the nail clippers or grinder without using them, allowing your dog to sniff and become familiar while continuing to offer rewards. Over time, this process helps build trust and reduces anxiety, making nail trimming a more positive experience. Patience and consistency are key to overcoming resistance.

Is it necessary to trim all of a dog’s nails at once?

It is not necessary to trim all of a dog’s nails at once. In fact, for dogs that are anxious or resistant to nail trimming, it may be more effective and less stressful to trim a few nails at a time. This approach allows the dog to gradually get accustomed to the process without becoming overwhelmed. You can trim one paw per session, or even just a couple of nails, and then reward your dog with treats and praise. Spreading the trimming over several days can make the experience more positive for both you and your dog.

What should you look for while trimming your dog’s nails?

While trimming your dog’s nails, look for the “quick,” the pink area within the nail where blood vessels and nerves are located. Avoid cutting into the quick to prevent pain and bleeding. For dogs with dark nails, where the quick is not visible, trim small amounts at a time and look for a dark dot in the center of the nail’s cross-section, indicating you’re nearing the quick. Also, check for any signs of nail disease or abnormalities, such as discoloration, splitting, or unusual thickness, which may require veterinary attention.

While you’re taking care of Fido’s nails, don’t forget about keeping your feline friends entertained. Discover valuable tips in our ‘Keeping Your Cat Entertained‘ article. Maintaining your dog’s health isn’t just about grooming; their diet plays a crucial role too. Learn more about our ‘Nutrition & Weight Management’ services to keep your pet healthy and happy. Please contact us with questions or concerns about your dog’s health or care. As your Salem, VA veterinarians, we’re always here to help!

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