Updated: Apr 11, 2020
During COVID-19, grooming and nail trims are not essential services. This is a great time for pet owners to learn how to do this at home! One, you are home more often. Two, it will keep your pets nails at a healthy length, while still social distancing.
I’m starting with cat owners because I have Indi to demonstrate on. Here’s a video for you to learn!
1) Positioning - Desensitization - Use treats to get your cat to be comfortable with the position you want to trim its nails in. In the video below, Indi was desensitized to sit with all four paws out to make it easier to clip all four paws in one position. Not all cats will allow this. The younger your cat is, the easier it will be to condition your cat to sit this way. You can trim your cat's nails while they are in the crouched position as well, but then you will have to move around to either side. While your cat is positioned, continue to feed treats and play with the paws, then they will not be reactive to touching of the paws. 2) Trimming - Desensitization - Once your cat is comfortable with the position, clip one nail - then give treats. The next day, as part of your cat's daily routine, do the same thing, position, treats, clip one nail, treats. Again, the next day. After a few sessions of one nail, graduate to two nails per day. Eventually you will be at a full paw, and eventually all four paws without having to do treats in between. Have patience. Always end on a positive note. Don't push them too far too fast. 3) Trimming - How to - Use your index finger of your non-dominant hand underneath the toe pad, and your thumb on the top to depress the digit exposing the nail (see photo below). When trimming, ensure you are not getting too close to the 'quick' where the blood vessels and nerves are. As you can see on the photos, the 'quick' is where you can see the pink, while the white or transparent part is the excess nail. 4) Adult cats can be trimmed every 4 to 6 weeks, while growing kittens will need them trimmed every 1 to 2 weeks.
Puppies can be trained just as I did with Indi. If your puppy has pink/white nails those will be easy to do.
1) Positioning - Desensitization - Use treats to get your dog to be comfortable with the position you want to trim its nails in. Standing is often preferred for the dog, however, laying down may be comfortable as well. While your dog is standing or laying down, massage the paws and feed treats. If you have another family member, one can be the treat person and one can give the massage. 2) Trimming - Desensitization - Once your dog is comfortable with the position and paw handling, clip one nail - then give treats. If there are two people, you can clip and give treats at the same time. The next day, as part of your dog's daily routine, do the same thing, position, treats, clip one nail, treats. Again, the next day. After a few sessions of one nail, graduate to two nails per day. Eventually you will be at a full paw, and eventually all four paws without having to do treats in between. Have patience. Always end on a positive note. Don't push them too far too fast. 3) Trimming - How to - Depending on your position, when clipping while standing, use your index finger of your non-dominant hand underneath the toe pad, and your thumb on the top to depress the digit exposing the nail. If trimming while looking at the bottom of the foot (which is my preferred way), you can use your thumb on the toe pad and index finger on the other side. When trimming, ensure you are not getting too close to the 'quick' where the blood vessels and nerves are. Dog nails will have a white part, and as you cut closer to the 'quick' a small black (or darker) dot will appear (see photo below). This is indication to stop. 4) Depending on how active your dog is, you may need to trim every 6 to 8 weeks. Puppies that are growing may need them trimmed every 2 to 4 weeks. The surfaces that your dog runs on can wear the nails down, concrete pavement is like sanding the nails, but do not forget the dewclaws (thumbs) as they do not wear these down. Small dogs that are carried around need to have their nails trimmed more often as they do not wear them down.
I find black nails tough, so I trim while looking at the bottom of the nail. This way, I can see when I am getting close. I trim a small amount first to ensure the 'quick' is not too long. Dogs who have extra long nails need to have more frequent nail trims so that the 'quick' can recede away from the nail tip. The below photo I screenshot from a friend and fellow veterinarian's Instagram (private Insta Linds.Murphy). You can see the small black dot in the center of the white, indicating you are getting close to the 'quick'. You can also see the ridge of the nail if you look at it from the bottom.
I found two great videos that describe nail trims in dogs, and how to make it a positive experience for your pup.
This one is a video done by a veterinarian. He also mentions sedatives. There are oral medications for both cats and dogs that can take the edge off of a stressful event like nail trims. I don't do this for puppies, because puppies are malleable and I can train them. However, some adult dogs did not get the proper training initially and are terrified of having their nails done. So an oral sedative can assist you and make the experience less traumatic for pet owner and pet. Ask your veterinarian if you feel like your dog or cat would benefit from a medication to keep them calm.
This second video is done by a groomer. It has excellent tips on how to desensitize the paws to being handled, leading all the way to clipping the nails.
1) Nail clippers: You want to have nail trimmers with a sharp cutting edge, as if they are dull they don’t cut nicely and the nail will end up tattered. I also don’t like the guillotine style of nail trimmers, as they are difficult to get the perfect angle.
Below are a selection of large, medium and small nail trimmers. The small ones are great for puppies and cats. There are some clippers with a safety guard (not shown here). However, I tend not to use the safety guard because you can over trim nails if you are only relying in this guard.
2) Treats: Always make it positive! I use positive reinforcement and reward-based training for everything I make Indi do.
3) Short sessions, every day, until your pet loves having their paws handled! Making it a daily routine will make it easier for you and your pet. Daily paw handling, even if no nails need to be trimmed, so that when they do need to be done, your pet is already conditioned to accept this handling.
4) If you are worried about bleeding, you can have some Kwik stop powder on hand. Most nail bleeds will stop with pressure and time. Again, if you are using patience, going slow, and using positive rewards while trimming, it can be a positive experience for you and your pet!
I prefer the Kwik Stop with the analgesia, as some of them can sting when you use them.
If you need more information, ask your veterinarian!
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