Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pet Nails: How to Trim and What Can Happen If You Don't

Written by Danielle, Veterinary Assistant
Edited by Dr. Ku, DVM

Trimming your pet's nails can be a scary task to most people.  How much do you trim off?  How often should nails be trimmed?  What do I do if I trim my pet's nail and it starts to bleed?
Our hope is to help you understand how to trim nails,
and why it is important.

Photo Credit: www.examiner.com
First, nail trimmers come in many different shapes and sizes.  Some people are more comfortable with the scissor-like nail trimmers, while others prefer the guillotine-like trimmers.  Some nail trimmers will file down the nail instead of cutting it; however, not all pets are comfortable from the noise that comes from these tools.  Another product to have on hand is Quik Stop.  It's a yellow powder that will stop the bleeding if you accidentally trim too close to the blood supply in the nail.

Secondly, let's help you understand the anatomy of the nail.  Below is a helpful diagram that explains how the blood supply (quick) in a pet's nail grows and shortens over time when trimming the nails.
Photo Credit: www.chazlynboardinggrooming.com
And now it's time to begin!  Start with having your pet in a comfortable position--that could be sitting on your lap, or being held in the arms of another household individual.  Next, play gently with your pet's paws.  Having them get used to you touching their paws will help this process.  Lastly, trim the tip of one nail, and then give praise and a treat if needed!  We want to positively reinforce a good nail trimming experience.  Sometimes, no matter how much praise or treats are given, a pet is not a willing participant for having their nails trimmed.  Different restraint techniques, practice, and on occasion anxiety medication can help you succeed at trimming the nails.  Each pet is different--be patient and consult your veterinarian if you are having difficulties.

But what happens if you decide to not trim your pet's nails?

Photo Credit: www.examiner.com

Unfortunately, nails left untrimmed may eventually cause problems.  Longer nails make it easier for them to get caught and then torn or broken, causing the pet to bleed and feel pain.

When nails become too long, they start to curl and can become embedded in the pads.  This can cause infection and pain, making it uncomfortable for the pet to walk.
Photo Credit: http://mypetandvet.blogspot.com/2013/09/an-interesting-case-ingrown-nail-of.html
When this happens, a veterinarian will need to remove the nail from the pad, possibly prescribe medication for infection, and maybe wrap the paw to control bleeding if needed. Each case is different and should be assessed by your veterinarian.  If left untreated, the infection may get worse and the pet will continue to feel the pain as the nail grows further into the pad.
Photo Credit: http://mypetandvet.blogspot.com/2013/09/an-interesting-case-ingrown-nail-of.html

And if you're looking for a video on how to trim your pet's nails, please click on one of these great informational videos!