Tips & Tricks for Cutting Your Pet’s Nails

Getting your dog or cat to sit still for a nail trimming is often reminiscent of preparing for a war.

Most of them don’t like having it done, but for many it’s a necessity to keep them healthy and clean. If your pooch or kitten fights you at every turn, or you’re just uncomfortable doing it yourself, here are some tips to help makes the act a little easier.

Switch Trimmers

If you’ve been struggling with nail trims for awhile now and aren’t having any luck, you might need to start anew. Your pet likely already has made a bad association with the nail trimmers you’ve been using and goes into panic mode as soon as they come out of the drawer, so try switching to a new pair. Make sure it doesn’t resemble the ones you’ve been using so they don’t immediately know what you’re planning.

Play With Their Paws

Animals tend to not like having their paws touched because those are their first line of defense. Cats especially, since they use them to attack when backed into a corner, so it’s understandable that holding onto one might cause them some concern. Begin having sessions where you gently play with their paws, while providing treats for good behavior, so they can learn that nothing bad is going to happen in your arms. Run your fingers between each toe and hold the paw in your hand. This might take a few tries before they become comfortable with it.

Start Small

Instead of trying to take a large chunk of nail or claw off in one clean stroke, start at the tips to avoid clipping a quick. If you cause pain right out of the gate you’ll lose their trust. Begin with small, clips and work your way back to just before the quick (formally known as the hyponychium). Use treats as you go and reward your pet for each successful clip without him trying to pull away.

Don’t Panic

If you do manage to cut the quick, don’t freak out; your pet isn’t going to bleed out even if it looks pretty bad at first. Pet stores carry powders specifically for this moment that can be placed on the cut to stop the bleeding. If you don’t have any on hand, cornstarch will do in a pinch. Just cover the nail that’s bleeding, give your pet a treat, and wait a few moments for them to calm down before resuming the trim.

Enlist Help

Sometimes you need to double-team your pet in order to get the job done. That doesn’t mean two people should be holding him down while one goes to town. Have another person stand in front of your pup to distract him while you clip away at his nails. Have them speak to him in a friendly manner to keep his focus off of his feet. With cats, sometimes it helps to gently pat them on the head while you work on them.

Let Someone Else Do It

As much as we try, sometimes we just don’t have it in us to get the job done. Whether it’s our lack of confidence or an exceptionally unruly pet, this might just be a job for a professional. There’s no shame in taking your pet to the groomer or vet to have his nails trimmed if you’re worried about your ability to do it properly. It’s usually inexpensive anyway and might result in less stress for everyone involved.

Meet the Author: Ben Kerns

Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible. This stuff gets expensive.

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