Nail Trims

Yes. It has to be done.

Dogs, cats, birds… it has to be done.

Nail trims are one of the most basic care items for any living creature with nails. It is best you learn to do this right away or prepare to pay for it and the vet’s office or the groomer. Either way is fine as long as it gets done.

Here are the main things to remember:

  • This is a life long endeavor. There is no need to rush. If you get one nail a day, eventually you will have them all. Go slow. Don’t do it when you or your pet is stressed out. Calm, soft, reassuring.
  • Pet their paws as part of normal relaxing time. Foot massages will go a long way to help with general mental wellness and the more they get used to this touch being pleasant, the better this will go. It will also help veterinarian exams go smoother if they are used to handling.
  • Bring the right tools. You’ll need a pet nail trimmer the right size for your pet and your hand. The smaller nail trimmers often got stuck on my thumb and really drove me crazy. Browse your local pet store and play with some if you can. If you aren’t able to use the trimmers, they will never work for you.
  • Don’t choose the busiest room in the house unless it keeps your pet occupied while you trim nails. Most will prefer a calm atmosphere with light music playing.


Nail Trimmers

My personal favorites are Miller’s Forge for most dogs:

And the green handled cat ones we had at Holladay Vet, that looked like these Safari Nail Trimmers for everything else:

We also used the guillotine type in hospital, but it was for declaws so maybe that is why I hate this kind and never use them.


These are really cool and round out tough nails wonderfully as they sand the nail back. Great for dogs with splintery nails, horrible for dogs that are sound sensitive! I’ve seen calm dogs panic at the sound but I’ve also seen timid kids relax for the dremel as they never did with the trimmers. I recommend you find out if your dog will tolerate these before you buy them. You can try a groomer or ask your veterinary staff to do a nail trim with their dremel and get their opinion.

Kwik Stop:

Even in the clinic we occasionally cut the quick. Be prepared, especially if you are just starting. We used the styptic powders the most in hospital because they come with benzocaine, a topical anesthetic, to numb the pain fast and clot the bleeding fast. It also comes in gels and pads but I’ve no experience with these.

Occasionally we also used silver nitrate sticks for bad bleeds or while the animal was under anesthesia because silver nitrate sticks chemically cauterize the injury. Yes. Burn. They are also carcinogenic on your skin, so use with caution, make sure the inner bag in the package is secured over the top and close tightly when not in use.

Nail Anatomy:

A properly trimmed (dog’s) nail

Note on Overgrown Nails:

The dremel or just a nail file daily work very well on those overgrown nails to push back the quick. Just a tiny bit everyday. Walking your dog on concrete as apposed to grass will also help work them back. It is NOT advised to just cut them back where they should be. It hurts to cut the quick and there is no guarantee the bleeding will stop. You might end up at the vet to stop the bleeding so please, just stay away from the quick.