Most dogs don’t like having their claws trimmed. The best recommendation is to start trimming claws in young animals, so they get used to the process. If the dog becomes uneasy at any time, it’s OK to take a break. Keep in mind, it’s best to be shown how to trim claws by a veterinarian or a licensed veterinary technician to avoid hurting the animal by trimming too short.
There are several styles of nail clippers, including a guillotine type and a scissors type. The guillotine type is the easiest to use in dogs. The scissors-type is used to trim a toenail that is so long that it is curling in a circle. This most often happens to dew claws, the claw on the inner side of the paw.
Styptic powder is good to have on hand in case a nail is cut too short (called quicking) and begins to bleed.
It’s best to be comfortable with the clippers before use. Close your hand around the clippers to squeeze the handle which will move the cutting blade across the stationary ring. The tip of the nail is placed in the stationary ring of the trimmer with the clipper perpendicular to the nail. The handles of the clippers are squeezed to advance the cutting blade through the nail. Nails should be cut from underneath at a 45-degree angle.
Light colored claws are easier to cut than dark claws as the blood vessels and nerves that supply the claw, called the quick, are easier to see. Cut the claw to within approximately 2 millimeters of the quick. If you cut into the quick, the claw will bleed. Light colored claws can be trimmed with one cut on each nail.
You cannot see the quick on dark colored claws, making them more difficult to trim without cutting into the quick. Cut dark colored claws in several small cuts to reduce the chance of cutting into the quick. As you cut the nail deeper, you will see a gray to pink oval starting to appear at the top of the cut surface of the nail. Stop cutting the nail at this point as additional cutting will cut into the quick. You can file the end of the nail to smooth the cut surface.
If the toenail is cut too short, you can use styptic powder to stop blood flow. Without styptic powder it may take about 5 minutes for the bleeding to stop.
Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.