How to Correctly and Safely Clip Pets’ Nails

I know exactly when Ziggy is due for a mani/pedi or, in pet terms, a pawdicure because often when I  ignore him, he will try and climb up my leg, pawing me for attention. And when his nails are too long, even though they are retracted, I can feel them! Not to mention the “puncture marks” in my jeans.

A pawdicure is an essential part of every pet’s regular grooming and beauty routine. Long nails cause damage to hardwood floors and can inadvertently get caught on upholstery. Besides, they are very uncomfortable for pets to walk on. If not trimmed regularly, they can “bend over” and become embedded in the skin, which can be very painful. This is quite common in cats with regard to the dewclaw — that larger claw on the side of the paw.

It is much easier to trim a dog’s nails than a cat’s because they are more exposed and easier to see. (A cat’s nails are retracted into the structure of the paw.) Either way, the most important thing to watch out for is not to cut into the quick, which will cause the nail to bleed. It’s easier to see the quick area if your dog has white nails because there is a distinct difference in color between the tip and the quick.

If you are nervous, consider investing in special clippers that light up to guide you where to cut and avoid the quick. The answer is to trim a little at a time. However, if you do accidently cut into the quick, styptic powder will instantly stop the bleeding. And if you don’t have any in your first aid kit, ordinary baking flour will work, too.

For dogs with long silky coats, it’s a good idea to wet the hair on the foot with a cotton ball because once the hair is damp; it’s easier to see the nails. And if you only manage a paw, then continue the next day until you’ve managed to trim all four paws.

Cats can be another story. If your cat tends to squirm a lot when you try and trim her nails, it’s a good idea to try the kitty burrito technique. Wrap her in a towel and only expose the foot you intend to trim. Usually it’s a good idea to get someone to hold the cat and distract her while you go to work with the nail trimmers. The best way to see the claw you are working on is to press gently on her paw pads to splay her toes.

Again, with long-haired cats, wet the fur. While trimming, hold the clippers in a vertical position so that the claw is cut vertically instead of horizontally across; this prevents the nail from splitting. Human nail trimmers also tend to tear the nails. So again, it’s worth investing in special trimmers.

While you are in trim mode, be sure to inspect both your dog and cat’s paw pads to ensure that nothing it caught between them. It’s a good idea to keep the fur between the paw pads short, too. If you dog’s pad pads are chapped, a paw balm will help keep them soft and subtle.

And remember, every pawdicure should end with a treat. A treat can be something yummy or even a favorite game or toy.

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