Trimming your cat or dog’s can be done outside the animal hospital.
Trimming your cat or dog’s nails is something that should be part of regular grooming and it is possible to make it an enjoyable activity to do together. Even if right now your pet dislikes having this done, it is possible to re-train them, so that it does not need to be a negative experience.
Step 1 – Pick up and rub your pets paws while feeding treats. The treat should be something special he/she does not normally get during regular training. Feed them long enough so that you can rub the paws without them trying to pull their paw back. Your dog’s mouth should be physically on your hand eating treats the entire time. Make sure you start on an area that does not cause the dog to react to the handling.
Step 2 – As your dog finishes the treats, remove both the treat hand and the hand that’s rubbing the dog or cat.
Step 3 – When you can rub the paw in this manner several times in a row while your dog eats, begin to rub between the toes and holding each toe in a manner that would allow you to trim the nails. Make sure the dog has begun eating the treat before you start rubbing the paw.
Step 4 – As always, remove both the treat hand and the rubbing hand before your dog is finished eating. When your dog is good at this step for several trials, move on to the next step. Systematically work your way up and get closer to clipping the nails. At this step you can introduce the nail trimmers and even rub your pet’s paws with the trimmers without actually snipping any nails. Take care not to move along too quickly and elicit a negative reaction.
Step 5 – Get to the point where you can have the nail trimmers on a nail while giving treats. As your dog finishes the treat, stop handling. Your dog should be focused on you with the expectation that he/she will get more treats. This may be difficult to do on your own, so involve the family or a friend to give treats while you are working with their paw.
Step 6 – At this point you can start trimming their nails. You want to finish on a positive note so if you are unable to trim all nails in one sitting, then just start with a couple of nails or one paw. If you notice your pet getting anxious and not as interested in the treats stop and start again another day or in a few hours.
Now that you know how to train your pet to allow you to handle and touch their paws, next you need to know how much to trim off the nail. Both dogs and cats have a nerve and blood vessel in their nails called the kwik. As the nails grow longer so does the kwik. The key is knowing where to cut to ensure you don’t cut too much off causing pain and the nail to bleed.
With white nails it is much easier to know where the kwik is because you can see the pink blood vessel. With darker or black nails it is trickier. You just want to trim off the tip, usually it grows into a bit of a curve and is narrower then the base of the nail. If the nails are really long, by trimming the tip off more frequently this will cause the kwik to recede and allow you to gradually get the nails shorter. See the diagram above for more detail on where to trim the nails.