Welcome to our very first ‘Ask Dr Jo’. In this series, Dr Jo, a companion animal veterinarian, will try to answer all of your dog-related health queries, no matter what they are. So, if you have a question you would like answering by a vet, please get in contact.
Question from Meghan.
Meghan, I think this is a worry of every dog owner out there! I regularly get clients asking me to clip their dog’s nails while they are at the consult, and that is something you can do too if you want; a vet, vet nurse or groomer will be very happy to assist.
However, if you wish to do it yourself, there are some things you can do to ensure that you don’t hurt your dog. As I’m sure you are aware, each nail is made out of keratin, much like our own. This keratin covers a fleshy centre called the quick. Unfortunately for us who wish to cut nails, the quick is full of blood vessels and nerves, and is excruciatingly painful if you accidentally cut it, not to mention extremely messy.
It is best to cut your dog’s nails with a specific dog nail clipper. You can purchase these from any pet store. Buy one appropriate for the size of your dog. A small one won’t be strong enough for the nails of a big dog, and a big one will be fiddly to use on a small dog. Next, have a look at the nails. If they are black and you cannot see the quick, then turn the paw upside down. Some nails do not completely meet underneath and therefore in some dogs, you will be able to see the quick this way. If you are unlucky, and have a dog with black nails, completely surrounding the quick, the best you can do is to just be cautious and take small amounts off at a time. Some people also have success in cutting diagonally, rather than directly across the nail, as you will catch less of the quick this way if you cut too deep.
If you do make the nail bleed, do not panic. Your dog is not going to bleed out from a cut nail, although the mess may make it seem like it! Get a large wad of cotton wool, and apply a firm pressure to the nail for five minutes. Alternatively, you can purchase a silver nitrate pen, when purchasing the nail clippers, which is an excellent cautery device to have on hand for these situations.
Finally, to avoid having to clip your dog’s nails too often, ensuring he regularly walks on hard abrasive ground, such as pavements, will help file down the nails and keep them short naturally.