Understanding Pet Nail Care

Nail care is an important part of taking care of your pet. Some pets will have to have their nails cut regularly, while others might never have to get them trimmed. Nails normally would wear down through the surface the animal walks and lives on, but our pets are often kept in conditions where their nails don’t naturally wear down enough. Regular nail checking and care are needed to prevent pain and injury to your pet.

Long nails aren’t only painful, they can also cause foot issues like arthritis and joint problems. In severe cases, long nails might grow in a circle and back into the feet of your pet. Long nails can also get trapped in fabric and injure your pet while they try to get loose. We mainly see this issue with rodents, marsupials, and birds that are kept as pets.

A few signs your pet’s nails might be too long are:
  • Getting stuck in fabric.
  • Hearing the ticking of the nails of your pet when they walk, often seen with dogs.
  • Nails that grow in a circle.

Types of nail grinders and clippers

Nail grinder

The first type is the nail grinder, often also called Dremel. Nail grinders file your dog’s nails smooth. Because you file instead of clip, it’s easier to avoid hitting the quick.

Guillotine clipper

Guillotine clippers have a hole that you put the nail through. It can be a bit tricky to maneuver the nail of your pet in these.

Guillotine clipper

Scissor style clipper

Scissors style clippers are small scissors with divots toward the end of each blade. This style of clippers are useful for small animals.

scissor style clipper

Plier style clipper

Pliers style clippers are almost identical to the scissors style clippers but have a spring. This type of nail clipper is strong, which makes it suitable for large and thick nails.


Pet nails consist of a pink colored vein, called the quick, on the inside, and a harder shell on the outside. Through the quick flows blood. Keeping the nails trimmed will also keep the quick short. You can either clip or file your pet’s nails. When clipping the nails, avoid clipping into the quick. Clipping in the quick hurts and will make it bleed. If you clip and are worried about clipping into the quick, cut little bits of the nail several times instead of taking one big clip at once. If you do end up clipping into the quick, cornstarch, flour, or styptic powder will stop the bleeding. Besides avoiding the quick when clipping the nails, make sure to make the cut more towards horizontal, then vertical. This so the nail will hit the floor flat, and not with a point, when your pet walks.

nail clipping

Get your pet familiarized with handling their feet and manipulating their nails through positive and force free training, if possible before actually having to cut their nails. Make sure to praise your pet while clipping their nails. If you notice your pet becoming unsure, stop and continue on another day. Vets and groomers can often cut your pets nails if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.

Dark-colored nails

Some pets will have dark-colored nails where the quick is hard to see. First, try determining the quick by shining a flashlight through the nail. This is often useful for rabbits. If you can’t determine the quick by vision, take off small chunks of the nail several times instead of going for a one-time big cut. Before making the clip, you can try and press down on the location you are about to clip gently with the clippers. If your pet starts struggling, most likely you have reached the quick.

Pet nail care

An important part of your pet’s care routine. Long nails aren’t only uncomfortable for your pet, they can also cause health issues long term. So, it’s important to keep them at the correct length. With practice from the pet owner and training the pet through positive reinforcement that nail clipping is a pleasant experience, most pet owners are eventually able to cut their pet’s nails without the help of the vet or groomer. Would you like to know more about our pet sitting, dog walking, dog training or pet relocation services? Feel free to contact us.

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