Trimming Your Dog’s Nails

December 14, 2019

There are lots of different nails clippers on the market. When you walk into your local pet store, looking at the different types of clippers available can immediately result in confusion and even fear over choosing the right ones.

What if you chose the wrong ones?

Will a certain type of nail clipper hurt my dog?

Are some clippers better for small dogs versus big dogs?

Let’s explore the different types of nail clippers, the benefits of each, and more.

Varieties of Nail Clippers

Scissor Clippers

Scissor Clippers are sometimes referred to as Miller’s Forge Trimmers. This style of clipper works as the name suggests – like a pair of scissors. Because these clippers consist of a very sturdy construction, they can create more cutting force, which can often be preferable for large dogs due to their larger and thicker nails.

Guillotine Clippers

Guillotine clippers are quite different. These clippers work by inserting the end of your dog’s nail into the opening and squeezing. The blade then cuts through the nail, gently slicing off the end. Just as with all other clippers, you have to be careful not to insert your dogs nail too far, or you could end up cutting into the quick, which can be very painful for your dog.

Grinder Tools

Grinder tools are actually quite new to the market. Because of their national infomercials, Pedi Paws is probably the most well-known brand in this category. These tools work by grinding away at the nail, much like a fingernail file. If you have a dog that doesn’t like clippers or one that has extra thick nails, this style of nail trimmer can be very helpful.

Because the grinder tools create a bit of vibration as it does its work, you may need to train your dog to get used to it. Because of the nature of these trimmers, the process can take a bit longer than with more traditional clippers, so patience will be needed – from both you and your dog.

Which Nail Clippers Are Best for Dogs?

When choosing a set of nail clippers for your dog, there are a number of items you need to think about. Do you have a large or small dog? Are their nails really large and thick? Is your dog afraid of clippers? Is your dog rather fidgety or do they have a lot of patience with you when you’re grooming them?

For larger dogs, and especially dogs with thick, heavy nails, scissor clippers or a grinder tool can be the best choice for your dog’s nails.

However, if you have a small to medium dog who just won’t still for long, a guillotine clipper may be your best choice. Just be careful not to cut too far and some brands even come with a gauge to help you see just how much of the nail you should trim off.

Can I Use Cat Nail Clippers on My Dog?

Nail clippers that are designed for cats tend to be much smaller than those made for dogs. It’s easy to see why, a cat’s nails are considerably smaller and thinner than those of a dog. Many cat owners will even use human fingernail clippers on their felines when trimming their nails.

Even smaller dogs will have nails that are considerably heavier and thicker than a cat’s nail. Because of this, if you have a pair of clippers for your kitty, they may not be up to snuff.

Even if you have a guillotine clipper for your cat, they may be able to trim the nails of a smaller dog, but any depth gauges are likely to be different for your pooch. If you decide to try a guillotine clipper that you already own, you should look at your dog’s nails carefully and make sure you’re not cutting into the quick.

Do You Need Special Nail Clippers for Dogs?

Because a dog’s nails are very different from yours, you really shouldn’t try using human nail clippers. Not only are your dog’s nails thicker than yours, but they’re also a different shape. Your nails are wide and flat whereas your dog’s nails are rounded with more of the nail available for activities like digging or scratching.

Because human clippers are designed to work on a much thinner nail, if you try to use them on your dog, you could end up fracturing the nail, which could cause them pain and potentially splintering the nail itself.

When you cut your dog’s nails, the cut need to be clean and precise and it also should be done quickly. Using human clippers, you may be able to begin the cut, but you may not have enough force to complete it. This can lead to a painful situation for your pup.

How Long Should a Dog’s Nails Be?

Just like your nails, your dog’s nails are growing constantly. How often they should be trimmed really depends on the breed and his lifestyle.

A lot of dogs will naturally wear their nails down through playing, or even just walking around – especially if they walk on hard surfaces often.

If your pup’s nails get too long, they can create pressure on the toes or paws and which can lead to pain. Long nails can also be prone to splitting, which can lead to an infection.

If you can hear your dog clacking as they walk through the house, their nails are too long.

So, what is the correct length?

Ideally, the nails shouldn’t extend over the pad of the foot. If you have your dog stand upright and look at their nails from the side, they shouldn’t be touching the ground.

If you’re dog’s nails are already too long, it’s best to trim off just a little bit. This is because the longer the nail, the longer the quick. You should trim just a bit from the nail, wait a few days for the quick to recede and then trim a bit more. Once the nails have been trimmed to an appropriate length, you should schedule a monthly trim to help keep them at the correct length.

Can You File a Dog’s Nails Instead of Clipping Them?

Absolutely! If your dog has an aversion to clippers, this can be a much better alternative than having a dog that runs away every time you get near them with the clippers.

Using a file can also help reduce the splitting of your dog’s nails, which could lead to an infection.

The only drawback to using a nail file is the patience required – for both you and your dog.

If you’re using a rotary style grinder tool, you can get the job completed much quicker than with a manual file.

However, if your dog doesn’t like the vibrations that come along with a grinder tool, you can consider a manual file.

Manual files come in a range of materials and price points. One of the more interesting files I’ve seen is a crystal glass nail file. It’s a bit more expensive that a file you’re likely to find at your local pet store, but it’s designed to last a lifetime.

If you do decide to file your dog’s nails instead of clipping them, you should know that it’s generally recommended that you do so about once a week. Because of this, it can be a bit more work to keep them trimmed.

What Happens if a Dog’s Nails Get Too Long?

If you don’t keep your dog’s nails clipped and they get too long, it can cause the nail to push the toes up which could lead to problems with the toe, foot, or even with the hips or joints.

Other issues that can arise from nails that are too long are things such as snagging and breaking the nails. The nail may also split down into the quick. This can be very painful for your pup and may require a trip to the vet to have them sedated and the injury corrected or possibly leading to the removal of the nail.

With some dogs, as the nails get longer, they can curl under the foot and grow into the pad. This would be somewhat analogous to an ingrown nail for humans. It’s a condition that can be extremely painful and can become infected, leading to a trip to the vet for proper care and treatment.

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