Some dogs and cats keep their nails nicely trimmed on their own and need no assistance from us. Others grow amazingly long nails so that it looks painful to walk. Imagine having your toenails pushed up every time you took a step. Ouch.
Many folks will not clip their pet's toenails because they fear cutting into the quick and causing pain and bleeding. However, by making a commitment to clip just the tips of the nails off on a regular schedule, once every week or two, your pet will never have nails that are too long and you will never have the problem of cutting into the quick.
Light colored dogs have light colored toenails and you can easily see the quick at the base of the nail. Dark coated dogs have dark nails and it is almost impossible to see the quick. In either case, by just clipping off the tips of the nails, you are quite safe.
Powdered styptic is available at pet stores. It comes in a narrow container and is good to have on hand in case you do hit the quick and have bleeding. Simply dip the injured nail into this powder. The bleeding will stop immediately. Naturally, no one wants to cut into the quick but it is comforting to know that there is a fast, easy remedy.
Most dogs and cats do not like to have their nails clipped. It is best to start when they are young but you can accustom a mature pet to the procedure by working with the nails gently and frequently. Begin slowly by spending time just handling the feet and nails with the clipper in your hand. Talk soothingly the whole time and tell him how wonderful he is.
After you have allowed the dog or cat to sniff the clippers and you have moved it around his feet, put your arm around his body and hold him securely pinning his body close to yours. Hold the paw securely in your hand and if you feel comfortable, clip one nail. If it works well, clip another and another and then praise him and release him. If the dog or cat is fighting you, do not release him. Keep talking and handling his feet until he relaxes and stops fighting. Then immediately release him. Praise him and give some wonderful ear rubs.
If your pet determines that by fighting you every step of the way, you will decide it is not worth the effort and never try again, he will be sure to fight you. If he is convinced that you are determined to trim his nails regardless of his behavior, he will eventually calm down and accept it, especially when he realizes that you will not hurt him. Therefore, it is important that the task end on a positive note with the mission being at least somewhat accomplished and with you ending up on the winning side.
By wrapping your arm around him, you are giving the dog or cat a feeling of security and also you will have a firm hold of the body and the paw. With small dogs and cats, it might help to put them on a table or counter. Fighting cats can be wrapped in a towel until they get used to the procedure.
Once a dog or cat gets used to getting his nails clipped and is confident that you will not hurt him, he will just stand there while you clip away. If you do it often and gently, it only takes a minute.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 1521, Strawberry, AZ 85544.