How to trim your dog & cat’s nails

Little girl playing with a small puppy

Let’s face it, cutting your pet’s nails can be a challenging task.

Trying to cut their small nails while keeping them calm can feel impossible, but it is vital that pet owners keep up with regular trims to avoid mobility problems and pain down the track.

Fortunately, we have some quick and easy tips guaranteed to help you trim your dog or cat’s nails with minimum fuss.



How to cut dogs nails

Cutting a dog’s nails takes time and patience.

Your dog will need to get used to having their nails touched, so begin with stroking and gently handling your dog’s paws for a few days or even several weeks to let them get used to the sensation. You will also need to allow your dog to become familiar with the sight and sound of your chosen clipping tool.

There is a choice of two nail cutting devices: a clipper or a grinder.

Clippers have a blade that quickly and cleanly cuts across the nail. Grinders, however, are usually battery operated and give a gradual cut with a smoother finish. Some dogs may struggle to get used to the sound of the vibrations that come from using a grinder, whilst other dogs may enjoy the sensation. You can speak to your vet about which device would be most suitable for your dog.

When you think your dog is familiar with the sound of the cutting tool and with the handling of its paws, you can attempt to cut their nails by following these steps:

  • Create a calm environment for your dog and perhaps take them for a walk prior, so they are lower in energy.
  • Gently pick up your chosen paw and stroke it as you have been doing in the previous days/weeks.
  • Place your thumb on the toe’s pad and put your forefinger on the skin just above the nail. You will need to take a gentle but firm grasp.
  • Lightly push your thumb backwards while moving your forefinger forward, so you have a better view of the entire nail.
  • Create a calm environment for your dog and perhaps take them for a walk prior, so they are lower in energy.
  • Observe how your dog reacts, reward positive behaviour with their favourite treat and stop if you feel your dog is becoming distressed. You can always return to this at a later date.



How short should you cut dogs nails?

Knowing how short to trim dog nails is essential to prevent potential pain and discomfort.

A dog's nails have an inner pink coloured 'quick', which has blood vessels running through it connected to nerves. If you cut the quick, this will cause temporary bleeding and discomfort to your pup.

To avoid the quick, do not clip past the curve of the nail, and for darker nails, only cut the hooklike part of the nail that turns downward.

It is recommended you keep some styptic powder close by to treat the nail should you accidentally cut through the quick. If this does happen, try to stay calm and reassure your dog to reduce anxiety.

If you trim your dog's nails regularly, the quick will eventually recede from the end, making it much easier for you to maintain.

How often should you cut dog nails?

How frequently you will need to cut your dog’s nails will depend on how quickly they grow.

Factors such as how active they are, medical conditions and nutrition will impact how fast their nails grow.

A good indicator of when your dog is due a trim is when you begin to hear their nails tapping on the floor when they walk.

Generally, trimming their nails once or twice a month should be sufficient.



How to cut an uncooperative dog's nails

Your dog may resist having their nails trimmed if they have had unpleasant experiences previously or simply if they are unfamiliar with the process.

If your dog is still not responding well to having their nails trimmed, even after taking all the necessary steps to make it a calming experience for them, you may need to seek professional assistance.

Your vet can give you advice on how to approach nail cutting, while a dog behaviourist may be able to provide practical strategies to manage your dog's uncooperative behaviour.

Alternatively, dog groomers provide a lovely environment for your dog to have their nails cut and get pampered at the same time. They also have helpful harnesses that offer a comfortable yet secure place for your dog to sit while they have their nails trimmed.



How long should dog nails be?

There is no specific measurement for how long your dog's nails should be. However, a general guide is that if you start hearing their nails clicking on the floor, they are getting too long. 



How to trim cat nails?

Knowing how to cut a cat’s nails so that they enjoy the experience is essential in reducing anxiety for both you and your feline friend. 

It is recommended you take the time to build up to trimming your cats’ nails through regular paw handling and allowing them to become familiar with the sound, sight and smell of the nail cutting device.

There are generally two tools to choose from: cat nail clippers or scissors. Again, it is best to speak with your vet about which device would be best for your cat. Generally, clippers should work well on most cats, while scissors may work better on longer claws.

When you feel your cat is comfortable with the cutting tool and having their paws handled, you can attempt to cut their nails.

How to cut cats claws:

  • Create a calm environment for your cat, using a soothing voice and giving them lots of positive reinforcement.
  • Place your cat comfortably in your lap and gently pick up one paw and gently handle it as you have in the previous days/weeks.
  • As cats have retractable claws, you will need to apply gentle but firm pressure to the top and bottom of your cat’s paws so that you can see most of their nail.
  • Take your chosen tool and begin by initially taking off a minimal amount of the nail.
  • Observe how your cat reacts, reward positive behaviour with their favourite treat and stop if you feel your cat is becoming distressed. You can always return to this at a later date. Don’t worry if it takes several sittings; there is no need to rush the process.



Do cat's need to get their nails clipped?

Although cats naturally wear down their nails through regular scratching and climbing, they can still get too long if they cannot wear them down properly. You can generally tell if a cat’s claws are too long as they will often begin catching on the carpet or will make an audible clicking sound when they walk across the hard floor.



How short should you cut a cat's nails?

Cats have a pink coloured ‘quick’ at the base of their nail. The quick contains tiny blood vessels which attach to lots of nerves. If you accidentally cut the quick, there will be some temporary bleeding, and your cat may feel some discomfort.

To avoid this, only cut the very tip of the nail.



How often should you cut a cat's nails?

The rate that your cat’s nails grow will depend on various factors, including their age, medical conditions and how active they are. It is generally recommended that most cats benefit from a nail trim once or twice a month; however, you should discuss this with your vet.



Do cat claws grow back?

Yes, cat claws are constantly growing as they are needed for digging and climbing. After a trim, it can take approximately two weeks for their nails to grow back, however, each cat will be slightly different.


We know regular trips to the vets can be costly, and if you have more than one four-legged friend, it can be doubly expensive, which is why we offer a * when you choose to insure through Asda Money Pet Insurance.

*Subject to minimum premiums



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