Trimming your pet’s nails at home

Over the past twelve months, many pet owners have had to learn a thing or two about grooming their furry friends at home.

PDSA vet Nurse, Nina Downing said: “Proper grooming is an essential part of any pet’s health, but nails and claws can be particularly tricky to maintain. Different species have different needs – for example, cats and dogs both require different kinds of care when its comes to their nails.

“We might not always be able to get to a vet or professional groomer when we need to, so it’s important to know how to take care of your pet’s nails at home.”

Knowing when it’s time for a trim

“Dogs typically wear their nails down naturally, but some may need clipping, especially if they don’t walk much on tarmac, or have reduced mobility due to old age, injuries or arthritis. Overgrown nails can become quite uncomfortable for dogs if left untreated, they can curl round into the pad causing pain and even infection.

“On the other hand, cats having nails is perfectly normal – their claws are instinctively used for jumping, climbing and hunting. Cat’s claws are retractable, kept well maintained by scratching and being active. Unfortunately, old age or lack of opportunity to scratch can affect how claws retract, if you notice them starting to catch on the carpet or if you’re still able to see them while they’re resting, they may need a trim. Remember that cat’s nails should only be clipped if they’re too long, not too sharp.”

How to cut your pet’s nails safely at home

Nina advises: “It’s a good idea to get your pet used to having their paws handled regularly, so they don’t resent having their nails trimmed if needed. Try making it a positive experience using small rewards, for example, giving your pet a treat when they calmly allow you to example their nails. Think of it like dentists giving children a sticker – it’s a similar principle.

“Make sure you’re using nail clippers specifically designed for pets (the human equivalent won’t do the trick). Hold your pet’s paw and look closely at each nail – you should be able to see the ‘pink’ blood vessel which runs through the middle and the paler excess nail growth at the very tip. It is incredibly important to avoid cutting too near the blood vessel, as this will be painful and can bleed.

It’s a good idea to trim from the pointed end of the nail, taking small shavings off a bit at a time if you’re new to this and are worried about catching the quick. Some pets have naturally darker nails, where it can be harder to see where the blood vessel ends. I’d always suggest paying your vet a visit when you’re unsure, so they can show the correct technique, giving you more confidence about clipping them yourself in the future.”