Clipping your pet's claws

small animal - dog - cat - paws

Clipping your pet's nails can be a little overwhelming not to mention fiddly, but if you persist you will master the art of a pet pedicure.

The hardest part is generally getting your pet used to the process so begin by desensitising your pet to having their feet handled. Start with lots of little massages of the paws and reward your pet with treats and cuddles so that when you eventually go to clip the nails, they associate having their paws with a positive experience.

Tips on how to clip your pet's nails:

  1. Be prepared – get all of your equipment ready first, including some of your pet's favourite treats.

  2. It is easier to have your pet in a sitting or lying down position. Cats might feel safer wrapped in a towel.

  3. Hold your pet's paw and apply gentle pressure to the base of the nail bed to help move the nail away from the pad (this is particularly helpful in cats).

  4. Trim the tip of the nail at the point where it curves around. It's always best to take less rather than too much. Avoid trimming the quick (nail bed) – this can be seen in a white nail as pink tissue but is not so easily visible in a black nail. Ask your veterinarian to demonstrate where to trim your pet's nails. If you do happen to cut too far and there is a bit of blood, don't worry, it will stop or you can rub the nail on a cake of soap to 'plug' the nail and stop the bleeding.

  5. Reward your pet after each nail is trimmed – food treats are great as they create a positive experience for your pet.

  6. Don't forget to trim the dewclaws on the inside of each fore-leg (and in some pets, the hind-leg). These nails are easy to miss but are often the longest nails as they are not worn down as your pet walks and can easily catch on material such as a blanket or jumper.

Do I need to trim my cat's nails?

The majority of cats do not need their nails trimmed. This is particularly true in cats that are allowed outdoors as they may need to use their nails in defense or to help them climb and escape danger. Indoor cats may need their nails trimmed from time-to-time to prevent them from becoming overgrown (as they are less likely to use objects such as trees to help shed their nails naturally). Arthritic and geriatric cats may also need a nail trim as their nails tend to become thick and overgrown due to lack of activity.

How often should I cut my dog's nails?

This depends on how active your dog is, their breed and age. The more active the dog, the more the nails tend to wear down naturally (especially if they walk on the pavement). The dewclaws will still need to be trimmed every 1-2 months as they do not get worn down by coming into contact with hard surfaces.

An inactive dog or older dog that prefers softer grass may not wear down the nails and will need more regular trims. It's a good idea to check your pet's nails regularly to make sure they are not getting too long.

The forepaws generally need the nails trimmed more regularly than the hind paws.

How do I know if my dog's nails are too long?

The best way to know if your dog's nails are too long is to listen – nails that are too long will 'click' when the dog walks on hard surfaces. The nails should not extend over the edge pad and should not touch the ground when standing.

Declawing cats

Declawing is an operation to remove an animal's claws via surgery. It involves amputation of the end of the bones of the toes (it would be similar to a human having the tip of their finger amputated at the last knuckle).

It is inhumane, can be painful and will prevent a cat from being able to perform natural activities such as scratch itself, walk properly or even use a litter tray.  Nationwide legislation in Australia prohibits the declawing of cats except for if there is a medical need (such as to remove cancer of the bone).

Do vets trim cat's claws?

Your veterinarian will always be happy to help when it comes to trimming your pet's nails. They will also be able to give you a demonstration of how best to clip a cat's nails or dog's nails. In rare cases, a pet may require sedation or a general anaesthetic to perform a nail trim (such as in aggressive or highly anxious pets, or if there is a problem with a nail) and this can be discussed further with your veterinarian.