Home Blog Dog Questions How do I cut my dog’s black toe nails?

How do I cut my dog’s black toe nails?

Argh, you’ve come across the dreaded curse of the black toe. If Mani Pedi has clear toenails, they are easier to trim as you can see the pink line where the quick ends, but black toe nails make the quick difficult to see, making trimming extra dangerous. Unfortunately, your only two options are to a) adopt a dog with only pink toenails or b) to guess. Doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it? Well, don’t worry - guessing becomes much easier with practice. When in doubt about how much nail to trim off, start by removing tiny amounts of nail at a time. While this can be slow going, Mani Pedi will appreciate it as it is painful when the quick gets cut. Observe the bottom of the toenail and you’ll notice a circular white ring as you near the quick. If you see this, stop cutting and be grateful for the small amount of nail you were able to remove. Also, remember that the longer you go between nail trims, the less you can trim off. In general, trim your dog’s toenails once or twice a month to help keep the quick nice and short.

Before you attempt any of this, make sure you are well educated on how to give Mani Pedi her pedicure. Have your groomer or veterinary technician take the time to show you how to cut nails. I don’t care if you’re a 6’5” quarterback or a Harley-driving dude – owners of both sexes will same time and money if they learn to D.I.T (do it themselves). Practice touching Mani’s toes as a puppy by putting on a puppet (or puppy) show with her toes – this will get her used to having her feet touched and manipulated (oh la la). Cut one or two nails while she is sleeping and instantly reward her with a treat so she associates the nail trim with a positive experience. Put the toenail clipping under the pillow, and see if the magic toe-fairy comes! It’ll help if you make sure to use the right equipment also; dull guillotine nail clippers are traumatic to Mani for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain. Suffice to say, the Golden Rule applies here.

Lastly, remember that if you make your dog’s nails bleed, don’t freak out. Vomit calmly, then apply a dry towel or gauze to the area to stop the bleeding. Kwik-Stop® is a commercially available yellow powder that you can use to stop bleeding instantly; sprinkle some Kwik-Stop onto the overturned lid of the jar, and gently put the nail into the powder. You can also use flour or cornstarch in a pinch or push the bleeding nail bed into a mild bar of soap (although due to the pain of the nerve being cut, your dog probably won’t appreciate this). When in doubt, don’t stress – it’s just a small amount of blood and should stop quickly.

My dog despises having his toenails trimmed despite puppy training and appropriate behavioral modification. I’ve tried positive reinforcement, trimming only one nail every few days, giving him treats as soon as he’s done, and touching his toes frequently as a puppy so he was used to having his toes handled; despite this, he cringes, cries, runs away, and whimpers as soon as I take out the clippers. Now I just run him on cement frequently which wears down the nails naturally – a good trick if you’ve also adopted a veritable Scooby-Doo.


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