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How to Trim Your Dog's Nails

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Selecting Equipment to Trim Your Dog's Nails
How to Cut Your Dog's Nails - Dog Nail Trimmer Types

Four varieties of dog nail trimmers

Photo © Cody Mannino

Before you begin your dog's nail trim, be sure you have the right equipment. First and foremost, you must choose your nail trimmers. There are a few styles of nail trimmers available. The right choice depends on the size of your dog's nails and your own preference. These are the main types of nail trimmers available on the market today:

Guillotine style: This style of nail trimmer has an internal blade and a hole to line up the nail. When the handle is squeezed, the blade comes up to trim the nail, kind of like an upside-down guillotine. Many beginners find this type of trimmer very easy to use. However, it is very important to hold this trimmer in the correct manner so that it works properly. The handle should be down below the dog's paw, with the nail hole at the top. The screws on the trimmer should be facing towards your dog. The nail should then be lined up inside the hole at the right spot to make the cut. The internal blade on guillotine trimmers can be replaced when it becomes dull. Guillotine trimmers work best for small to medium size nails. They are not ideal for very large or very small nails.

Scissors style: These trimmers work just like a pair of scissors. Rather than a flat cutting surface, they have a curved blade to cut the round nail. Simply line up the blade with the nail at the appropriate spot and make the cut. These trimmers are only useful for smaller nails, as they are typically not strong enough for the larger nails. These are typically the least expensive type of trimmer. However, blades may dull over time and the hinge may become loose.

Pliers style: These trimmers are often the preferred choice among professionals. Pliers style trimmers work in a similar manner to the scissors style trimmers, but with more force. They are spring-loaded and the mechanism resembles garden pruners. The small/medium size is great for small and medium size nails. The large size typically works well on all nail sizes except the very small ones (they can leave the ends of small nails frayed). These are easy to use and tend to stay sharp for a long time. The blades, however, are not replaceable and can eventually dull (though it usually takes years).

Compare Prices of Dog Nail Trimmers

Other Nail-Trimming Equipment

These items are not pictured above but they may come in handy during a nail trim:

Styptic Powder: If you cut the nail too short, it will bleed. Even when you do your best to avoid this, it can happen from time to time. The bleeding will eventually stop if pressure is applied, but it can be hard to hold your dog's paw still for several minutes. Styptic powder can stop the bleeding very quickly and it fairly easy to apply. A common brand name is "Kwik Stop" (compare prices) Tip: if you don't have styptic powder, try packing bit of corn starch or flour on the bleeding nail tip. It will also be helpful to have cotton balls, tissues or paper towels handy for nail cleanup.

Metal Hand File or Power Rotary Tool: If your dog will tolerate it, you can use one of these tools to smooth the rough edges after the nail is trimmed. Many professionals prefer to skip the nail trim altogether and use a power rotary tool exclusively (like a Dremel or the Peticure). Because of the sound and vibrations associated with the power tools, you must gradually introduce the tool, allowing him get used to it before using it on the nails. This can take days to weeks depending on your dog.

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