I used to snicker under my breath when one of my clients would come to the office just to have their pet's nails trimmed. I recently attempted to give my own cats a manicure but to no avail. My cats just don't realize that I am a veterinarian. They think of me only as `mom'. I no longer snicker.
Nails and hair are very similar in their composition and biological behavior. Both are constantly growing. Overly long nails can pose a medical threat for your pet.
Nails can grow so long that they can actually curve around and penetrate the skin. Think of an ingrown toenail. It's painful and can be a source of infection. Overgrown nails can also affect the way in which a pet walks. Consider wearing a pair of shoes that don't fit well and cause you to walk awkwardly. Over time, this change in gait can lead to or exacerbate joint diseases like arthritis.
For some pets, trimming their nails is a traumatic event. Why? Often these pets never became accustomed to it when they were young or it was improperly performed and caused pain. Nails have a core, also known as the quick that contain nerves and blood vessels. Care always needs to be exercised while trimming nails to avoid cutting into this area.
Here are some tips for successfully and non-traumatically trimming your pet's nails:
- Get your pet used to having its feet gently touched and played with when it is a puppy or kitten. Make a game of it.
- Purchase nail trimmers that are appropriate your pets' size and type of nails. Ask your veterinary staff member what type they would recommend.
- Keep a supply of styptic powder or pencil on hand in case you accidentally trim the nails too short and they start to bleed.
- Have someone assist you in gently restraining the pet. Be sure you are in an area with good lighting.
- If your pet has light colored nails, hold the paw in such a manner that it is well illuminated from behind. This will allow you to see where the quick ends. Trim the nail close to but not into the quick.
- If your pet has dark nails and you are unable to visualize the quick, trimming off just a small amount from the end repeatedly is best. You can often tell when you are getting close to the quick when the cut end of the nail starts taking on a shiny look.
- Use an emery board to smooth off any rough edges.
- The use of a small power drill, similar to the type that manicurist would use, is a great way to tackle dark nails or large, heavy nails that you would find in a Rottweiler or other large breed. First get the pet used to the sound of the drill. Once the pet is not frightened by the noise, hold the sanding disc to the nail tip for only a few seconds. Continue sanding until the sanded edge appears glossy.
Nail care is an important part of grooming your pet. With some patience and practice it can be done. My cats are getting used to this new form of attention.