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How to Cut Dog Nails: Anatomy, Trimming, Bleeding, Tools, Infections

 Part of your dog’s grooming routine is to check its ears, eyes, and nails. Grooming and maintaining your dog’s appearance is important and essential in keeping them clean, happy, and healthy. This includes regularly cutting your dog’s nails. When you don’t trim your dog’s nails, they tend to grow too long, which can lead it to dig into its paw or break when it gets caught as they run, jump, or play. If your dog has a broken nail, it can be painful and may also lead to infection if not properly treated. 

The proper way of trimming your dog nails is to familiarise yourself with the dog nail anatomy, use the right grooming tools, and apply cutting techniques to prevent injuries.  Read on further on how to cut dog nails, which tools you can use, and what nail infections you can prevent.

Dog Nails: Anatomy, Trimming, Bleeding, Tools, Infections

Most dogs have 4-5 toes and nails on each foot, the 5th one is usually located on the inner side of their paws. Dog nails are made up of tough proteins called keratin. They are oval-shaped that curve slightly as they grow out. The nails usually become narrower as they lengthen. The outer layer of the nail is the shell that helps dogs dig, balance, claw, and protect the inside of its nails. 

In the core of the nails, which is known as “quick”, is a combination of blood vessels and nerves that help with blood circulation to keep the nail alive. When injured or broken, it will be painful for your dog and will cause bleeding.

Regular trimming of dog nails is important to help shorten the quick and, over time, make the task of trimming your dog’s nails easier without the risk of hurting or bleeding. 

How To Trim Dog Nails?

To properly trim your dog’s nails, you must cut the longer tip of the nails while avoiding the quick. Doing so can help prevent toe issues, malformation, and adding unnecessary pressure that may come up. You want to prevent broken nails, injuries, ingrown nails, pain, and infections from happening. 

When you trim your dog nails, look at the sides of the nails to see where the quick ends and cut only the tips of the nails. Prep your dog nail clippers and file and make sure to place your dog somewhere stable while making sure they are comfortable. Here are the basics of trimming your dog’s nails:

  1. Inspect each of your dog’s nails and check if they are all in good condition
  2. Start with one nail first, then carefully trim at the tip. Angle the trimmer at a 45-degree angle to accommodate the curve and trim in small pieces. Your dog may not be comfortable the first time, so make the experience pleasant by praising them and giving them treats after you trim the first nail. Do the same for the other nails.
  3. After each trim, don’t forget to file the tips of your dog’s nails to help get rid of rough edges. Do not do it too vigorously, especially if you end up cutting the nails too short since you might hit the core of the nails as you file.
  4. Take a quick break when switching to the next paws to help your dog relax. You can do so by playing with them a bit before resuming. If your dog is used to nail trimming, continue on to the next paw. Remember to stay aware of your dog’s behaviour and body language.
  5. Finish with the rest of the nails on the other paws and make sure to reward your dog after.
  6. Practice, stay calm, and start slowly.

Dog nails differ from one another; those with lighter-coloured nails are usually easier to trim since it’s easier to see where the quick is inside the nail. However, some dogs’ nails are black which makes it difficult to trim without hurting your pet. If you are unsure, you can bring them to a dog grooming salon to help properly trim your dog’s nails.

How To Stop Dog Nail Bleeding? 

If you accidentally cut your pet’s nails too high and it lead to them bleeding, don’t panic! Relax and make sure to stay calm to stop the bleeding. The key to stop the bleeding is to use a styptic powder. These chemically formulated powders are used to help the blood vessels contract, which causes them to stop the bleeding and prevent harmful bacteria from infecting the wound. Apply it to the affected area and wait around 20 minutes for the bleeding to stop. If bleeding persists, make sure to take your pet to the vet to get it properly treated.

When choosing styptic powder, you can check with your veterinarian on which brands to use that can be safely used on your dog.

Dog Nail -Trimming Tools 

There are several trimming tools available for pet owners to choose from. The most common ones are nail clippers or trimmers – since they are easy to use and provides a comfortable grip to get the job done. However, these may cause accidental injuries if not used carefully.

Alternatively, there are also dog nail grinders that gradually trim to the desired length. They have a bit of a learning curve to them and can be uncomfortable for your dogs if they’re not used to it. Once you get a hang of it, they are great tools to use to prevent accidental bleeding. 

In addition to these tools, dog nail files, caps, or scratching boards can also be used to trim, shape, and fix their nails. They can be used to prevent rough edges, cracking, and uneven cuts. 

Dog Nail Infections

Aside from bleeding from excessive trimming, dogs can also get nail infections and diseases if their toes are not properly groomed. Here are the common nail infections dogs are susceptible to:

  1. Nail Injury or Trauma

Getting nail injuries is one of the most common – which causes infections. They are mostly caused by nail breakage, splitting, and cracking or toes getting caught in foreign objects.

  1. Ingrown Nail

If nails are left untrimmed for long periods of time, they end up growing too long which can lead to them curving and digging into your dog’s paw. It’s painful and is prone to infections.

  1. Bacterial Infection

Wounded toes can lead to bacterial infection, which causes inflammation, redness, and itchiness around the area of your dog’s nails. Common signs of this also include excessive toe licking or chewing of the affected area.

  1. Fungal Infection

Fungal infections can manifest themselves in your dog’s nails. Most of them are due to ringworms that show up in your pet’s claws in severe cases and can also lead to onychomycosis (fungal infection on the nail and its nail bed).

  1. Autoimmune Diseases

The common autoimmune diseases that usually affect a dog’s nails are lupus and pemphigus foliaceus. The symptoms usually appear as crusting, ulceration, and swelling of the nail tissue. It usually affects more than one nail and can be treated with medications prescribed by a veterinarian.

  1. Cancer

In some severe cases, cancer can be detected around an inflamed or swollen nail. It usually affects one nail. Take your dog to your veterinarian to get it diagnosed and treated if you see any signs of it, including tumours. 


Regularly trimming your dog’s nails is a must to keep their toes healthy and clean. Be sure to have the right tools with you and have a styptic powder in case of any accidental injuries or bleeding. If it’s your first time trimming your dog’s nails, make sure to stay relaxed, check the nail area, and trim in small slivers. Reward your dog each time you finish trimming its nails to make sure the entire experience is comfortable for you and your dog. 

Trimming your dog’s nails is a way to also prevent infections and diseases. If you see any signs or symptoms, take your pet to the veterinarian for proper treatment of the affected area.

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