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How to Trim a Dog’s Toenails & Why It’s Important to Their Health | Blooming Culture

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    By Dr. Gabby Pagana, DVM, MPH, CVA 

 Like many pet owners, I am not experienced with trimming my dog's nails and I have had some past traumatic situations. You don't want to hurt your pet or cause them to be stressed, but you also know it needs to be done. It can be an uphill battle with your pet, which, in turn, creates a very stressful experience for everyone involved. I even had a bad experience a while back at our vet's office when they cut down our dog Maru's quick to far and she was returned to me still bleeding (a little). Is it the end of the world, no. But when your pet has that bad experience, that is what they can hold on to. While we personally still chose to leave trimming our dogs nails to the experts I can share that if I were to try it at home again I would start by giving a few treats at the beginning and the end of the process along with positive praise. Pet's need to associate the act of nail trimming as a positive experience. 

We spoke to Dr. Gabby Pagana on how to 

to trim your dog's nails and why it's so important. 


cutting your dogs nails


A pet parents dreaded task, toenail trimming. It can be a stressful event for many pet owners and their pets. In fact, some pets are so fearful they cannot be restrained, and owners are super nervous because they know if they cut into the nail too deeply, it will cause bleeding. All in all, it is a dreaded job. But, it is one that must be done for the better health of the pet.    

So, what do you do when up against an almost impossible situation?  You look for options.   Some pet owners choose to trim or Dremel their pet’s nails at home.  Others choose to take their pet to a professional groomer or veterinarian. 

No matter what, your pet’s nails should be checked at least every 1-2 months to determine whether they need trimming or not.  Active pets that wear their nails down naturally may not need regular trimmings, whereas pets with medical conditions such as osteoarthritis may require them because if the nails grow too long, it can cause further gait abnormalities or damage to the paw pad.

Long toenails may also cause the following: 

1. walking can become too painful for the pet  and lead to arthritic joints in the toes/wrists

2. nails can curl up into the paw pads, penetrating the skin and causing further pain, infection, & abscessing – leading to the inability to walk on the limb

3. if the nail catches on any cloth material, e.g. a rug, a pet is at risk from possible nail ripping injury

The Anatomy of a Pet’s Foot

If you are a pet owner who wants to cut their pet’s nails, it is important to know the anatomy of a pet’s foot.  Here is an easy-to-read diagram to familiarize yourself.  

trimming your dogs nail

Here are the tools you will need: 

1. Toenail trimmers OR handheld Dremel

2. Cornstarch or Kwik Stop  (in case of bleeding)

3. Lots of treats!


To help make the process safe here is what to watch for:   

Most importantly, trim the nail only until you see the white inside the nail that has a small black dot in the center. If you do not see the white, you can cut a bit closer. But, be careful not to cut the “quick” (black dot) or the capillary bed in the nail which will cause bleeding. See the illustration above.    

If it is the first time cutting the nails in a while, consider doing it in phases.  Meaning, take only the tip off the first time, then in 2-3 weeks take a little bit more off and repeat a few times until the nails are desired length.

 Tips and Tricks

  • Handle your dog’s paws regularly so they get used to it/ best to start as a puppy

  • Introduce clippers frequently without cutting the toenails to lessen anxiety

  • Provide a lot of yummy treats during and after

  • The more you walk your pet, the fewer trims (unless your dog has very thick nails)

  • Have a second person hold the pet for you

  • Cut small amounts at a time

  • Trim in a well-lit room, or outside in the sun

  • Ensure your pet was exercised well beforehand

  • Provide a calming environment for your pet


 Ways to Provide a Calming Environment for Your Pet

  • Use lavender, chamomile, & other calming essential oils diffused or sprayed onto your dog. *Please consult with your veterinarian before using essential oils on your pet- they must be diluted unless specifically made for them.

  • Play calming music. Blooming Culture has a perfect playlist on Spotify that is especially for your dog. Research has shown that certain sounds do relax your dog. 

  • Do it in a familiar and comfortable location.

  • Provide calming supplements the day of trim, such as CBD oil, copaiba essential oil, Reishi mushroom extract, lavender/chamomile herbs, ashwagandha, and others.

  • If sedatives are needed, please consult with your veterinarian to determine which medications would be best.


The bottom line when it comes to trimming a pet’s nails?  If you have any questions or doubts, let the experts do it. They are hands-on experienced in handling this.