Cut claws

  • Dog
  • Anatomy
  • Non-clinical skills

Claw trimming for dogs and cats is an important part of grooming and health care and is therefore also offered by us. Animal claws, like human fingernails, grow back permanently and therefore need to be trimmed from time to time. If the claws are too long, they can cause various health problems for your pets. In the following, you will learn why regular claw trimming keeps dogs and cats healthy, how to do it correctly and when you should consult a vet.

Contact a veterinarian

If you think the symptoms are right for your animal, we recommend that you contact a veterinarian for a consultation.

You are welcome to make an appointment just to have your pet’s claws trimmed. That way we will get to know your pet and can possibly discuss other healthcare topics. Contact us to make an appointment.

Why is it important for cats and dogs to have their claws trimmed?

If the claws are too long, there is a danger that they will tear, sometimes even down to the nerves and blood vessels of the claw.

Animals with excessively long claws can also injure themselves when they scratch by tearing the skin. This results in painful wounds, which can also become infected if bacteria get in. This can also be the case if the long claws grow into the paw pads. Even if they are not ingrown, the tips of the claws can nonetheless press on the back of the pad. This causes pain when your pet stands up so he or she moves less.

Dogs often try to shorten over-long claws themselves by biting them. This is very dangerous as they tear off the complete claw in the worst case. Severe bleeding (haemorrhage) can be the result.

In the long term, excessively long claws can affect the animal’s entire locomotor system. They can lead to pain and postural damage as the weight is distributed differently on the paws when the claws are long.

To avoid these consequences, cats‘ and dogs‘ claws should be cut regularly.

When and how often should claws be trimmed?

Cutting dogs’ claws

If your dog often walks and runs around on hard ground such as asphalt, the claws usually wear down themselves to the correct length. Cutting a dog’s claws doesn’t become completely unnecessary, however. The dew claws must be trimmed manually as they are the only ones that don’t wear down naturally through walking.

If your dog gets much of its exercise on soft surfaces such as meadows, fields and forest paths, claws don’t wear down at all and must be trimmed manually.

Cutting cats‘ claws

Cats kept outdoors need sharp claws as these assist them in climbing and jumping and help the cat to defend itself against wild animals and other cats. Set up scratching posts for your cats in different places in the house so that they can sharpen their claws themselves. Should the claws nevertheless exceed the normal length, they must be trimmed.

You will recognise excessively long claws from the following features:

  • The claws can be heard “clacking” when the animal walks on a hard surface.
  • Claws that are too long interfere with your animal’s walking: it moves differently or less often.
  • The claw is longer than the corresponding pad on this paw.
  • When the animal is standing, the claws touch the ground and you can’t push a sheet of paper under the claws.
  • The claws are torn.

If at least one of these features applies, you must trim the cat’s or dog’s claws as soon as possible.

Correct procedure for cutting claws

If you would like to cut your pet’s claws yourself, the following instructions tell you how to do so correctly.

The right equipment for cutting claws

Special clippers, nippers and scissors for trimming claws are available in pet shops. Some of these can also be adjusted to the desired length. These devices are designed specially for dogs and cats. Clippers in particular exert even pressure and so make it easier to cut off the claw tips. If you use a scissors, this should be sharp so as not to crush the claws but cut them off cleanly. You can also file the claws with a special nail grinder/Dremel. This is much pleasanter for the dog or cat and you can file the claw to the correct length gradually without a risk of injury. The disadvantage is that grinding takes much more time.

Caution with blood vessels

There are nerves and blood vessels within the claw. You must therefore not cut the claws too short and must proceed very carefully. If you cut there, this hurts your pet and severe bleeding can occur.

When the claws are white, the blood vessels are visible (the pink area). You can see easily how far you should cut. A gap of at least 1 mm between the remaining claw tip and the blood vessels should be maintained.

With darker and black claws, the blood vessels cannot be recognised. In this case, you must be very cautious and trim the claw minimally. It is best to use a grinder here.

It should be noted that the nerves and blood vessels grow together with the horny capsule of the claw. Long claws should therefore not be trimmed to the correct length immediately but only a small bit over several weeks.

Cutting a dog’s claws correctly

Your dog should lie on its side. This is the easiest way to cut the claws. Ensure good lighting and that your dog is relaxed and also that you have a steady hand. Take your dog‘s paw in your hand horizontally, parallel to the floor, and fix the claw where it is attached. Hold the scissors horizontally also at an angle of 45° degrees to the claw and cut off the claw tip from below upwards. The remaining claw should be pointed when seen from in front. Ensure that the pad is not cut or gets caught.

Important: trim gradually. Cut off a small disc of about 1 mm until the optimal length is obtained.

Cutting a dog’s claws when the claws are dark is more difficult because you can’t identify the blood vessels. You can shine a small torch through individual claws. If the blood vessels are still not visible, it is advisable to grind the claws gradually.

Cutting a cat’s claws correctly

Bring your cat into a comfortable position. Take one paw in your hand and press lightly in the middle of it so that your cat extends the claws. Hold the paw firmly as cats tend to pull the paw away at the crucial moment when the claws are being cut.

Hold the clipper or scissors at a right angle to the claw. If you hold it parallel to the claw, this could splinter later. Ensure that the blade cuts from below upwards. The remaining claw should appear pointed when seen from the front.

What to do if you catch a blood vessel

If you have accidentally caught a blood vessel, you can stop the bleeding with a handkerchief or cotton wool pad. The claw should stop bleeding after about five minutes. If the bleeding lasts longer, you should consult a vet promptly.

If you are afraid of injuring your pet, visit one of our veterinary practices. We can help with regular claw cutting and show animal owners clearly how to cut their pet’s claws correctly.

How often should a dog’s / cat’s claws be cut?

You should normally cut a cat’s claws every 2 months. It is not necessary to cut the claws of cats who are allowed out as they are worn down on trees.

In dogs, claws that grow normally should be cut every 2 months if they are not worn down to the correct length by exercising on asphalt surfaces. Dew claws do not wear down and should also be trimmed every 2 months. More frequent trimming can be necessary in some dogs.

Cutting a dog’s or cat’s claws – what it costs at the veterinary practice

There is no single answer to this. In general, a primary care practice charges a lower fee than a veterinary hospital.

Some animal insurance companies meet the cost of claw trimming by the vet. Ask your insurance company about this.

Cutting the claws of other animal species

Trimming claws is often associated with cats and dogs but must not be neglected in pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and birds as well. The claws may not wear down because the surfaces in the cages are wrong or too soft, e.g., the wrong cage bars for birds or soft litter for rabbits and guinea pigs. This means that the claws of these pets must also be trimmed regularly. Claw trimming works the same way in principle as in dogs and cats but even greater caution is required because of the smaller paws.

Conclusion – cutting cats‘ and dogs‘ claws

If the claws do not wear down themselves, they should be trimmed regularly by you, a trained dog groomer or a vet. If you are confident about cutting the claws yourself, then use either a claw scissors, a special clipper or a grinder.

Ensure that you maintain a distance of at least 1mm from the blood vessels where they appear pink when you are cutting the claw. We generally recommend grinding for dark claws.

Be calm and relaxed as otherwise cutting claws can injure dogs, cats, birds and rodents. If you were not careful on one occasion, it is possible that your pet will be afraid of having its claws cut in future and will not allow you to hold the paws again; in the worst case it may bite you. Cutting claws can then become extremely problematic.

If you are not confident about cutting your paw’s claws, we are happy to do so for you. Contact us to make an appointment.

© AniCura

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