Best Dog Nail Clippers
Picking out clippers to trim your dog’s nails yourself can seem like a daunting project. Nail clippers for dogs don’t look like or work like nail clippers for humans, and they may look like something that belongs in a kitchen rather than something to be used on a pet!
Even if the thought is intimidating, it is important to keep your dog’s nails at an appropriate length. Once you get familiar with clippers and the process of trimming their nails, you will find that there’s nothing scary or difficult about it! Read on to get started on that journey to keeping your pup’s paws healthy.
Why should I trim my dog’s nails?
Many dog owners don’t realize how important it is to trim a dog’s nails regularly. After all, a visit to the groomer almost always involves a nail trimming, so many people assume that’s enough. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Most dogs need their nails trimmed at least once a month, so a few visits to the groomer each year isn’t going to cut it!
Waiting too long in between nail trimmings can cause a variety of problems:
- Curved nails - Just like our nails, dogs’ nails will curve back in towards the digits when they grow out too long. This is what causes the sound of a dog’s nails on a tiled or hardwood floor that most of us are familiar with (without realizing it’s a problem). In extreme cases, a dog’s nails can curve in such a way that they cut into the pads of the feet!
- Split nails - Overgrown nails are at a higher risk of splitting than nails that are kept short. In dogs, broken nails often expose the quick, which is the dog’s nail bed. This can be extremely painful, and it may cause the quick to bleed or become infected.
- Paw injuries - When a dog’s nails get long enough to touch the ground, they start to put pressure on the bones and connective tissue of the paw in an unnatural way. This can impair the dog’s ability to walk and balance well, and over time it can lead to injuries or deformities in the paws.
- Reduced traction - Dogs with overgrown nails have less traction with the ground. It may not be noticeable on soft surfaces like carpet, but it can cause them to slip on hardwood or tile. This is a constant hindrance to their movement, and it can lead to injuries.
What types are available?
It’s important to find clippers that will work well for your dog’s nails and for your comfort level. Although there are many variations of dog nail clippers on the market, they fall into three main categories:
- Scissor clippers - As the name suggests, these clippers are used like a pair of scissors to cut your dog’s nails.
- Guillotine clippers - These are pretty self-explanatory, too; they work like a tiny guillotine to cut the tip of your dog’s nails off.
- Nail grinders - Grinder tools, also called dremels, are electric tools that use a sandpaper-like surface to slowly grind your dog’s nails down. They can also be used to smooth the nail after cutting.
Large Dog Nail Clippers
In general, the preferred type of nail clippers to use for big dogs is the scissor-style clippers. This is because large-breed dogs have thicker nails that are easier to cut through with the scissor design, which allows you to apply more force. Even with a large dog, you should use the smallest size of clippers that will fit the nail, for precision. Only giant breeds require very large clippers.
Scissor clippers may have handles with holes for your fingers, like regular scissors, or they may look more like pliers. Either way, the handles should be non-slip or fitted to your hand in such a way that you can hold them securely while clipping, and they have two metal blades that come together to cut the dog’s nail. They are held like a pair of scissors and the nail is inserted between the blades at an angle that is based on the curve of the nail. Be sure that the cutting blade (the sharper metal blade) is facing away from your dog’s paw.
For Small Dogs
The preferred type of nail clippers for small dogs is the guillotine type. Guillotine clippers have a hole for the nail to fit into and a single blade that comes down to trim it. They are preferred for small dogs because they are able to cut through the thinner nails of small breeds, which don’t require a large amount of force to get through. Most people find guillotine clippers easier to use, and they can allow for more precision and be more comfortable for people with joint problems.
The orientation of guillotine-style clippers’ handles resembles human nail clippers more than those of the scissor-style clippers. One handle is squeezed down onto the other, but with the dog clippers, this is done to push the cutting blade forward rather than down. The tip of the nail is inserted into the hole of the clippers, keeping the angle consistent with the natural curve of the nail, and the handle is squeezed in one swift motion to slice it off. Just like with the scissor clippers, it’s important to make sure that the cutting blade is facing away from the dog and the protective metal plate is facing towards them.
Nail grinders, or nail dremels, are chargeable or battery-powered devices that slowly grind a dog’s nail down. They have a motor and a small grinding wheel, like a circular nail file, which spin at high speeds to file down the dog’s nails. Some nail grinders have uncovered grinding wheels, and others have plastic covers with a small window to fit the nail into. They usually have multiple speed settings, which can be varied to fit your and your dog’s comfort with the process.
Before using a nail grinding tool, you may want to get your dog acquainted with it. Although most nail grinders are designed to be as quiet as possible, they will always make some noise and produce some vibration, which could be confusing or frightening to your dog. Show them that there is nothing to be afraid of before putting their nails into the device!
The nail grinder can be used to shorten nails, but be prepared for the fact that this will be much slower than using clippers. They can also be used around the sharp edges of newly clipped nails to make them smooth. In either case, be sure to brace your dog’s nail against your finger while grinding it down, as the movement of the grinding wheel can pull the nail in the direction it’s spinning in. This can be uncomfortable for your dog, not to mention counterproductive, since the friction of the spinning wheel against the stationary nail is what grinds it down.
Avoiding the Quick
While overgrown nails can split to expose the quick, improperly trimming nails can cut into the quick and cause just as much damage. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid this when you trim your dog’s nails.
- Clippers with sensor - Some guillotine or scissor clippers have sensors to detect the quick. They sense whether the clippers are in a safe location on the nail and tell you with a clear visual indicator, such as a light, that the dog’s quick is out of the way.
- Check light nails - If your dog has light-colored nails, the quick is usually visible. It will be a pink, opaque structure inside the translucent nail. Once you can see it, it’s easy to avoid! Just be sure to give the quick some space when positioning the clippers.
- Go slow with dark nails - Finding the quick can be difficult or impossible if your dog has dark-colored nails. To avoid trimming into the quick when you can’t see it, trim the nail in very small increments. When the trimmed end of the nail looks white, with a dark dot in the middle, it’s time to stop.
- Don’t go too short - The quick grows out along with the nail, so if it’s been a long time since your dog’s nails have been trimmed, the quick needs time to recede. This might mean you don’t cut them as short as they need to be the first time, if the quick is grown out past the appropriate length of the nails. As you continue to trim the nails regularly, the quick will recede, and eventually you will be able to trim the nails as short as necessary.
- Don’t panic - At some point, despite your best efforts, you will probably hit the quick accidentally. Even professional groomers make this mistake sometimes! Your dog won’t sustain any severe effects, and they know you didn’t mean to hurt them, but there are ways you can minimize the problem and make them feel better. You can keep styptic powder on hand in case this happens, which will stop the bleeding instantly. Be sure to reward your dog with lots of treats and pets if this happens, and re-introduce them to the clippers so that they don’t view them as something that wants to hurt them.
Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is an important part of grooming them and keeping them healthy. You should be sure to get the right kind of clippers for them and know how to use them properly. If you don’t feel confident, you can ask your groomer, your vet, or an experienced pet owner you know to show you how to use them. You can introduce nail clipping to your dog slowly, with treats and praise, to make them feel more confident, too. When you cut your dog’s nails regularly, it will become as easy as cutting your own, and they may even come to view it as a pleasant experience! Your dog and their paws will thank you for learning to use nail clippers.
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