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How to Trim Dog Nails that Are Overgrown

Trimming Dog Nails

Long nails on your dog are more than a nuisance — they can also cause pain for your dog and can eventually lead to health problems if not addressed. 

The best way to keep your dog’s nails in check is to trim them regularly. But if your dog’s nails get to a place where they’ve overgrown too much, you’ll need to take extra care when trimming their nails. While it might be tempting to go ahead and cut an overgrown nail short right away, this could lead you to accidentally cut the quick, which can lead to pain and bleeding for your dog. That’s because when a dog’s nail grows too long, the quick grows along with it. 

Instead, you’ll want to gradually cut your dog’s overgrown nails over time — a little bit each week, so that the quick can gradually recede. Once you’ve developed this routine, you can continue to trim your dog’s nails every week or every other week to avoid getting into another overgrown situation.

how to trim dog's nails

How to cut your dog’s nails

Follow these steps to cut your dog’s overgrown nails easily and painlessly:

  1. First, try to make the experience as pleasant as possible for your dog. If your dog is nervous, try giving him a treat as soon as he sees the nail clippers, so he’ll learn to associate the clippers with a reward.
  2. Get into a position where you can see your dog’s nails very clearly. Hold your dog’s paw firmly and locate the quick before clipping. Note: If your dog has light-colored nails, you should be able to see a pink-ish part of the nail where the quick begins. If your dog has darker nails, the quick may be hard to see from the outside. Cut a tiny bit at a time; as you cut, you should be able to see the quick emerging by looking at the cut part of your dog’s nails. It will look like a small circle that is white, gray or pink. 
  3. If your dog’s nails are overgrown, only trim a bit at a time, since his quicks will also be overgrown. Over time, it will be easier to get into a consistent trimming routine and you’ll figure out how often is the right amount to cut your dog’s nails. 

What to do if you cut the quick

Cutting the quick is certainly not ideal, but it happens to the best of dog parents. If you cut the quick for your dog, your dog will start bleeding immediately. Don’t panic. Instead, focus on staying calm and stopping the bleeding with styptic powder. (Cornstarch or flour will also work if you don’t have any styptic powder.) Take a break from nail cutting for the day and revisit it again when both you and your pup have had some time to recuperate.

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