Nail care is one of the areas all too often overlooked by dog owners. While some dogs will never need their nails trimmed they are the exception to the rule, most will need their nails trimmed every month or so.
Overgrown nails can cause significant problems, they can curl into the dog's paw pads causing infected sores as well as permanently distorting the shape of the dog's foot leading to problems walking. Additionally, the longer the nail is the longer the quick is, so if you don't cut your dog's nails for a long time you will need to reduce their length gradually.
So how should you trim your dog's nails without causing pain and discomfort?
The key is to avoid cutting the sensitive quick which contains the nail's blood supply and nerve. In dogs with white nails the quick is visible as a pink line, by trimming the excess nail just below the quick you should be able to avoid any discomfort. For dogs with black nails where you can't see the quick the best approach is to take small slivers of nail off at a time until you see a black dot appear in the middle of the nail. By doing this you minimise the likelihood of cutting the quick and hurting your dog.
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you will cause the nail to bleed. In this case the best remedy is to apply some styptic powder (available from pet shops) and pressure to stop the bleeding. While there may seem to be a lot of blood you needn't worry too much - your dog is not going to bleed to death because of a cut quick. (Do keep an eye on the nail however to make sure that it heals without getting infected, this is rare but can happen.)
A good indication that it is time to trim your dog’s nails is when you hear them tapping on hard surfaces. However, the more often you trim your dog's nails, the easier the process will become.
It is important that this time you spend with your dog is not a struggle. Be patient.
A dog's nail clipping can be a stressful event for him, especially if someone has
cut the quick before. Dogs tend to remember that painful incident. So, if your
dog is not used to having his nails trimmed or is frightened, simply begin slowly
and hold his toes firmly for 15-30 seconds during practice sessions. You can then
progress from holding his toes to actually trimming them.
With time and patience, you and your dog will become accustomed to the clipping
Below is a helpful illustration showing the structure of the nail and the correct
way to cut it: