Trim those claws

If you’ve never giving your pet a nail trim before, it may seem like a daunting task. But with a little practice and the right equipment, it can be an easy way to save you some money on vet/groomer bills. Keeping an eye on your pet’s nails is important to make sure that they don’t get too long, which can cause discomfort while walking. Sometimes nails can get so long that they curl under and grow into your pet’s foot pads! Ouch!!

Interested in learning how to trim those nails yourself? Here are some instructions:


You need the right tools.

You can purchase nail clippers at your local pet shop. They come in large and small sizes (large clippers pictured below); you’ll need to choose the right one for the size of your pet. I like using human nail clippers to trim cat, guinea pig, and rabbit nails, but you may find the scissor handle of small-animal nail clippers easier to use.


Styptic powder to stop potential bleeding.

If you cut the nail too short, you will injure the quick (blood vessels and nerves inside claw) and cause bleeding. You can find styptic powder at the pet store, near the clippers. If the nail starts to bleed, press a pinch of styptic powder at the site of bleeding, press into nail and hold for a couple of seconds. This usually works really well to stop the blood flow (more like drip rather than flow), but sometimes you need to apply a little more. An easy way to have quick access to your styptic powder is to cut off the end of a small syringe (see photo above), pull down on the plunger, and then pack the powder into the syringe. If you need to use it, you can just grab the syringe and stick the claw into the packed powder. This also ensures that an open bottle of powder doesn’t get kicked over and spilt all over your floor.

I know some people successfully use corn starch in place of styptic powder.


Towel or blanket.

Depending on your pet’s personality, you may find it useful to wrap him/her up in a towel or small blanket while performing a nail trim. Think of swaddling a baby; a snug, but not too tight wrap just to hold kicking legs in place. You will just need to be able to have the foot you’re working on exposed so you can trim the nails.


An extra human.

An extra set of hands may be needed, again, depending on your pet’s personality. Some dogs loath having their feet touched, and will do all they can to get away from you. Having someone else restrain your pet so you can focus on the nails can be very helpful. Cats typically don’t appreciate being “restrained”, so having someone gently hold the cat in their lap while you work on the nails, may work out better for you and your kitty.



Wriggling bodies and legs can make what could be a few minute endeavor take a really long time. If you’re struggling to get your pet to hold still, you may want to take a break and try again in a few hours, or the next day. Especially when you’re performing your first few nail trims, your confidence may be lacking, or that extra human you have to help restrain may not be restraining  quite so well, either way…be patient with yourself and your pet (and the other human).

Start clipping!

Pick a paw. Hold your pet’s foot with one hand, using your fingers to gently splay out the nails. Stick the tip of one claw into the nail clippers, and snip, starting with just a couple of millimeters first.

Keep in mind that no matter how much your furry friend loves you, if you cut into the quick, that hurts and you may get bit (this is when a good restrainer is a blessing). White claws are much easier to trim because you can visualize where the quick starts (can you see where the inside of the claw turns pink?). You can look at the side of all nails to see where it starts to get thicker, that’s a good indicator as to where the quick starts, so don’t trim too close to that area. With more experience, you’ll eventually have a better idea of the anatomy of your pet’s toenails.


Make this a happy time for yourself and your pet! Offer some treats, or a little canned food while you trim the nails, and afterwards as well. Praise your dog for being good, and apologize to your cat for ruining his day.

Before nail trim: black guinea pig nails, white cat nails

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After nail trim: guinea pig, cat

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Kim Smith

Hello and welcome! Once upon a time I was a licensed animal nurse. When I had my first child I decided to leave my career and stay at home with baby. Having a child changed my perception of, products, environment, education, work, life. Everything. Since then I've been on a journey to create a more simple, holistic way of life for my family, to include the cats, dogs and chickens (and any other feathered or furry creature we have). I believe that every choice we make can bring us closer to, or take us farther away from, a harmonious existence. And our wellbeing is multi-faceted, if one area of our life is out of whack it effects everything else about us. What we eat, what we put on and in our bodies, how we integrate with our environment, how we spend our time with loved-ones, how we nourish our brains and ALL matters. I want to share information with you that I find truly valuable in living holistically; taking care of our whole selves. Thank-you for visiting! Kim Smith All photos used are my own, unless otherwise noted.

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