During my time working in the veterinary field, one very common request has been for either the vet or tech to trim the pet’s nails during an appointment. Many pet owners are understandably particular about who they let trim their cat or dog’s nails. No one wants to see their pet’s nails quicked and bleeding or hear them yelp in pain from the clippers getting to close to the quick. I always feel a heightened sense of pressure during a nail trim as I don’t want the pet or the client to leave with any negative associations about their appointment. Luckily, there are many things both pet owners and veterinary staff can do to reduce the stress of nail trims!
- Practice Makes Perfect. I learned how to do nail trims by practicing on my own dogs! Once a week, they all get lined up at home, and every nail gets trimmed. I became very comfortable with my own clippers, and I even got a couple different styles of nail trimmers so I can feel confident no matter where I’m working. I learned the best way to hold each paw, work quickly, and clip without quicking (for the most part) in a relatively stress-free environment. Practicing on my own dogs has the added perk of my dogs now being really good about having their nails trimmed. Win-win!
- Learn to See the Quicks. When you’ve looked at a lot of nails, especially nails that are clear, you can get a good feel for where the quick should be. Before you start trimming, check the pet’s nails and see if any of them are clear instead of black. You can see the quick in a clear nail so you don’t trim too short. Do the clear nail first to get an idea of how short to go, then you can more easily trim the darker nails.
- Training is Key! We want nail trims to be as stress-free as possible for pets! Desensitization to having paws held, picked up, and rubbed will go along way towards having a positive nail trimming experience. This should hopefully start as soon as a new pet is brought home, no matter their age. Give your new pet exam clients ‘homework’ to mess with their dog’s feet. This should also be combined with positive reinforcement training. Every time the pet is calm while having their feet touched or held, they get a treat! You can also use treats as a distraction during the nail trim!