Nail trimming is a common procedure performed throughout the day in small animal clinics. Each nail trim consists of a different animal interaction; sometimes they are fast and relaxed, while other times they may be very stressful for the animal.
When I first started trimming dog and cat nails, I was “dropped in the water and told to swim.” Somebody just gave me a nail trimmer and off I went. Thankfully, my basic anatomical knowledge was enough that I got my bearings quite quickly. I would repeat in my head, “stay away from the quick, aim for symmetry.” The quick is the vascular tissue located proximal to the start of the claw. Staying away from the quick was always my #1 priority for the well-being of the animal. Symmetry in the cuts I was making was also for the well-being of the animal, as a completely unaltered gait is an objective of every nail trim. Additionally, symmetry is important for owner satisfaction. It is important that owners know that we, as aspiring practitioners, take pride in our work and take enough time with nail trims so that the end product appears professional and clean.
The most important thing I have learned about nail trimming (as well as many other parts of life and practice) is to be patient and relaxed. When we rush through nail trims, mistakes are almost guaranteed to happen.
I suspect that many of us have spent time at clinics where we have felt rushed through procedures and appointments. It can be difficult to stay focused and calm during a hectic day, especially when unexpected appointments arrive and emergencies occur. Staying composed throughout the day is a skill we all must learn in one way or another. With procedures such as nail trims, this composure becomes even more important. Nail trims may seem routine to us, but not necessarily to the client and patient.