The Edmond Sun

September 22, 2013

Pet Talk: The importance of a 'pet'icure

Pet Talk
CNHI News Service

— You and your beloved pet may share a lot in common: enjoying long walks in the park, snuggling up on the couch, or even taking a dip in the pool. But when it comes to an afternoon of pampering at the nail salon, our pets don't always find it as relaxing as their human friends. Nevertheless, even if your pets find it unpleasant and stressful, clipping nails is a crucial grooming technique for their overall health and well-being.

Leaving your pet's nails untrimmed can lead to pain and discomfort from many different sources.  

Nails that are too long can get hung on fabric, blankets, or towels  and get torn off, which is not only painful, but tends to cause a great deal of bleeding, said Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

Nails that are too long can also grow around and into the footpads, causing pain and infection.

Popular to contrary belief, dogs aren't the only pets that require a routine clipping. Our feline friends need some nail pampering on a regular basis as well.

"Outdoor cats who climb trees keep their own nails short, but with the majority of our cats living indoors, they too need nail trims," Eckman said.

Cats will naturally sharpen their claws if given something to do this on – such as a scratching post or wood – but they may need additional trimming, especially on the back claws.

Trimming your pet's nails can be done as often as necessary. For dogs, trimming their nails whenever you bathe them can be convenient for both of you. Since most people do not typically bathe their cats, a thorough trim every two to four weeks is plenty.

There are several brands, types and sizes of clippers to choose from, including scissors, pliers, guillotine, and nail grinders.

"Some work better on cats than others, and some are better for larger dogs with thicker nails," said Eckman. "Others claim to 'find the quick' so you don't cause the nail to bleed, but I don't think these work very well."

Letting your pet become acclimated to nail clipping at an early age can also help the process go more smoothly. Once they become comfortable with you holding their paws as kittens or puppies, gradually start clipping one or two nails a day, and follow up with lots of positive rewards for their cooperation. Giving them their favorite treats or even a long tummy scratch should do the trick.

Even with the most painless technique and gradual of introductions, there are pets that seem unable to get over their terror of nail clipping. If your cat or dog falls under this category, it may be helpful to seek help from an assistant to hold down and calm them while you do the deed. If that backfires and your pet is still too stressed, then talk to your veterinarian about strategies to help make nail trims less stressful, Eckman said.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.