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The Importance of a PETicure
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
relaxing dip in the pool. But when it comes to an afternoon of
pampering at the nail salon, our pets don't typically share our
idea of relaxation. Nevertheless, even if they find it unpleasant
and stressful, clipping your pets' 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, towels, etc 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 (especially the dewclaws) 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. "They will
naturally sharpen their claws if given adequate substrate to do
this on (i.e. a scratching post or wood), but may need additional
trimming, especially on the back claws." Keep in mind that it is
natural for cats to also use scratching posts to mark their scent,
and even cats that are declawed will "use" a scratching post for
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 we do not typically bathe our
cats, a thorough trim every 2 to 4 weeks is plenty.
As for the clipper itself, there are several brands, types and
sizes to choose from, including scissors, pliers, guillotine, and
nail grinders. "Some work better on cats (i.e. guillotine) 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." It is
best to research which will work best for your pet, as well as test
them out to see which style your cat or dog seems most comfortable
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
When trimming the nail, be sure to avoid the quick, or nerves
and blood vessels located near the bottom of the nail. Just
trimming the excess length will ensure a painless clipping process
for all involved. But 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
Just like people, each pet is unique, with various personalities
and patience levels. It is important to remember that even though
they may not find their PETicure enjoyable at the time, they will
undoubtedly thank you in the long run.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for
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