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Grooming Your Dog

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Nail Clipping

Most people really don’t handle their dog’s feet until they are about to clip the nails and then...watch out! Some animals can get very upset at this totally foreign feeling. That’s why it’s a good idea to get your dog used to having her feet touched before you attempt a nail trim. Rub your hand up and down her leg and then gently press each individual toe-and be sure to give her lots of praise and some food treats as you do this. Every animal is different, but chances are that within a week or two of daily foot massage, your dog will be better able to tolerate a trim. Here’s how to do it:

  • Begin by spreading each of your dog’s feet to inspect for dirt and debris.
  • Use sharp, guillotine-type nail clippers to cut off the tip of each nail at a slight angle, just before the point where it begins to curve.
  • Take care to avoid the quick, a vein that runs into the nail. This pink area can be seen through the nail. If your dog has black nails, however, the quick will not be as easily discernible, so be extra careful.
  • If you do accidentally cut into the quick, it may bleed, in which case you can apply some styptic powder to stop the bleeding.Once the nails have been cut, use an emery board to smooth any rough edges.

Special Breeds, Special Needs

Dogs with loose facial skin or wrinkles-such as shar peis and pugs-will need special attention. To prevent dirt and bacteria from causing irritation and infection, clean the folds with damp cotton. Always thoroughly dry the areas between the folds.

If your dog has long or droopy ears, you should check them weekly. Remove wax and dirt from your pet’s ears with a cotton ball moistened with water or a little mineral oil. You may need to remove any excess hair leading into the ear canal; ask your pet’s vet or groomer to show you how before trying it at home. There are special hair removers that allow you to carefully pull one strand at a time.

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WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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