Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Q: Bleeding Nail life threatening?

Dr. Schaeberle,

Can my dog “Sam” bleed to death if I cut his toenails too short?



Dear April,

The short answer to your question is: No. It is true that there is a vein in each toenail, and if cut too short, it will bleed like crazy, but Sam will not bleed to death. Any one who has ever trimmed a pet’s nails will tell you they occasionally accidentally trim one too short and make it bleed, even veterinarians and groomers. What I like to do before I start is make sure I have some styptic powder (a powder used to stop the bleeding that is sold at all pet shops) open and ready to go BEFORE I begin clipping. That way if I do nick one, I’m not frantically looking all over the place for it. I can then readily get some of the powder and apply it immediately to the bleeding nail. If you don’t have styptic powder, corn starch or even baby powder may work, but styptic powder is the best.

Not all dogs need their nails trimmed, but most do at some time or another. A pet’s activity and environment may dictate the frequency of the trims. The best time to get started on trimming your pet’s nails is when they are puppies or kittens. Get them used to it early, and they’re usually comfortable with it throughout their lives. And it always helps to pour on the praise and hugs while you’re doing it. Offering treats throughout the process can help a lot, too.

There are multiple instruments that can be used for nail trimming. There are three main types with many variations of each: the guillotine, scissor, and grinder. One is really not any better than the others, it’s more of a personal preference for the user, and most importantly for the pet. You may even need to try multiple devices before you find the right fit for you and Sam.

Many dogs don’t like to have their nails trimmed at all. You do have a few choices. One is to take them to your veterinarian, or a groomer. Some pet shops offer this service, too. Another is to start all over from the beginning and just trim a little at a time, one nail a day with lots of praise and treats until you’re both comfortable. As a last resort, some dogs need to be sedated by your veterinarian and their nails trimmed while they’re asleep.

The key is to start young and do it often and hopefully that will lead to a happy and carefree nail trimming.

FYI…did you know that only primates have nails? Dogs and cats technically have claws.

Thomas Schaeberle, VMD

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