Nail trimming important in caring for older pets

Sitting down on the couch last evening, my old Tom cat jumped on my lap and began purring, content that I was finally home for the day.

Responding to my gentle petting, he began kneading my soft sweater with his front paws. It was a relaxing moment until his sharp claws came through the sweater’s material, making contact with my skin. It could have been my shriek, or perhaps the jolt in my movement as his claws sunk into bare skin, but he immediately jumped to the floor.

I picked up the pet nail clippers from on the coffee table while Tom suspiciously eyed them, contemplated his next move. Anticipating an inevitable pedicure, he paused briefly before resuming his position on my lap. It has taken quite some time to get him to readily accept nail trimming, but I think he realizes how much better his claws feel after each session.

Tom is getting on in years and while he frequently uses his scratching post, he is not able to adequately care for what I refer to as “old cat nails.” They are thick, yet brittle when you cut them, often sloughing off in the nail clippers.

Elderly pets typically need assistance to keep their nails trimmed because of reduced activity levels, but even younger animals frequently need their nails clipped.

Teaching your pet to readily accept nail trims requires time and patience because most animals instinctively despise it. If you have ever cut your pet’s nails too short, severing the “quick,” you instantly realize this is quite painful and even frightening for the animal. Additionally, it is quite alarming for you as your pet’s blood surges out of the stubbed exposure.

For those who have experienced this unfortunate circumstance, the realization that this procedure is better left to professionals, whether it be your veterinarian or a pet groomer, is undoubtedly justified.

The anatomy of an animal’s toenail includes the hard nail casing surrounded by the “quick,” which delivers blood to the nail promoting growth. If you shear the quick, it is painful and will bleed profusely.

A white toenail is translucent with the thin pink line of the quick encompassed within the nail. Black nails unfortunately offer no visual guide for determining the length of the quick.

The action of the clippers as they cut through the nail produces a pressure that is relieved once the nail is cut. I think most animals’ aversion to nail clipping is because of that pressure.

Clipping your pet’s nails can be a challenging feat but with perseverance and a few tricks, you can make it a more enjoyable experience.

I have contemplated if animals are ticklish. Many humans’ feet are sensitive to touch, therefore it stands to reason that animals may have the same sensation.

So before you even introduce the nail clippers, you need to de-sensitize your pet’s paws. Simply touch your pet’s paws frequently. Soothingly rub them, probing in between their toes with your fingers. Once you can handle their paws without them pulling back, then you can introduce the clippers.

It is undeniably easier if there are two people assisting in the pedicure, one to hold the animal while the other clips the nails. However, the trust between you and your pet is only accomplished through these special moments. The greater challenge is teaching your pet to accept and willingly cooperate with the procedure.

Start by just taking off the tip followed by several thin slices until the nail becomes harder to cut through or the quick becomes visible. Exam the nail after each cut to determine the proximity of the quick. Reassure your pet with praise throughout the process.

The idea is to make it a pleasant experience. You will feel more resistance from the clippers as you go farther into the nail. It becomes thicker the closer you get to the quick. If in doubt, stop. Leaving more nail is definitely preferable than cutting too much.

There are several different types of nail clippers available, and most come in a variety of sizes. I prefer the open ended clippers compared to the guillotine type simply because I can pull the clipper out easier if the animal begins to fuss. Most pet nail clippers have a shield, which acts as a guide, preventing you from cutting too far back into the nail. I highly recommend using this safeguard, especially when you are just beginning to clip your pet’s nails.

Some animals naturally keep their nails shorter by digging, running, scratching and clawing, but many need our assistance. Nails that have not been cared for can grow circularly into the foot causing pain and often leading to more serious conditions.

As a good pet guardian, realize your pet may need your help in their care and well-being while recognizing that if the process is too overwhelming, professional assistance is available.

Charlé Thibodeau has been passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years and is the owner of Ah, Natural! Ltd. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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