Trimming overgrown dog nails can be an unpleasant experience for both the dog and the owner. Many dog owners struggle to trim their dog’s nails properly, leading to tension and discomfort during the process. Dogs can sense their owner’s anxiety when clippers are brought out, exacerbating the situation. Consequently, both the dog and the owner often find the experience unpleasant.

It’s essential to understand the importance of cutting a dog’s nails. Overgrown nails can cause discomfort and pose health risks to our beloved companions. When a dog’s nails become long enough to tap on the floor, they exert pressure on the dog’s legs and feet, impeding its mobility. Failure to trim the nails sufficiently can lead to deformities in the dog’s feet or damage to its tendons.

Consequences of Overgrown Dog Nails

Overgrown dog nails can have several detrimental consequences for your furry friend:

  • Pain and Discomfort: When nails become excessively long, they can curl, putting pressure on the toe joints. This can lead to pain and discomfort when walking, making it difficult for your dog to move around comfortably.
  • Mobility Issues: Overgrown nails can affect your dog’s gait, leading to an altered walking pattern. This can result in muscle strain and even joint problems over time.
  • Infections and Injury: Long nails are more likely to break or splinter, potentially leading to infections in the paw. These infections can be painful and require veterinary attention.
  • Joint Problems: Overgrown nails can alter the alignment of your dog’s toes, which can, in turn, affect the alignment of their joints. This can lead to long-term joint problems.
  • Behavioral Changes: Dogs with overgrown nails may become irritable, anxious, or aggressive due to pain and discomfort. This can negatively impact their overall behavior and well-being.

How to Trim Severely Overgrown Dog Nails Safely?

Overgrown Dog Nails

Step one: Make your pooch comfortable

To help your dog overcome their fear of nail-trimming tools, start by allowing them to investigate the clippers or rotary nail grinder (Dremel). Encourage this with treats to create a positive association. Repeat over several sessions until your dog is comfortable with these tools.

If using a Dremel, also work on their tolerance to the noise, rewarding them when it’s turned on.
Be patient; some dogs quickly associate tools with treats, while others may take longer, especially if they’ve had previous bad experiences. With time, they’ll become more comfortable.

Step two: Use the Right Trimming Materials:

Standard nail clippers won’t suffice for your canine companion, as dog nails differ significantly from human nails. Utilize nail clippers specifically designed for dogs because dog nails are larger and cylindrical. Various options are accessible, including the guillotine tool, ideal for beginners, the scissor-type nail clipper, suitable for short dog claws, and the clamp-type nail clipper, frequently favored by veterinarians and professional pet groomers for its ease of use and long-lasting sharpness.

Step three: Get into the nail-trimming position

Having a second person to hold, pet, and distract the dog can be helpful. If your dog is small, you can hold them in your lap, ensuring you have a clear view of their nails and never cutting blindly.

When in a safe position, lift your dog’s paw and hold it close to its body to prevent it from pulling it away. You can separate the nails you plan to trim by squeezing the paw and lifting one of their toes from underneath.

Step four: Locate the quick

Before using the clippers or grinder on an overgrown nail, examine the nail in light to identify the quick. In light-colored nails, the quick will appear darker and pinkish.

For dogs with dark nails, estimating the start of the quick can be challenging. In this case, trim small bits of the nail at a time. As you trim deeper, a grayish-pink oval will become visible at the top of the cut surface, as explained by the Washington State University veterinary school. You might also notice a small black dot in the center of the white portion. When you see these signs, you’re nearing the quick and should stop cutting.

Step five: Trim or grind the nail quickly

Once you’re in position, have isolated a nail, and located the quick, it’s time to begin trimming. Use your preferred clippers and trim a tiny portion of the nail at a time. Cut at a slight angle following the nail’s natural shape. After each cut, examine the freshly cut tip for the little black dot that signals when to stop.

Trim the nails promptly and safely, aiming to stay relaxed. Excessive hesitation may make your dog sense your nervousness, while rushing increases the risk of accidents. Trim efficiently but take breaks as needed. Remember to reward your dog with praise and treats to maintain a positive association with nail trims.

Step six: Take your time, and repeat regularly

When trimming your dog’s nails, repeat the process for each nail separately. If you’re new to it, don’t expect to finish all at once; it may take minutes or even a day between nails. For dogs with long nails, gradually trim them as the quick recedes, and aim to trim once a week until it becomes routine.

What steps should I follow to prevent overgrown dog nails in the future?

Overgrown Dog Nails

Preventing and managing overgrown dog nails is crucial for your pet’s health and happiness. Here are some solutions:

  • Regular Nail Trimming: It’s essential to trim your dog’s nails that are overgrown regularly. If you’re unsure how to do this, consult your veterinarian or a professional groomer for guidance.
  • Use a Nail Grinder: Nail grinders are a safer alternative to clippers and can help you achieve a smoother finish when trimming your dog’s nails.
  • Encourage Exercise: Regular physical activity on different surfaces can naturally wear down your dog’s nails. Daily walks and playtime in the yard are beneficial.
  • Proper Diet: Ensure your dog’s diet is well-balanced and includes essential nutrients like biotin and zinc, which promote healthy nail growth.
  • Positive Reinforcement: If your dog is fearful of nail trims, use positive reinforcement techniques, like treats and praise, to make the experience more enjoyable for them.
  • Professional Help: If you’re uncomfortable trimming your dog’s nails or if they have overgrown to a severe extent, seek professional help from a groomer or veterinarian.


Overgrown dog nails may seem like a minor issue, but they can have a significant impact on your furry friend’s overall health and happiness. By understanding the causes and consequences of overgrown nails and taking proactive steps to prevent and address them, you can ensure that your dog enjoys a pain-free and active life. Remember, regular nail maintenance is not just a matter of aesthetics; it’s a fundamental aspect of responsible pet ownership.

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