Cutting a dog’s nails is not just an annoyance or an ordeal. It’s an absolutely necessary task that helps keep your dog happy and healthy.
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A dog’s nails require trimming at least every month or two, sometimes as often as once a week depending on the dog’s breed and “lifestyle.” That means you need at least one pair of high-quality dog nail clippers, because trimming should be a regular part of life with your best friend.
Nail clippers for dogs are very different than those designed for cats or humans. The ones we use on our own nails aren’t sharp enough and can easily crush a dog’s nails. Cat nail clippers can be used in a pinch for small dog breeds, but they’re ordinarily not big or strong enough.
If you care about your dog (and who doesn’t?) you should be cutting nails, not corners; spend a few bucks to invest in one of the best nail clippers for dogs. It will mean much more productive trimming sessions – and less trauma for both you and your pup. (And yes, they’re actually claws, not nails, but since everyone calls them nails we’ll do the same.)
Not sure where to start? Well, it’s best to understand a little about your pet’s nails before you start hacking away at them. Here’s what you should know about dog’s nails, why they must be cut regularly, the types of trimmers available and the proper way to use them. We’ll also include a full listing of the best dog nail clippers reviews to help you decide on the right choice for your pet.
Let’s get started.
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When you take a close look at your dog’s paw, you may think his nails seem similar to your own. That’s because they’re each composed of keratin, a protein composed of dead cells. But they’re probably not the same color as yours, since dog’s nails normally take on the color of the hair and skin surrounding them. Humans with black nails have a problem which must be addressed, but dogs with black nails likely have dark skin. A dog with light skin will have nails that more closely resemble those on the human hand.
There’s one important difference, though. Human nails protect the fingertips, including the blood vessels and nerves below the nail plate, but a dog’s nails are hollow. The vessels and nerves are actually inside of a dog’s nail, contained in an area called the “quick” extending almost all the way to the end of the nail.
Why is that so important? Quite simply, because when you trim a dog’s nails it’s painfully easy to accidentally cut into the quick – with emphasis on the word “painfully”. You can probably imagine how much it hurts when a nerve is cut; you can probably also imagine how skittish the memory of that pain would make a dog the next time he’s approached by someone with clippers in their hand. We’ll discuss this further when we look at the right way to trim a dog’s nails.
Anyone who’s owned a dog knows that most don’t take well to nail-cutting time. And since improper dog nail trimming can lead to accidental pain, you might think it’s safer and easier just to let your dog “trim his own nails” through walking or scratching. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work that way, since domesticated canines rarely have enough exposure to the different types of surfaces that would cause their nails to wear down naturally. The one exception: if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors on hard surfaces his back claws (which dig deeper into the ground as he runs) may only need an occasional trim.
Waiting too long to cut a dog’s nails can be quite dangerous to your pet’s health. Long nails (particularly the dewclaw or “fifth nail” found on many breeds) are prone to breaking, tearing, chipping or ingrown nails; those are all painful in the short-term, and can lead to serious infections over time. Nails that are too long can affect a dog’s gait and cause repeated wobbles and tumbles. In the long run, that may lead to muscle strains, joint and spinal issues, and even malformed legs and feet.
Want one more good reason? The longer a dog’s nails grow, the longer the quick grows and the tougher the nails are to trim. You can’t just leave things to nature – you’re going to have to help your pet with his nails on a regular basis.
The standard rule is that a dog’s nails shouldn’t touch the ground when he’s standing. To put it another way, if you hear your dog’s nails hitting the floor as he walks or runs it’s time to pull out the clippers.
Dog’s nails grow at very different rates due to their breed, the type of food they eat, how much time they spend on their feet and the types of surfaces they normally walk or run on.
That’s why it’s impossible to say how often your dog will need his nails trimmed.
One thing is certain, though. It’s better to cut more frequently than less, particularly when a dog is still a puppy. That way, he’ll get used to the process early in life and won’t object as strenuously to trimming as he gets bigger and stronger.
Another advantage of giving your dog’s nails regular trims: you can catch signs of disorders or diseases early, because you’ll know what his nails look like when they’re healthy.
Inflammation around the nail is often a sign of a disorder called onychomycosis, brittle nails may be caused by onychorrhexis and nails that regularly chip may signal a problem known as oychomadesis. All can be treated easily at the vet’s office if caught early. If those problems are seen on several nails, they could indicate a more serious medical problem such as an immune system issue or cancer. Seek medical advice sooner rather than later.
Discoloration of nails can be caused by injury, poor nutrition or something more serious. If you suspect the issue isn’t trauma-related, a trip to the vet is also a good idea.
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You can choose from three styles of nail clippers for dogs.
None of these should be considered “the best” nail clippers for dogs; the size and nature of your pet will determine which style of trimmer is best for him.
Here are our best dog nail clippers reviews, separated by category.
Even though scissor clippers are commonly the best choice for larger pets, this is actually a very good solution for use as large dog nail clippers. The clippers are hefty and comfortable, five inches in length, and have textured rubber handles that give you firm control and outstanding leverage to cut through the thick nails on medium-sized and large dogs. These guillotine dog nail clippers are made in America and reasonably-priced.ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
Resco invented the guillotine clippers 80 years ago, and still makes a terrific dog nail trimmer. These models are steel, made in the US and come in a more compact size than the Master Grooming Tools trimmer just discussed, making them the perfect small dog nail clippers. Deluxe grips make the Resco tool easy to use, the blades are replaceable for a fraction of the price of buying new clippers, and there’s a lifetime warranty.ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
Boshel is a well-known and respected name in the industry, and their scissors-style models are notable for two reasons: their heavy-duty, 3.5mm stainless steel blades and their integrated blade safety stop guard. The blades deliver a sharp cut that eliminates the risk of uneven trimming and broken nails, and the guard means the Boshel tools are safe dog nail clippers that won’t slide up and accidentally cut the quick. They’re trustworthy, inexpensive and the best dog nail clippers with guard/sensor capability.ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
These clippers are quite similar to the Boshel models, but at a slightly higher price. We’d recommend them more for small and medium-sized dogs, but the cut that their stainless steel angled blades provide would rival most professional dog nail clippers used in pet salons. And like the Boshel, the K9Konnection has a built-in adjustable safety guard that protects the quick, making these trimmers a very good choice for scissors-style dog nail clippers with sensor capability.ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
And now you know why scissors models are sometimes called Millers Forge clippers. These heavy duty dog nail clippers have been around for years and you’ll often see them in vet’s offices or dog groomers’ kits, because their sharp stainless steel blades can perfectly cut through the toughest nails on any breed without splits or breaks. The only downside to the Millers Forge clippers is that there is no safety sensor. Even so, they’re the best nail clippers for large dogs, and the best dog nail clippers for thick nails, at a surprisingly low price.ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
If you’re ready to invest a little time into getting your dog acclimated to the noise and vibration of electric nail clippers, this cordless Hertzko model may be just what you’re looking for. The work is done by a precision diamond bit grinder with small and medium-sized openings for different sized nails, and the cover can be taken off to trim large nails without an issue. The Hertzko is powered by a battery that’s charged by plugging a connecting cord into any USB port – and best of all, there’s a “super mute” motor that minimizes vibrations and noise. These are the best electric nail clippers for dogs.ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
The Dremel cordless dog nail grinder requires a little more work on the user’s part, because you have to unscrew the top of the unit, insert the rotary tool and then tighten the top again. Safety is worth the effort, though, since there’s no cover over the grinder; that also means the Dremel can accommodate any size and thickness of dog nail. The tool has two speeds, can accept the company’s other sanding drums and bands, and comes with a dedicated battery charger.ORDER IT FROM AMAZON
You’ve probably gotten a decent feel for how to use dog nail clippers after reading this far, but here’s a quick guide on how to trim a dog’s nails with the least amount of pain and discomfort – both for the dog and for you.
Sooner or later, usually sooner, you’ll make a mistake and cut your dog’s quick. Don’t panic; the damage is painful, but not serious. Use corn starch or styptic power, plus pressure, to stop the bleeding. It should subside within a couple of minutes.
And don’t feel you’ve failed if your dog won’t tolerate your attempts to keep his nails in great shape – some pets simply won’t allow their owners to trim their nails. If you find yourself in that situation don’t just give up on the idea. As we mentioned, it’s crucial to trim a dog’s nails regularly. You’ll just have to have your groomer or vet take care of the process for you while you enjoy a few minutes of well-earned relaxation.