Nail Trimming Techniques and Injury Prevention for Furry Feet

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Just as May’s flowers begin to spring up from the ground once again, so do our pets’ desires to spring forth into nature with renewed vigour. And now that the snow is gone, all that grows will be in need of a special kind of care – including our four-legged friends. One area that requires vigilance is their paws, and a good place to start is the nails.


Nails will inevitably grow and, like your bushes, need trimming. Ideally, plenty of outdoor exercise for dogs and a good scratching post for indoor cats helps a lot. But if this doesn’t keep their talons in shape, here’s what you’ll need to have, and do, to tackle the clipping task with more ease:

1)  Proper nail clippers: Unlike humans, cats and dogs have veins in their nails. Using special clippers designed for dog or cat nails will help avoid injury. A variety of these products are on the market. Shop around for the one that suits your furry friend best.

2)  Bach’s Rescue Remedy: If your pet is the anxious type or if it’s his first trimming, a few drops of this homeopathic remedy in his water dish an hour or so before the clipping session – time it when he’s most inclined to drink – will calm him so you can do your job more efficiently.

3)  Blood stopper: Should things go awry and you hit a vein, it’s good to have a blood stopper nearby. Vets usually use styptic powder, but in a pinch a cornstarch and water paste will work also, dabbed on the nail with a Q-tip. It may be best to leave the job for the next day, and be extra gentle, giving him treats so he’ll equate the experience more with pleasure than pain. (Ed. note: In a pinch, hydrogen peroxide works well as a quick blood stopper and disinfectant.)

4)  Security blanket: For skittish cats and smaller dogs, wrapping them in a shawl-sized blanket – ‘burrito style’ – will help keep them still and give you more control. Sit beside Skitty when she’s relaxing on the blanket and pet her. Then quickly wrap the edges of the blanket around her body as if you’re snugly wrapping a burrito. Before she has a chance to react, scoop her up in your arms, leaving only her head exposed. Make sure to continue stroking her head and talk in soothing tones throughout.

5)  The Fine Pink Line: So as to avoid cutting the nail to “the quick,” look for a pink line (that’s where the veins begin) – it’s easier to detect on white nails – and steer clear of it. If you hit a vein, it will be fairly painful for your pet. Next, take one paw out and press it gently so the nails will pop out. Place the clipper where the curve in the nail is and clip fast; pet your pet after the first cut, as a reward and to keep her calm. You need a steady hand and a relaxed animal to perfect this chore. If you feel uncertain, cut closer to the tip of the nail for a first-time trim to get your pet used to the experience, or consider observing how a professional does it.


Now that those nails are taken care of you’ll want to bear in mind other matters. While your pets are out rolling about in the meadows, their wee paws are always in danger of getting nasty things stuck in them, such as glass, thorns and other objects (this goes for indoors too). In addition, scorching hot or freezing pavement is no walk in the park for your pets.

As a preventive measure, for dogs especially, there’s always the booties. Vitality’s editor swears by her dog’s rubber booties, purchased at Global Pet Foods. She says: “If your pet lives in the country, and roams around on natural surfaces, then foot protection is not a big concern. But for urban dwellers, the potential for foot damage from polluted streets, broken bottles, and winter salt is greater. So rubber booties are a great preventive measure for dogs; you can even insert a baby sock inside the bootie to keep paws warm in winter. For cats – forget the boots and try coating the feet in beeswax or some other natural barrier.”


When booties aren’t an option (as with most cats) and if your little guy or girl gets something unpleasant stuck in his / her paw, first assess the extent of the damage. It may require a vet’s attention. Many objects, though, can be removed with a pair of tweezers (again, the burrito blanket is helpful for smaller animals, to keep them still). If minor bleeding occurs, refer to the above note on using a blood stopper. As well, you’ll want to disinfect minor cuts. Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar, an old standby, is a great disinfectant to treat sores and wounds. Simply pour it onto a clean cloth, and apply gently to the wound. It’s an antibacterial, antifungal, and immune booster all in one. So feel free to put a teaspoon in a bowl of their drinking water as well as dabbing it in their feet.

Animals’ paws can be particularly sensitive, even though their pads are tough, so if they’re injured in that area they may need bandaging.

For more tips on caring for your furry friends’ feet, read up next month on the more common types of foot wounds and ailments that can affect your pets and the various holistic remedies to prevent or help heal them.

(Editor’s note: For in depth information on the use of homeopathy for treating feline injuries, visit:

News Brief

by Michael Downey

Did you know that even a single grape can destroy the liver of a dog, cat or other pet and cause death? The list of human foods potentially fatal to pets is extensive, running from chocolate, nuts and onions to tomatoes, potato peels and broccoli; we just don’t have the full list.  Cats are carnivore obligates, meaning they can derive no nutrition at all from plant foods. Dogs are carnivores, meaning that they can digest some plant foods but, like cats, they must get a lot of protein and fat to survive.

(Ed. note: For dinner my dog gets half a grated apple mixed into his organic chicken which is also laced with vitamins and minerals. This helps to flush toxins out of the bloodstream and keep the bowels running smoothly.)

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