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Wed, Jan. 22

All About Pets: Nail clipping can be done with knowledge, care

BoJay checks out the nail clipping supplies while waiting for the action to begin.  (Courtesy)

BoJay checks out the nail clipping supplies while waiting for the action to begin. (Courtesy)

Once again, I want to mention how much it is appreciated when readers contact me in response to a column. Whether you agree with me or not, it is wonderful to hear from you. Thank you so very much. Generally, those who respond do agree with me. I have been hearing about all sorts of cuddly comforting cats of late, and about one who loves to travel with the family in their camper trailer and also gets nightly walks, in a harness naturally. What a lucky kitty.

On to a new subject: nail clipping for our dogs and cats. Many people are afraid to do it because they fear clipping into a vein and causing excessive bleeding. It is frightening. With a little knowledge and care, it can be safely done.

When I was involved with the dog show circuit many years ago while working in the pet food industry, I was quite horrified to see some show dogs with their nails clipped way too close, which certainly caused excessive bleeding, in order to get the desired effect of delicate paws. How awful.

There is a simple method of trimming the nails without danger of hitting the vein. This involves just clipping off the very tip of the nail, but doing it regularly. The best way is to say that on the 1st of each month, you will get that pup, or kitty, on your lap or on a sturdy table and bring out the clippers.

It is important to have the proper tools on hand, which include a nice sharp clipper. There are a couple of varieties - I personally like the guillotine style. But just so it is sharp and you and your pet are comfortable with it. Recently, I have been using the Dremel, which is the new tool on the block. A grinding tool, the pet needs to get accustomed to the sound, so just like with the clipper, take your time in introducing it.

Also, you want a container of styptic powder, so that if you happen to get too close to that nerve, you can dip the affected nail into the styptic powder and it immediately stops any bleeding. I certainly do not recommend relying on this magic powder but it is comforting to have it on hand in preparing for the actual clipping.

However, prior to the actual routine of clipping, lots of preparation work needs to be done. I highly recommend finding a book with clear photos of the nail clipping procedure. (It is important to have a good reference book on hand with details of many of these necessary procedures you will be involved in during your years of pet parenting!)

As you certainly have noticed, with light colored cats and dogs, it is much easier to see the nerve within the nail. With our dark coated pets, the nail is black. That is why just clipping off the very tip of the nail is the safest way to approach this task.

From the time your buddy is a pup or kitten, get him close to you and show him the clippers or Dremel. Allow him to smell it and feel is up against his body while also running your fingers around his feet. Do not go any further than this until your pet is fully comfortable with the tool. This might take a while, but do not be in a hurry. Your patience now will make a difference for their lifetime. Do not move forward with this step until your pet is totally relaxed. (This same advice is essential for the tooth brushing process.)

One hazard with the Dremel is that it can quickly snatch up any piece of hair that is nearby. Once this happens, it gets tightly wrapped around the head of the instrument and, first, it will be painful to whoever the hair belongs to, and also, it is difficult to remove.

Many pet owners give this task of nail clipping to a groomer. Some vet offices also provide this service. With time and patience, it can comfortably be done at home.

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