Cut Your Dog’s Nails Too Short? (Do This)

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Introduction

What do you do if you cut your dog’s nails too short? Dog owners all over the world have had this experience. Now, if you’ve never done this, count your lucky stars because the result is no fun for anyone, whether canine or human.

But if you are a dog owner that prefers to cut their dog’s nails (as I do), then there is a good chance that this will happen to you at one time or another.

When you cut your dog’s nails too short or file them below a certain level, it can cause pain, bleeding, and even infection. But most obvious to you will be the discomfort and dissatisfaction your dog feels when they let out an inevitable “yip!”.

Unfortunately, many dogs fear having their nails clipped, for a variety of different reasons, so when your dog is struggling and wiggling all over the place it results in more easily cutting that nail’s quick.

Another common reason your dog may not like his nails clipped is if he had a bad experience in the past. For example, the first time of having clipped the quick, your dog will be less likely to want to sit quietly and allow you to trim their nails again.

Fortunately, there’s a simple checklist of things you can do to remedy the situation if you cut your dog’s nails too short. Pet owners who cut their dog’s nails (or want to start) then read on to learn about what steps you should take in the event your grooming session goes off the rails.

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Why Do A Dog’s Nails Bleed When Trimmed Too Short?

Dog’s fingernails differ from ours in several ways, most notably in their structure. Whereas the base of our finger and toenails are protected by cuticles, the barrier between a dog’s nails and its circulatory system is much thinner. 

In the most basic terms, a dog’s nails are comprised of three parts: the nail itself, the quick (more on that in a moment), and the bone. Only one of those parts can be clipped without resulting in pain for your furry friend.

Dog nails provide a generous amount of wiggle room between the tip of their nail and the next layer, so you shouldn’t be afraid to do any paw pedis yourself. But cut too short to the quick and you and your canine customer might be in for quite an unpleasant experience.

brown dog paw being held in hand having it's nails cut

What is a Quick?

The quick is a fleshly, pink, or reddish area in front of the bone that contains blood vessels, which provides blood flow to the nail. Quicks are easily seen in dogs with white or more translucently shaded nails, although not every pup is so lucky. Many have opaque or even black nails that can make dog nail trimming quite the nail-biting experience.

Why nails bleed when cut too closely to the quick…

Nails bleed when they are cut too short because, simply put, the quick is a sack of flowing blood that keeps your dog’s nails healthy. So, when you cut into this membrane, it exposes a part of the nail that is not meant to go unprotected.

How Do You Find Your Dog’s Quick?

An important thing to note about the quick is that it grows relative to the size of your dog’s nails. In other words, if you don’t regularly trim nails, keeping them short can become a whole new dimension of difficulty, as the quick gradually extends out farther from the bone.

However, finding the quick isn’t inherently difficult. If your dog’s nails are relatively see-through, chances are you’ll spot the quick without issue. Best practice is to cut just off a little bit at a time (a centimeter or two out from where you see a pink and red line of the quick begin).

If your dog’s quick isn’t readily visible, many pet stores sell quick detection devices, although their quality and reliability are definitely debatable.

Infographic - dog nail

White Nails vs. Black Nails or Dark Nails

If your dog has white or light-colored nails, it is much easier to see where the quick ends because you will see the pink through the nail.

However, dark or black nails are much more difficult since you cannot see through the nail.

One way to avoid cutting the quick when you cannot see through the nail is to make small cuts until the inner nail goes from a pale color to black. This signals you have arrived at a good stopping point.

dog toenail - close up of a short dog nail

How Do You Stop a Dog’s Nails from Bleeding?

Now that you know how to do proper nail trims, what happens if you mess up and accidentally cut your dog’s nails too short? It will be obvious when you do, as your dog is likely to let you know. Even if they don’t, the bleeding should be a dead giveaway.

There are several things you should keep in mind if you notice bleeding from your dog’s toenails. Paramount of which is…

Don’t panic!

That’s right. Panicking in any stressful situation is only going to make things worse. You will work far more effectively and efficiently if you keep a cool head. Plus, dogs feed off our energy.

The last thing you want your fur baby to feel is frightened, in addition to uncomfortable. Speak soothingly, remain calm, and proceed with confidence.

Apply direct pressure…

The first thing you should do if you cut your dog’s nails too short – after keeping cool as a cucumber – is to apply pressure.

Just like when you cut your own finger, the same principle takes effect here, too. Pressure helps to reduce blood flow and allows a dog’s body to take the first, most essential steps in repairing the damage. You can use something as simple as a paper towel.

Use a Cold Compress…

While applying pressure, you might also consider using a cold compress. A compress is any object that helps you squeeze closed an open wound, be it a wet washcloth, malleable icepack, or more advanced veterinary tool.

Using a cold compress when you cut your dog’s nails too short will both help slow the bleeding and alleviate some of the pain for your unhappy pooch.

Styptic powder is your friend…

Styptic pencil or powder is one of many antihemorrhagics that work to reduce flow and clot blood. They are a go-to tool for most animal hospitals and grooming salons, and they’re easily purchasable from your nearest pet retailer.

Having this in your pet first aid kit is a smart move you’ll be thankful you made when the time comes. You can purchase styptic powder here or at your local pet store.

You can also use corn starch or cornstarch mixed with baking soda to help reduce the blood flow but I prefer using the styptic pencil or powder.

Time to bandage…

Once you’ve calmed down, applied pressure, used a cold compress, and sprinkled on a bit of styptic powder to your dog’s nails, it’s time to wrap things up.

Gently bandage the trouble spot to keep it clean and protected from the outside elements. This will lessen the likelihood of infection and minimize your dog’s irritation.

If your dog is showing any discomfort you can apply a topical anesthetic to help take away some of the soreness.

What If Your Dog’s Nails Won’t Stop Bleeding?

If your dog’s nails won’t stop bleeding, the first thing you ought to try is repeating the process once or twice more. Often, reapplied pressure and an additional helping of styptic powder will make things right. But if they don’t, you might need to escalate the issue to a professional. 

When Should You Seek Veterinarian Care?

If after 3-5 minutes your dog’s nail doesn’t stop bleeding, try the listed at-home remedies one more time.

If a couple more minutes thereafter go by with no success, it’s time to get veterinary care. A licensed veterinarian will want to monitor the wound to ensure your dog can rest easily without risk of further damage or infection.

DISCLOSURE

When in doubt, always seek advice from your veterinarian to avoid any further damage or infection to your dog.

How Long Will It Take Your Dog’s Quick to Heal?

There’s no definitive time frame for when you can expect your dog’s quick to heal. If you cut your dog’s nails too short, they could recover in as little as 24 hours, or it might take them as long as a full week. If after a full seven days your dog’s injury hasn’t improved, you will want to consult your veterinarian.

What Should You Do While Your Dog’s Quick is Exposed?

So long as your pup has an open wound, you’ll want to keep it clean and free of irritation. The best way to do this is to apply Neosporin and keep the nail bandaged.

It is also imperative that you dissuade your dog from licking or fidgeting with the damaged nail, as this could introduce unwanted bacteria and slow the healing process.

Summary

In closing, let’s review what you should do if you encounter a bleeding nail due to cutting your dog’s nails too short.

First, assess the damage and make sure it hasn’t hit the quick. If it has, look for bleeding. If there’s blood, don’t panic!

Once you’ve determined the extent of the damage, immediately apply pressure with a cold compress.

After a few moments, use an antihemorrhagic-like Styptic powder.

Finally, bandage and monitor your dog’s paw for the next few days. If you don’t notice progress in the nail’s healing – or if bleeding continues or worsens – don’t hesitate to seek veterinarian care.

Learning to trim your dog’s nails is just a part of being a dog owner. If it’s not something you’re comfortable doing, there’s no shame in asking a professional to help. Just make sure you’re consistent and the nails are being trimmed on a regular basis.

And as with any other training or conditioning, getting your dog to accept the process and sit still is most easily achieved with high praise and premium treats!

Cut Your Dog’s Nails Too Short? (Do This)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Pet Insurance Cover Treatment When Cutting Your Dog’s Quick?

It depends. Pet insurances have several tiers, each with its own parameters. Premium, full coverage plans will typically cover all manner of accidents, including an exposed quick. Routine wellness plans will not. We’ve done an extensive write-up on the topic of pet insurance.

Can You Use Super Glue to Stop Your Dog’s Nail Bleeding?

No, this is a VERY BAD IDEA! Super glue can lead to infection, cause additional complications, and can harm your dog if ingested.

Can A Dog’s Nail Get Infected If It’s Cut Too Short?

Yes. Left untreated, a dog’s nail can get infected, if the quick is cut.

Can You Walk Your Dog After Cutting the Quick?

It depends on your dog’s level of comfort. In general, it’s a good idea to limit outside time right after the quick is cut, to avoid infection. But regular potty breaks are still okay.

What Happens When Your Dog’s Nails Are Too Long?

When dog’s nails grow, so too grow their quicks. If you allow your dog’s nails to grow for a prolonged period of time, the next time you trim your dog’s nails you will not be able to trim them short without harming them. Long nails can also crack and split, leading to a medical emergency.

How Often Should I Cut My Dog’s Nails?

While every dog’s grooming needs are different, most experts suggest clipping dog’s nails once per week to keep the quick in check and your fur baby comfortable. Personally, unless you have a really fast nail grower, I recommend cutting them monthly.

Can I Use a Nail Grinder On My Dog’s Nails?

Yes, nail grinders are a good alternative to traditional nail clippers. You are less likely to hit the quick. But be careful not to use it too long on any one nail as they do get warm and can cause discomfort to your dog’s paw. Ideally, nail grinders are used to smooth out the rough edges after clipping your dog’s nails.

Should I Try To Cut My Dog’s Nails Myself Or Go To A Groomer?

Once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t very difficult to cut your own dog’s nails. However, if you have any doubt in your ability of doing it yourself or if you have a dog that does not cooperate then the best thing may be to go to a professional groomer or your veterinarian to have it done.

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