What Happens When a Dog's Toenail Is Cut to the Quick?


Cutting a dog's toenails regularly prevents scratches, keeps your dog healthy and negates the need for invasive declawing surgeries. When cutting your dog's nails, though, exercise caution and avoid cutting the quick, a sensitive nerve ending deep within the nail with a light pink coloration.

What Happens?

If you cut too much of the dog's toenail, reaching the quick, the dog will experience a brief sensation of pain accompanied by light bleeding. Depending on how deeply you cut, the blood may drip or it may emerge slowly on the tip of the nail. The pain lasts only a short time, and the cut should not cause any lasting damage, but take action immediately to stop the bleeding.

Stopping the Bleeding

To stop the bleeding quickly, dab the toenail with a silver nitrate applicator, sold online and in medical supply stores. But of course, if you were not already anticipating the possibility of cutting to the quick, you may not have silver nitrate applicators lying around. In that case, hold your dog gently and press a soft cloth against the toenail, applying gentle pressure, until the bleeding stops (all while comforting the dog). The bleeding should not last for more than 5 minutes. For the sake of your dog's peace of mind, wait at least a day before attempting to clip any more claws.

Avoiding the Quick

When cutting a dog's nails, avoid cutting the quick by exercising caution. Make very small cuts, removing only the tip of nail and any excess growth. Make tiny cuts, and then examine the nail after each cut, observing how close you have come to the quick. For a dog with lightly-colored nails, the quick is easily to observe. For a dog with dark-colored nails, exercise a bit more caution. Use plenty of light so that you can see the subtle color variations between the quick and the solid nail. If you cannot see the quick at all, cut only the tip of the nail (just to remain on the safe side).

Choosing Clippers

To further promote comfort and safety, consider the type of clippers to use. A motorized rotary clipper (like a miniature Dremel tool) is painless and precise, but it cuts very quickly, so pay close attention to how much of the nail you remove. A guillotine-style clipper is fast and precise, but can cause great pain and discomfort if you accidentally cut to the quick. A scissor-style clipper is the least precise and can result in uneven cuts if your dog fidgets or squirms.

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