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Happy Tails: Toenail Time!
September 11, 2009 - Dorian Gossy
Today was Toenail Time for my hound mix, Harley. Toenail Time occurs every other week when my husband Roger and I assemble ourselves into a toenail-trimming SWAT team, and while Roger holds Harley and coos to him, I use a good-quality pet clipper to nip off those tough claws before they reach slasher proportions. After each foot, Harley gets a nibble of something extra special, such as leftover sausage, or egg salad, or some fresh red pepper slices.
We manage this now in fewer than five minutes, but I can tell you, it wasn’t always this way. In Harley’s first year with us we walked him near a tennis court, on which I could throw a ball for him, and its rough surface kept his nails nicely buffed. So when we brought him permanently to the North Country last year, his nails quickly grew sharp. Our first attempts to cut them resulted in a couple of bloody toes, a pitifully yowling dog, and an exasperated husband Roger.
So we took him to Dr. David Goldwasser of the Adirondack Veterinary Hospital in Westport, New York. Dr. Goldwasser dutifully clipped Harley’s toenails, but gently told me, “you really should be able to do this yourself.” Now, armed with Dr. Goldwasser’s tips, we do. Here’s how you can, too. These techniques work for cats, too.
1. Enlist a buddy for the task. Decide who’s going to clip & who’s going to hold the dog or cat, and stick to the routine.
2. Get a sharp and good-quality clipper at a reputable pet-supply store. For cats, use a guillotine clipper or an ordinary human nail clipper. For dogs, use a scissors-type clipper, guillotine clipper, or experiment with the newly developed nail buffer.
3. Use treats judiciously---you don’t want to fatten up your pup or kitty---but have something really special around so that the animal knows a neat reward is seconds away.
4. Only trim the tip of the nail. In a clear toenail you can usually distinguish the transparent nail from the pinkish quick, which will sting and bleed when cut because of the blood supply. But sometimes, as in my dog Harley’s case, the toenails are black, so you have to guess where the quick might be, in which case it’s best to just take the tip.
5. Be calm but firm. Hang in there, but don’t punish or scold the animal for struggling. Wait him out till he settles down again.
6. Do one paw at a time at first if that’s all the animal will tolerate.
7. Be consistent in a schedule---every other week seems to be necessary for us and Harley, but you might do one foot every week in rotation if that works better.
Result: No more slasher toenails! No more clipper dread! Toenail Time is now survivable for everyone! For more information about dog and cat health and safety, visit the NCSPCA website at www.ncspca.org.
Next week: Some real-life amazing cat tales! Plus tips for locating lost cats and dogs.
This blog is brought to you by the North Country Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NCSPCA), located at 23 Lakeshore Road in Westport, New York 12993. Check out the website, www.ncspca.org, or call the shelter at (518) 962-8604 for more information.
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