I’m a Vet—and These Are the Only Dog Nail Clippers I Use

Trim your dog or cat's nails at home with these clippers that pros recommend.

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While all veterinary offices, pet spas, and even some doggie daycare centers offer nail trimming services for your dog or cat, paying top dollar for a professional trim isn’t always in the budget. Luckily, this is a task you can complete in the comfort of your own home with the purchase of one essential tool: a nail trimmer. Seren Lanza, DVM at VCA Darien Animal Hospital in Connecticut offers expert advice on how to easily and properly trim your pet’s nails with her go-to nail trimmers. Is pet hair a problem in your home? Check out these 13 pet hair removers that actually work.

Why trimming your pet’s nails is crucial

Regularly trimming your pet’s nails is important for more than just aesthetics. “Unhealthy nails can cause pain, and in rare instances, trigger irreversible damage to the dog,” explains the American Kennel Club (AKC).

There are two parts to a dog’s nail: the living pink quick and the shell, which is the hard outer material. “The quick supplies blood to the nail and runs through the core of it. Nerves in the quick cause bleeding and discomfort when cut,” the AKC explains. “Regular nail trimming will cause the quick to recede from the end. Short quicks are the preferred length for the dog’s well-being and easy maintenance.”

So what will happen if you fail to trim your pet’s nails regularly? Long nails can turn a healthy paw into a splayed foot, not only reducing your pet’s traction but also potentially leading to deformed feet and injured tendons in the long run. “As the long nail hits the ground, the pressure puts force on the foot and leg structure,” explains the AKC.

This is the only nail trimmer I use

My go-to nail trimmer is Millers Forge Large Dog Nail Clipper. They are a standard nail trimmer with an open clipping part—not a closed circle or guillotine style. This makes them easy to use and hold, plus they’re made of surgical stainless steel and are sharp, so they cut efficiently. For cats, I like the Miller Forge Pet Nail Clipper, they’re similar but smaller.

Veterinary cutting a dogs nailsMalcolm MacGregor/Getty Images

When you should start trimming your pet’s nails

Dogs inherently hate having their nails cut, so it is something you have to keep up with throughout their lives—the earlier your start trimming your pet’s nails, the easier it will be on both of you. Ideally, the owner will work with their dog or cat from the time they are little puppies or kittens to get them used to having their paws handled and nails cut.

And, it goes without saying that cats also aren’t too happy with the hygienic practice either.

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It takes treats…and two people

Before you attempt to trim your pet’s nails, make sure you have your clippers handy and are equipped with a helper and treats. We always recommend two people—one to hold the pet and feed them treats and the other to hold the paw out and trim the nails.

Technique is key

Even armed with the best nail trimmers, it all comes down to technique—something even some vet technicians struggle with. It is often the hardest thing to do at the vet clinic because most dogs hate it!

Here’s how to do it: Start by angling the nail trimmers back so that you are cutting more from the top of the nail and less from the underside of the nail. It is important to avoid the blood vessel and nerve—you can see the pink part in pets with white nails. If you cut too short, the pet will not like it and will be more fearful in the future, so it’s better to err on the side of caution and take off small amounts at a time.

If the nail bleeds, apply cornstarch or flour to the tip of the nail and monitor it to see that it stops.

RELATED: What Can You Give a Dog for Pain?

Dremel 7300-PT 4.8V Cordless Pet Dog Nail Grooming & Grinding Toolvia amazon.com

An alternative method

Some pets just won’t let you trim their nails; certain breeds—including Pugs and French Bulldogs—are especially repellent to the process. Try a nail grinder, a tool with a sandpaper grinder at the top. Once the pet is used to the sound it makes, they sometimes prefer the Dremel to clippers. I prefer the Dremel 7300-PT Dog & Cat Nail Grinder Kit.

Use it similar to the nail trimmer, angling back at the top. The nail ends up with softer edges than a standard nail trimmer but the downside is it takes longer to do all the nails. If your pet’s nails are very long, you may need to trim them first, then smooth out the edges with the Dremel.

RELATED: 50 Secrets Your Veterinarian Won’t Tell You

Next, find out what the best dog toothbrushes are (according to vets).


Leah Groth
Leah Groth covers everything from cleaning hacks and consumer products to travel and pets for Reader’s Digest. When she isn’t working on a piece, you’ll find her chasing after her four children (two humans, a Vizsla and a German Shorthaired Pointer) or working on her 100-plus-year-old home outside Philadelphia.