Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

No Blood, No Fuss

Nail trims don't have to be a dog's worst nightmare -- or yours

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Quick, look at your dog's feet. Are your pet's nails too long? Do you remember the last time you cut them? Are you dreading the next?

If they're too long and you've been putting off the chore because of how awful the experience was for you both, well, you're in good company -- or, at least in the majority. We often see dogs with nails that desperately need trimming.

Keeping nails trimmed is important. Long nails can make walking uncomfortable and even cause lameness. Nails should be just off the ground when your pet is standing.

Each nail has a blood vessel inside of it. Trim just beyond the end of this vein. If you nick it, the nail will bleed, so have blood-stopping powder on hand, such as Kwik Stop, before you start trimming.

If your dog has light-colored toenails, the blood vessel is the pink area. Black nails are harder to figure out, but you should be able to see the vein by shining a flashlight behind the nail. If you can't tell, just clip back a little at a time. If you draw blood, take a pinch of the powder and press it against the exposed tip of the nail for a few seconds to stop the bleeding.

If your dog's nails are so long that they're forcing her foot out of position, you can take them back to where they should be in two ways. The first is to cut a little off every few days: The quick recedes as you go. The second way is to have your veterinarian clip them when your dog is under anesthesia, such as for a teeth cleaning. After nails are at a proper length, keeping them that way is easy with a weekly trim.

If your dog is resistant to having her nails trimmed, work up to the task over a few weeks' time by taking the trimmer in hand and touching it to her feet, then her toes, then the nails, while praising her and giving her treats for each step. When she is used to having her feet handled, put the trimmer against the nail and praise and treat more still. Then trim a little off, and so on. Praise and more praise! Treats and more treats! Don't insist on getting all the nails done at once. Do one or two toes a night, and put the clippers away while you and your dog are feeling positive about the experience. Watching videos such as this one can help:

An alternative to nail trimming is nail grinding. You can buy a canine nail grinder, or just use a lightweight rotary grinding tool, such as a Dremel.

With a grinder it's easy to stop before you hit the quick. When grinding, remember that nails can get hot while you're working on them. Don't grind continuously. Touch the grinder to the nail in short bursts -- a second or two at most -- to keep heat from building up. And make sure not to catch any fur while you're working. (Tip: Look for online videos on grinding nails to see the technique.)

Whichever method you're using to shorten nails, don't forget the dewclaws, those extra toes you can find up on the inside of the leg. Not all dogs have them, but for those that do, neglected nails can be a problem. Long nails can catch on upholstery and tear the dewclaw partly off of the leg. Keeping these nails short will prevent injury, which is why you haven't finished trimming nails until you've done the dew, too.

If you work with your pet frequently, trim just a little at a time and reward generously for cooperation, the days of nail-trimming dread will be behind you both, and your dog will step out more comfortably on your walks together.


How to protect

pets from coyotes

Q: When I'm walking my dog through a parkway near my home, we occasionally see coyotes. We have had a couple of small dogs killed by them in their own yards. Judging by the “lost cat” signs I see, I suspect they've taken a few of them, too. Is there any way to protect our pets?

A: Coyotes are everywhere, and they've learned that household pets are relatively easy prey. Coyotes are plentiful in suburban areas across the United States, and have even been reported in New York City and other highly urban environments.

Free-roaming cats seem to be especially at risk. Many times, missing cats or the gruesome finding of feline remains is initially thought to be the work of sadistic cat-haters, but often these apparent "crime sprees" turn out to be the work of neighborhood coyotes. Keeping cats safely inside is the only way to completely protect them.

Small dogs are often targets of hungry coyotes as well, and for these pets, it's important to be sure to supervise them in your yard -- especially if you back up to a wooded area, golf course or other potentially coyote-rich environment. When walking small dogs, don't let them off-leash. Larger dogs are less at risk, but not completely safe, and it wouldn't hurt to keep a leash and close eye on them as well.

To discourage coyotes from colonizing your neighborhood, work with neighbors to remove food sources that attract these predators, such as pet food left outside, garbage cans that aren't securely closed or compost piles that are not correctly maintained. If food sources are denied, the animals will move on to a more promising area.

While none of these steps will completely protect your pets, they will reduce the risk from these ever-more-common predators. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Male cats haven't

always been 'toms'

-- While a male cat -- especially an unneutered one -- is today called a "tom," that wasn't always the case. Up until the late 1700s, male cats were known as "rams" (like sheep) or "boars" (like pigs). A book about cats with a character named Tom became popular in the latter part of that century; after that, male cats started being called tomcats.

-- As noted in Science Magazine, a study published in the journal Current Biology found that cats with more meat in their diet and more play in their lives bring home one-third fewer “gifts” of prey than they did previously. Ecologist Robbie McDonald and colleagues at the University of Exeter recruited 219 cat owners in southwestern England whose pets regularly hunted outside. They divided the cats into six groups: some wore collars with bells, some colorful collars easily visible to birds, some were introduced to food-dispensing toys, some were fed a diet containing only animal protein, some received 5 to 10 minutes of play daily, and the remainder made up the control group, whose habits were not changed. With the exception of the belled collars and the puzzle feeders, the approaches reduced the cats’ hunting forays, but the all-meat diet and additional playtime had the greatest effects in reducing predation.

-- Providing palliative and end-of-life care is a trend in veterinary medicine that's resonating with pet owners. There are guidelines and organizations that promote the concept of hospice for pets, extending life without extending suffering for older or sick animals. The trend mirrors the human hospice movement in many ways, with the notable exception that when suffering can no longer be eased, veterinary medicine can offer euthanasia. Especially in the COVID-19 era, some veterinarians are offering to provide this last gift of kindness at patients' homes. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.