Saint James Animal Hospital

538 North Country Road
Saint James, NY 11780


Trimming nails - Part II
It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye

Okay. You have been getting your dog used to having his feet handled, you know where to cut the nails, and you have trimmed a few. You are feeling pretty good. Successful. Confident. This nail trimming stuff ain't so bad.

Then disaster strikes. You trim a nail too short. Your dog doesn't react much, but you see the blood welling up on the nail. Your heart begins to hammer. Have you just killed your dog? Will his toe get infected? Will he limp? Will he hate you forever?

Relax. He will be fine, and so will you. Especially if you are reading this ahead of time instead of holding your bleeding dog in your lap in front of the computer, which would be a little weird. There are a couple of things to remember that will make you feel better.

  • Nothing bleeds forever.
  • Dogs are very forgiving.
  • A little bribery goes a long way, especially if it involves meat.

One of the pictures below shows the actual amount of blood you see when you cut the nail a little short. It's not much. The problem is it tends to smear around and look like more. So be prepared for it, and know what to do.


How to stop toe nail bleeding

  1. Stay calm. If you lose it, the dog will get excited, his blood pressure will go up, you won't be able to control him, and he will track little spots of blood all over the kitchen floor. Much tidier to stay calm.

  2. If you read the first nail trimming page, the one on PREPARATION, you will have your little bottle of coagulant powder open on the floor or table beside you, ready to go. If you missed that bit, go back and read it; I even made it bold!

  3. Hold the dog's foot up where you can see the end of the nail. Press a tissue on the end of the nail with one hand (usually the non-dominant hand) while obtaining a healthy pinch of powder with the other. In one graceful move roll the tissue off the exposed quick and press the pinch of powder directly on the bleeding bit. If you can't be graceful, at least be swift.

  4. Hold it on there for a few seconds, pressing firmly but not mashing it. Take a quick peek to make sure you've got the bleeding part all covered, then hold again. Get another pinch and apply again if you need to. if you get good coverage and aren't miserly with the powder, one shot should do you. Hold it for 20-30 seconds.

  5. That should be it. Let the dog have the foot back, and continue with the rest of the nails. When you are done, take another look at the bleeding nail just to make sure it didn't start up again. If it does, just apply more powder.

  6. Most coagulant failures are caused by being too shy about pressing the stuff into the blood. You can't just sprinkle the stuff on like fairy dust; you need to hold and press it on so it absorbs the blood at the end of the quick and helps it clot.
  7. If you are using silver nitrate sticks, follow the same procedure but roll the tip over the bleeding part of the quick. The blood liquefies the chemical on the end of the stick, which then causes the clotting. This stuff stings quite a lot, so prepare for an objection. It also stains skin (yours) brown. If this happens the skin must be removed. (Seriously. I generally use an emery board to "rub out" silver nitrate stains. They don't wash out.) It will also stain flooring and countertops.