Nail trims, the dreaded nail trims. There are few things that are more hated by most dogs. Luckily I’ve trained Chase to relax on his side as I dremel each nail. I don’t trust myself with nail clippers and every time I took him to a groomer he just screamed when they touched his nails. So I worked hard to make sure he was comfortable with me dremeling them at home Sure, I have to dremel frequently just to keep them a healthy length. But that is a small tradeoff for cooperative, stress-free grooming.
Keeping your dog’s nails an appropriate length is very important for their foot and overall joint health. If the dog’s nails are too long, the blood vessel in the nail grows the length of the nail and the signal communicated from the long nail hitting the ground will cause your dog’s weight to shift back. This will change their gate which could, in the long run, affect their joint alignment causing undue wear and tear. Below is an illustration of the structure of the nail for more understanding.
If you have a dog that stresses a lot during nails trims then let me help you find a safe way.
Strike One, Clipping AJ’s Nails,
AJ is our 12 year old Chinese Crested. With him, we are not so lucky to have a cooperative participant. He has been on again – off again his whole life whether he had to be muzzled during nail trimming. His reaction had gotten so bad that the last time he was having his nails trimmed the “groomer” had to abandon the task leaving three of his nails untrimmed. AJ was working himself up into a tizzy, very close to hurting himself trying to evade the situation.
Let’s be honest, would you be cooperative if someone else was trimming your nails. Especially someone unsure about using the clipper tool. Put yourself in his paws. First, a stranger is going to take a hold of your hand, foot, or paw. Probably squeeze it more than feels comfortable because they want to make sure you don’t pull away. Then they are going to be nervous and unsure about where to trim so it will take longer. This again would make anyone feel uncomfortable. Try it out, have a friend cut your nails and see how you feel?
Strike Two, Intro to the Dremel.
I’ve tried dremeling AJ nails at home. We made some really great progress and then I screwed up. I worked consistently and patiently to condition him to be comfortable with the dremel vibration and even touching his nails. One day I decided to ” go for it” and work on a few of his rear paw nails. Then, I got his hair wound up in the dremel and it pulled. Not once, not twice, but three times.
A recap of AJ’s rocky nail trimming history.
- First, the in-home groomer AJ went to, from the beginning of time, quit trimming his nails because he became difficult.
- Then I messed up, and even though he was starting to get accustomed to the dremel, I got greedy which resulted in getting his body hair tightly wound around the dremel not once, but three times.
- Last but certainly not least, AJ started to have panic attacks at the veterinary office when we tried to have his nails trimmed there. That left us feeling hopeless, helpless, and his nails getting an unhealthy length.
So what next for our little guy? Swing batter!
We have been working with both a rehabilitation vet and an herbalist for AJ’s arthritis. We trust them each for their expertise in their respective fields and we shared with them the struggles we’ve been having with AJ nail trims. They both had some usable solutions.
- First a sedative. We tried a few natural sedatives but they just did not take enough of “the edge” off of his fear or the pain in his feet. So we have been using Trazadone to put him in a less reactive state. This was a tradeoff I had to accept, only temporarily!
- Second, a grooming sling. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it. Literately it is a harness or sling that suspends him off the ground so he doesn’t have the ability to squirm away or get the leverage to scratch and bite. It is genius. And, we bought the cutest handmade one off of Etsy. Not only does it support his body off the ground but it also helps contain his body hair so I don’t get it caught up in the dremel anymore (not to mention that I am super paranoid careful now).
- So what do we suspend him from you might ask? Drum roll please, we were able to repurpose a human fitness chin-up device that fits in the door frame. A couple dollars more for some hooks and carabiners from the hardware store and we have the perfect set up.
- The last two tools are vet wrap and the the micro cordless rechargeable dremel. I use the vet wrap to wrap his legs just above the paw. Again this is to reduce the risk of getting his leg hair caught in the dremel. And the micro cordless rechargeable dremel is perfection. Nice size and weight for operating in one hand. And there is an LED light at the head of the device that lets you see exactly what you are dremeling.
If I’m staying with a baseball analogy, we’ve hit a home run. Using the grooming sling is now our normal nail trimming routine. Short weekly sessions have regained his nails back to a healthy length and hopefully someday (not too far in the distant future) we’ll be able to complete this task without the sedative.
I hope my experience and solution might help one of you.
Share your nail trimming challenges, tricks, and successes in the comments. You may be able to help someone else with this difficult task.
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