When you think about your pet's grooming needs, you likely think about how often you need to bathe, brush, or trim their fur. Nail care, however, is one of the most important parts of a healthy grooming routine for your furry friend.
Read on to learn why you should care for your pet's nails and how you can make nail care a natural part of their grooming routine.
Why Trimming Your Pet's Nails Is Important
While trimming your pet's nails can make them look more put-together, the most important reason is related to their health and safety. Left untrimmed, your pet's long nails can put them at risk of injury and potentially lead to joint pain, arthritis, and even nerve damage.
Pets use their paws to interact with the world around them. When your dog runs across your carpet or your cat jumps onto your sofa, long nails can get caught on the fabric, leading to an injury as they try to pry their claw out. Snagging their nail on fabric can also damage the outer enamel of their claw, leading to a potential infection.
As your pet's claws get longer, they'll start to grow into a curved shape. Eventually, this curve can puncture your pet's paws, making it uncomfortable for them to walk. To ease their pain, your pet may adjust the way they walk to relieve pressure from their paws. Over time, this can affect their joints, leading to muscle soreness and arthritis.
Dogs, for example, naturally associate their nails touching the ground with being on a hill. If your dog's nails have grown long enough to graze the ground, they'll adjust the way they walk to accommodate a hill, even if they aren't walking on one. This can take a toll on your pup's joints over time.
6 Tips to Make Your Pet’s Nail Care Stress-Free
Here are some quick tips to make your pet's nail care less stressful for the both of you:
1. Start Trimming Your Pet's Nails as Early as Possible
The younger your dog or cat is when you start to trim their nails, the easier it will be for them to adjust to the sensation.
When puppies and kittens are young, they have less experience with the world around them. Because of this, it's easier for you to expose them to new experiences and help shape their feelings for specific processes before they've created too many negative associations.
If you start trimming your pet's nails when they're young, you can teach them that the experience isn't scary. As a result, they're more likely to be calm when you trim their nails as they age.
2. Take the Nail Care Process Slowly
If you're just starting with nail care, it's important not to rush the process. Forcing your pet to sit still for long periods while you hold their paws and clip their nails can increase their stress levels and make them even more afraid of nail trimmings.
Instead, start slowly by just touching their paws for a few seconds to get them used to the sensation. Over time, you can increase how long you hold their paws, and start to clip a few nails at a time.
3. Use Positive Reinforcement to Make the Process Enjoyable
Positive reinforcement is the best way to keep your pet calm while you trim their nails. Come prepared for your nail-clipping sessions with lots of your pet's favorite treats.
Start slowly by handling their paw, and reward them with treats and praise for their calm behavior. As you trim their nails, continue to offer them treats as a reward. Over time, your pet will associate having their nails trimmed with the positive experience of earning tasty treats.
You can also use puzzle toys or slow feeders to distract your pet and manage their stress levels while you clip their nails. Spread wet food for your cat or peanut butter for your dog across a lick mat, and then place that mat in the freezer until it's firm. This will help keep them occupied and distracted while you work.
4. Manage Your Pet's Nails with Activity
If you have trouble fitting nail trimmings into your regular schedule, there are a variety of ways you can manage the length of your pet's nails, so you have to trim less often.
For cats, adding scratching posts throughout your home is a great way to help file their nails in between trims. Scratching posts don't work as an alternative to nail trimming, but they can help to file the outer layers of your kitty's nails.
For dogs, taking frequent walks on concrete or hard surfaces can help to file their nails down. If your dog participates in sports or agility courses, this is another great way to grind down their nails. The frequent motion and force of the surfaces that your dog runs on helps to file their nails.
5. Trim Your Pet's Nails Regularly
The best way to make something a part of your routine is to be consistent with it. While it may be tempting to put off trimming your pet's nails for as long as possible, the experience becomes easier the more that you do it.
Creating a consistent routine around trimming your nails also makes the process less stressful for your pets. Cats and dogs love routine, and the more frequently you trim their nails, the easier it will be for them to get used to the process.
Keeping your pet's nails at a manageable level also makes it easier for you to clip their nails the next time. So, make a point of trimming your pet's nails every few weeks to keep the process as easy and stress-free as possible.
6. Seek Professional Help When Needed
If trimming your pet's nails at home is too stressful for your pet or too difficult for you, you can reach out to a professional groomer for help.
Your pet can pick up on your personal anxieties, and that can make caring for their nails an even more stressful experience. A groomer is professionally trained to trim your pet's nails, making the process faster and easier.
Do You Need to Trim Your Pet's Nails?
Your pet's nail care should be a consistent part of their grooming routine, but how often you clip their nails will differ from pet to pet. Every few weeks is a good rule of thumb, and you should avoid your pet's nails ever touching the ground.
If you incorporate nail trimming into your regular routine and remain consistent with it, the process will get easier and easier every time.
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