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Can You Cut a Dog’s Nails With Human Clippers? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

nail cutter

Vet approved

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Amanda Charles

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Trimming a dog’s nails is not anyone’s idea of a good time, particularly for your dog! If you find yourself looking for your dog’s nail clippers, but they’ve been misplaced, and all you’ve got are your own nail clippers, you’re probably wondering if you can use them on your dog.

Human nail clippers could be used in a pinch if you have a puppy, but they are not recommended for adult dogs of any size.

Here, we discuss everything about dogs and nail clippers so you’ll have a better grasp of the best method of trimming your dog’s nails.

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Why Shouldn’t You Use Human Nail Clippers on Your Dog?

When you look at a pair of human nail clippers, you’ll notice that they only have a small opening. For the most part, our nails are quite thin and flat, so our nail clippers fit them perfectly.

Dogs have nails that are thick, hard, and curved, and human nail clippers just won’t fit. Even if you could fit the clippers around your dog’s nails, they are likely to split and crack the nail because they just aren’t the right shape.

Risks of Using Human Nail Clippers

Beyond splitting the nails, using ill-fitting clippers on a dog’s nails can make the ends uneven. This occurs because the human clippers can only shave off bits and pieces of the nails. An uneven surface can also lead to the nails cracking.

Some dogs with nail problems, such as senior dogs with brittle nails and those with immune conditions like lupoid onychodystrophy, are more likely to end up with split and damaged nails.

Beyond damaging the nail, the quick can be compromised. Damaged nails can potentially lead to an infection, which isn’t common, but there’s always the possibility. Using human nail clippers on a dog can also just feel uncomfortable for them.

nail clipper
Image Credit: Izlan Somai, Shutterstock

hepper-dog-paw-divider 3What Are the Best Nail Trimmers for Dogs?

There are a few options for nail trimmers made for dogs. You’ll need to factor in what will work best for your dog and their nails and what is most comfortable for you.

Guillotine

This one is called the guillotine because it acts just like the real thing, but for nails.

They work by you placing the nail inside the ring and squeezing the handle, and a single blade snips off the nail. Since these only have one blade, they can be more comfortable for some dogs, since they exert less pressure.

But they won’t always work well for dogs with large and thick nails and are usually best suited for small and medium-sized dogs.

Scissor Clippers

These have a pair of semi-circle concave shaped blades and plier type handles which are most commonly anti-slip. A spring near the blades helps with cutting thick nails and gives more control. They can come in different sizes suitable for your breed of dog and are usually the best option for larger breeds.

Grinders

Grinders are not nail clippers, but they have fast become a favorite among many dog parents. Grinders are electric and are powered via cord or battery and feature a rotating, almost sandpaper-like head.

They are used to slowly shave down the tips of the nails and can effectively smooth out any rough edges.

The Importance of Walking Your Dog

As a dog owner, you’re aware of the importance of walking your dog. It provides them with many essential benefits: exercise, socializing, releasing excess energy, keeping them healthy, etc.

Walking can also help grind down those nails and keep them at a more manageable length. Some dogs may not need their nails to be cut regularly, however this will depend on many factors. The type of ground they are most regularly exercised on will play a part, hard ground and pavement walking will keep them worn down better than softer ground like grass. Also walking doesn’t wear down the dew claws, and some dogs might walk in such a way that not all their nails will get worn down the same way. Of course due to age or health conditions some dogs may not be able to walk as much and their nails will need regular attention.

woman walking her labrador retriever dog in the park
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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FAQ

Can You Cut Dog Nails With Scissors?

This is not a good idea. Scissors are not designed to trim nails and will only cause damage. They are not sharp enough, they have the wrong shape, and they are not strong enough.

They can easily slip while you’re trying to cut your dog’s nails, which might cause injury. Scissors will also be uncomfortable for your dog because you really need to squeeze them to cut anything, and they are likely to splinter and crack your dog’s nails.

What’s a Quick?

Cutting the quick is a great fear while trimming our pup’s nails. For those who are new to nail trimming, the nail has a hard outer shell and inner pink quick. The quick runs in the center of each nail and contains nerves and blood vessels, so if you take off too much nail at once, you run the risk of cutting it.

This causes bleeding, pain, and discomfort, so if your dog has black nails and you can’t see the quick, taking small snips at a time is the best way to avoid hitting the quick.

What Do You Do If You Cut the Quick?

Styptic powder can instantly stop the bleeding, as it acts like a clotting agent. You’ll want to buy this in advance, particularly if your dog is wiggly or has those black nails.

In a pinch, you can try using flour or cornstarch or dabbing the nail on a bar of soap. But if the bleeding doesn’t stop, call your vet.

Is It Better to Cut Nails or Use a Grinder?

Using a dog-friendly nail clipper is usually best because it’s faster and more efficient. Some dogs might not like the noise or feel of the grinder.

That said, many nail trimmers can make a loud snapping sound every time you cut a nail, and some dogs might respond better to the grinder. Nail grinders might also be the better option if your dog’s nails are prone to splintering.

Basically, it comes down to what’s best for you and your dog.

Dog Nail Trim
Image Credit: Imfoto,Shutterstock

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Conclusion

In the long run, it’s best to avoid human nail clippers altogether, even if your dog’s nails are small enough to fit inside. They are made for our nails and not a dog’s, so they are more likely to damage your dog’s nails.

Stick with dog nail trimmers: The guillotine is great for small and medium dogs, the scissor clippers work well for all sizes but particularly large dogs.

You can also try the grinder to smooth the edges or slowly take the nails back a little at a time.

Many dogs can find nail cutting a stressful experience so it’s always best to start handling your puppy’s feet when they are young and help form positive associations with treats and lick mats. If you’re unsure of the best way to trim your dog’s nails, do your research and speak to your vet or professional groomer.


Featured Image Credit: Pushish Images, Shutterstock

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