Making Nail Trims Less Stressful For Pets
We all know that most cats and dogs—my own included—do not enjoy nail trims. But for most, periodic nail trims are a necessity. What can you do at home to make the dreaded nail trim more tolerable and what is Patton Veterinary Hospital doing to keep nail trims fear free?
Why are pets afraid of nail trims? Most dogs and cats are not accustomed to having their paws lifted and touched in the manner needed to trim nails. While trimming nails is not usually painful, there may be a pinching or pulling sensation on the nail that the dog or cat does not enjoy. The clicking sound of the nail trimmer or whirring sound of a dremel tool may also be stressful to some pets. Desensitizing pets to these sensory stressors can make nail trims a little easier.
There are things you can do at home to get your dog or cat more acclimated to having her nails trimmed, even if you are not comfortable actually performing the nail trim yourself.
- Teach your dog or cat to shake or give you his paw. This will help your pet get used to having his paws touched and allows him to willingly give you (or the vet!) his paw.
- Teach your pet to love the nail trimmer. Purchase a nail trimmer and teach your dog or cat to love life when the nail trimmer comes out by using tasty treats. We are not attempting to use the trimmer here, but we want the pet to associate the nail trimmer with good things so the pet does not become stressed just by seeing the nail trimmer appear. Have your pet touch the trimmer with her nose then deliver a treat. Touch a non-threatening area such as the shoulder and give a treat. Touch the leg and then the paw—give a treat. You get the idea. Obviously, this will take several sessions for most dogs and cats, but, if your pet gets yummy treats every time the nail trimmer appears, he or she is more likely to tolerate a nail trim. If at any time your pet backs away or acts stressed, stop and try again when the pet is calm.
- Get your pet used to the “snapping” sound the nail trimmer makes by trimming something crunchy like a carrot or twig in the presence of the pet and reward the pet while she listens to the noise.
What are we doing at Patton as part of our Fear Free initiative?
- More food treats! Distraction with food is a good motivator for most pets so we may offer cheese, peanut butter or other treats during nail trims to try to keep your pet focused on something other than her pedicure.
- Gentle handling techniques. Keeping pets in the room with their owners during procedures, trying to use minimal restraint to complete nail trims and going at your pet’s pace to reduce fear and anxiety are our goals. Nail trims are typically wants, not needs so we will not force any pet into a stressful situation. If a pet is too stressed, the nail trim attempt is ended and we try another technique another day.
- Pharmaceutical intervention a.k.a. “happy drugs.” Some dogs and cats are too panicked and fearful to tolerate nail trims without anti-anxiety medication on board. Mild cases of fear may be alleviated by supplements, but some patients need a little more help. Our “Doggie Glad Packs” and “Kitty Calm Kits” provide mild antianxiety drugs to keep your pet relaxed during stressful procedures. These drugs are very safe and can make a world of difference for stressed pets.
While nail trims are often stressful for pets, by combining some “homework” in getting your pet used to the feel and sound of the nail clippers before visiting the vet and our fear free in-clinic techniques, your pet can become a pro at pedicures or even allow them to be performed in the home!
This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.