How to Cut Black Dog Nails

Make incremental 1/16 inch cuts to avoid hitting the quick, which is harder to see on black dog nails.

Veterinary clipping dogs nails
Be careful when cutting black dog nails — the quick is hard to see and easy to clip. Ouch! If you notice bleeding, or a black or pink color inside the nail, you’ve reached the quick. ©Capuski/ Getty Images

It’s intimidating to cut black dog nails because the quick (the sensitive part where the nerve is located) is harder to see than on light-colored nails. It’s not uncommon to accidentally clip your dog. Tim Vogel, CEO of dog grooming franchise Scenthound, shares his step-by-step guide on how to cut black dog nails safely, including finding the quick and how to use a Dremel.

Cut black dog nails in 5 steps

  1. Hold your dog’s paw gently but firmly in your hand.
  2. Extend the nail. Place your thumb on the toe pad, then place your forefinger on top of the toe. Push against the pad with your thumb while gently pulling backward. At the same time, gently push forward with your forefinger.
  3. Start by cutting 1/16 of an inch off the very tip of the nail.
  4. Cut pressing down (not on the sides) on the nail. Side pressure can split a nail.
  5. After you cut, look at the area head-on. If there is no bleeding and you see a whitish color (instead of a black or pinkish color, which shows up close to the quick), make another 1/16-inch cut. Keep these tips in mind:
  • Go slowly and take your time
  • Never cut more than 1/16 inch at a time.
  • Check the color of the nail at the cut mark between each cut.

How to find the quick on black dog nails

Look at the nail head on. If you see black or a pinkish color, you’re getting close to the quick and you should not clip any further, explains Tim. The quick is a sensitive spot on the dog’s nail that contains blood vessels and nerves. It’s painful for your dog if it gets clipped! If you do hit the quick, apply a pinch of styptic powder to the nail and moderate pressure to stop the bleeding.

How to Dremel black dog nails

A Dremel is a useful tool for grinding down a dog’s nail. Use it instead of clippers, or after clipping to smooth out the edges. Go slowly and follow the steps listed above, using the Dremel to sand the nail from the top, never the side, says Tim.

Next time you hear those nails clacking on the floor, be brave! Get out the tools and follow these directions for safely cutting your dog’s black nails. Remember to have styptic powder on hand in case you clip the quick.

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