Susan has a solid black dog with solid black claws, which make it hard to see the quick of the nail when she clips her dog's nails. The quick is a bundle of nerves and blood vessels contained in the dog's claw. While the tip is like a toenail and is dead material that doesn't hurt when it is cut, the closer you get to your dog's toe, the more likely you are to run into the nerve and blood supply contained in the nail.
If you have a dog with white nails, you can easily see the quick, which appears as a pinkish or reddish line in the white nail. It is easier to make sure you avoid this when clipping your dog's nails. If your dog has solid black nails, or a mixture of both, then determining how far back to trim your dog's nails can be more of a challenge. You may want to err on the side of caution, to avoid cutting into the quick of your dog's nails, which will cause intense pain and bleeding. However, you do need to trim your dog's nails effectively. Domestic dogs' nails do not wear down the way they do in the wild, where feral canines dig dens, look for prey, and travel many miles daily over rough terrain, which wears claws down. Our domestic dogs rarely have the opportunity to engage in the activities that are required to naturally wear down nails and require their owners to regularly clip them, usually every 2-4 weeks.
When you cut your dog's nails you need to firmly hold your dog's paw, even putting pressure on his paw and toes to spread the toes and access the nails. This is uncomfortable for your dog and feels funny, so he may not be especially cooperative. And this is before you actually start clipping nails or worse, before you accidentally cut the quick!
When you cut your dog's nails it will not hurt, providing you do not hit the quick, however, the pressure can feel rather uncomfortable. Most dogs do not like being restrained by their foot and may resist. To make matters worse, if your dog has accidentally had the quick of their nail cut before, he has experienced bleeding and intense pain. This negative experience can make some dogs very resistant to having their nails trimmed. You may need an assistant to help hold and distract your dog while you trim his nails and work calmly and carefully to create a positive experience. Treats never hurt! The right tools and techniques will avoid having your dog’s nails bleed when trimming and avoid the associated pain.
Trimming your dog's nails is a necessary evil; most domestic dogs do not wear them off naturally and long broken nails can get snagged in carpet, furniture, or terrain outside.
If you nick your dog's nail quick while trimming his nails, he will be sure to let you know--it hurts! A lot! Your dog will likely yelp and pull back his limb, and then the blood will start to flow. Although your dog is not in any mortal danger, it will seem like an awful lot of blood, and if your dog escapes from you there will be bloody footprints all over your house. It can also be difficult to stop the bleeding from a nail and if your dog licks at the sore foot he can start it bleeding again, even after you have it stopped.
It is best to avoid bleeding nails in the first place. Be careful when cutting nails not to cut too short, locate the quick on lighter colored nails as a guide, or check nails as you slowly cut or file away small amounts, looking for a white spot indicating the beginning of the quick. Use sharp, high-quality tools designed specifically for dogs. Teach your dog to stay still, or have an assistant help restrain your dog so he does not move while nails are being clipped. Make sure you have a good view where you're working to avoid causing your furry friend to bleed.