How to Make a Dog's Nail Quick Recede

Updated on December 14, 2017
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Don't cut beyond this line, that's where the dog's' nail quick is!
Don't cut beyond this line, that's where the dog's' nail quick is! | Source

Identifying a Dog's Quick

What time is it when you hear Rover's nails clicking on the kitchen floor as he walks? It's definitively time for a nail trim! As much as this sounds like a riddle, in real life, long nails can lead to a multitude of problems. For starters, when you allow those nails to grow long for too much, the nails become frail, and easy to fracture, and since long nails allow the quick to grow along with the nail, it can lead to pain, bleeding and a possible infection. On top of that, long nails may also cause your dog to walk in an irregular way which in the long run may lead to skeletal problems. If your dog's nails have grown too long, don't try to cut them short all at once. Instead, ask your vet or groomer for help. Chances are, the nails will need to be cut a little bit at a time so to allow the quick to recede.

What's the quick exactly? A dog's nails are composed by the nail and a soft cuticle rich in blood vessels and nerves known as the quick. If you own a dog with light-colored nails, it will be quite easy to identify the quick as it's a pinkish area in the center of the nail. In dark-colored nails identifying the quick can be tricky and trimming them can be a bit of a challenge. See the picture above to identify the quick.

When you fail to trim your dog's nails as frequently as needed, the quick grows along with the nail. In some cases, when the nails are extra-long, the quick may lengthen so much that it reaches the tip. When this happens, you won't be able to trim much nail without risking cutting through the quick. Don't try to trim those nails short all at once! Ask your veterinarian or groomer to show you how to gradually trim the nail and encourage the quick to recede so Scruffy can start to walk comfortably again.

What if You Accidentally Cut the Quick?

In your effort to help the quick recede, you may accidentally cut through the quick. This will cause pain and bleeding. In such a case, don't panic. You didn't cut through a major artery and your dog won't bleed to death, unless he has an underlying bleeding disorder you are not aware of. In such a scenario, follow the directions outlined in my hub: Tips for a Dog Broken Nail

How to Make Your Dog's Nail Quick Recede

If your dog's nails are very long and the quick is very close to the tip of the nail, you may have no other choice than simply trimming the very tip of the nail to avoid bleeding and pain. Ask your vet or groomer to show you how much you can cut for the very first times. After trimming that little bit of nail, generally, within seven days, the quick should have receded enough to allow you to trim off another little bit of nail again according to the book "The Everything Puppy Book: Choosing, Raising, and Training Our Littlest Best." Consider that each time you trim that nail a little bit more every week, the quick should gradually recede farther and farther up into the nail bed. Your ultimate goal in this case is to have the quick recede more and more so you can allow your dog the luxury to finally have healthier, shorter and stronger nails. The secret to this is to, therefore, give frequent, gradual nail trims.

Another helpful way to allow the quick to recede naturally is to allow your dog to walk on hard, abrasive surfaces. The constant pressure on the ground allows the quick to recede towards the nail. If you think about it, how did dogs in the wild live without seeing the groomer to get those infamous nail trims? The secret was constant walking and running on hard surfaces. Add on top of that digging too. Consider though that if you're planning to make the quick recede and your dog is not used to walking, running and exercising on concrete, he may develop blisters and abrasions on his paws according to St. Bernard's Animal Medical Center. Also, if his nails are too long they may split and fracture. Gradual exposure goes a long way. With time, your dog's paw pads should toughen up and the nails should grow stronger and stay shorter.

What's the perfect length of your dog's nails? Ideally, the nails should be short enough so to not touch the ground when the dog is standing on a firm, level surface, but should be long enough to aid the dog when climbing up a hill or digging, according to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation.

If you're wondering how long it takes for the nail to recede, the answer is it depends. Just as humans, a dog's nails may vary from one dog and another. Some dogs have nails that grow faster, thicker and longer than others. It also depends on your dog's activity levels, age, location and breed. For instance, the more active the dog, the likelier to have shorter nails. Also, if your dog lives indoors and walks on carpets or outdoors on soft, grassy areas for most of the day, the higher the chances for long, brittle nails and long quicks.

If you don't feel to comfortable in trimming your dog's nails and want to have those quicks to recede fast, you can ask your vet for help. Some vets are willing to sedate or anesthetize your dog for the purpose of trimming those nails way back. This means, the vet will expose the quick and cauterize the quick to reduce bleeding. Ideally, this should be done when your dog is gong under for some other medical procedure such as a dental cleaning. Because the nails are cut way back, expect your dog to have some pain after the procedure.


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Questions & Answers


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        Nicholas D Milano 5 weeks ago

        Dogs nails grown in different directions up, down ,right, left. What to do?

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        AnnyBanany 7 weeks ago

        I've looked all over online, rephrased my search in every way imaginable (thank you M-W Thesaurus) but I have yet to find any answers for my poor Ranger...

        Before laying down for bed, we noticed what looked like a flake of nail hanging from the underside of one of his front nails. This happens a lot, and normally they brush right off without effort. However, upon touching it, he yelled out and immediately it became obvious that I pulled in his quick... But no idea how it could [seemingly] be growing out/below the nail, let alone longer than his nail; which does not look freshly broken. It's completely intact, so no bleeding at all, nor have there been any signs of previous bleeding on him or around the house. Is there a product or a way we can "shield" his quick while we wait for his nail to grow longer? I'm only assuming from what I'm seeing that nail growth will (in a sense) swallow the quick back up... I'm at a loss. All my years having 4-legged family members and dozens of fosters and I've never seen this happen once.

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        Elizabeth 2 months ago

        Here's what I found and it WORKS. First, use a dremel to trim your dog's nails. Much more precise than a clipper. Here's the trick to make the quick recede - after trimming the nail, use the dremel to file off the shiny outer surface of the nail 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch back from the tip. This will cause the end of the nail to dry out much more quickly and the quick will recede faster, too. I've found that after doing this I can take off about an eighth of an inch every two- three days until the nail is a reasonable length. YMMV.

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        Sandra 5 months ago

        We have an 11 year old

        Greyhound whos nails have always been ridiculously long even tgough he is taken to the cet every 2-3 weeks. They can cut almost nothing off. I an beyond frustrated.

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        Jamie 6 months ago

        Also heard of people using hemorrhoid cream.

        Doing some reading and someone said they got it wrong and it was supposed to be corn or wart cream.

        Prep. H vs Prep W

        Numerous people said it really was supposed to be prep. W

        That and knowing my own dogs recede after swimming in salt water incant believe tons of websites say there is no option except vet or cutting small bits at a time.

      • profile image

        Jamie 6 months ago

        I can't believe in song see this posted on any websites so far. My cousin has a salt water pool and I noticed that after my dog went swimming with us that her quick receded. The next day it was back out so I don't know if I had clipped it right away if it would have come back out passed the nail.

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        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 16 months ago from USA

        Peggy, happy to hear this helped you. Cutting a little at a time is also good for the doggies, as it feels less overwhelming. Use tasty treats and praise to make the process more easy. Touch paw with hand, treat, then touch paw with nail clipper, treat, touch nail with nail clipper, treat then clip nail with nail clipper, treat. Go gradual and make it fun! Some people find that trimming one/two nails a day is better than all at once. Short sessions work best.

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        Peggy 16 months ago

        Thanks for this article. My dog hates her nails to be cut and we are in the process of cutting them back. I did not realize she should get them trimmed once a week for a while to get them to recede until I read it here. Thank you.

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        Allyssa 17 months ago

        This is such a helpful article!! I thought my Great Pyrenees just had long quicks and it was unavoidable. I had always had a problem trimming her nails ever since she was a puppy, since the quick was so long and her nails are so thick. But now that I know it's possible to make it recede, I will being trimming her nails every week to see the progress.

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        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 20 months ago from USA

        Karyn, I am glad this article on dog nail quick helped you. good luck on your dog's nails!

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        Karyn 21 months ago

        My dog is 6 years old and never had a nail trim, she has black huuuuge nails now :( I cut them a little bit being careful with the quick but they're still large and I wanted to know when can I cut a little bit more so the quick could get shorter, this is the only place I got an answer so Thank You!

        I cut like 4mm today (2mm every time), so next week I'll cut a little more (this is going to take ages). One tip is to look at the nail where the cut is, if it is white you can cut 2mm; and if you see a black little circle in the middle you stop because next is the quick (it worked for me and my little huge nails).

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        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

        Happy to hear this article on how to make a dog's nail recede was helpful to you. Kind regards!

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        MAXWELL 2 years ago

        A great article to read, got right to the point and answered my question with helpful advice, thanks!

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        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

        Thanks Lrc7815, long nails is often an overlooked problem that can have devastating effects. Helping the quick recede is important to keep the nails in top shape.

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        Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

        What a great article and an important one. As the owner of a small dog with nails that grow like grass, I can certainly echo the importance of frequent nail clipping. When I hear Luna tapping across the kitchen floor, it's time to see the groomer. Great job on this one.

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        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

        Thanks for stopping by Monis Mas. Many dogs don't like to have their feet handled. It's good he's a good boy at the groomer. My dogs used to have long nails when we lived in Missouri. They were walking on grass and carpet all the time. Now that we're in Arizona and we have tile floors and they run outside on concrete and other hard surfaces, their nails are getting very short and their quick receded. It looks like I don't need to trim nail as often as before as they're naturally filed by the abrasive surfaces they run on!

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        Aga 5 years ago

        Great article! My dog's nails grow way to quickly :-). It's unfortunate he won't let me trim it, so I have to make frequent trips to the groomer. I know it's my fault, because I didn't make him comfortable at early age with the nail trimming, but I never had a dog before, and simply didn't know. He behaves pretty good at the groomer though!