How to Prevent a Dog's Nails From Bleeding When You Cut Them

Updated on August 15, 2019
Susan May Gudge profile image

Susan was educated at the Montreal School of Dog Grooming and became a certified esthetician for dogs and cats in 1988.

Cutting the tip of the quick can cause bleeding. Although an uncomfortable experience for both the dog and owner, it is not necessarily dangerous.
Cutting the tip of the quick can cause bleeding. Although an uncomfortable experience for both the dog and owner, it is not necessarily dangerous.

Why does my dog's nail bleed when I cut it?

Inside each nail there is a vein called "the quick." If you cut this vein, the nail will bleed.

Where is the quick?

On white nails: It is quite easy to spot in white nails because it shows up as a red dot in the white background. As you cut a white nail, bit by bit, it will suddenly show a tiny dot of red. That is the beginning of the vein and the cutting should stop before it is actually cut too deeply.

On black nails: Seeing the quick can be hard on black nails. When cutting, the interior cross-section will be whitish or grey. The beginning of the quick would be a tiny black dot. The black dot is the beginning of the quick. Cut small layers off to get an idea of how far back the quick is. Sometimes it is better to do 5 small cuts for each nail instead of taking the chance on cutting off one large chunk when you do not see the quick.

How close to the quick should I cut?

It is necessary to cut as close to that beginning of the vein as possible, to ensure the nail is cut short enough. When you cut close to the quick, it forces the quick to retreat, making the next month's nail able to be cut shorter.

If the nails are extremely long, the quick might also be long, so do not be surprised if you cannot remove much of the nail. It can take a few months of cutting before the quick is forced back in the nail to enable shorter cuts.

Can a dog bleed to death from a broken or cut nail?

A normally healthy dog will not bleed to death when that vein inside their nails is cut or broken. It can be quite intense when the blood does start to flow, fast and furious, but a healthy animal will have the proper coagulation that will stop the flow in due course.

Methods to stop a dog's nail from bleeding:

There are ways to stop it, products made for the same purpose as when a man cuts himself shaving. One such product is called Quik Stop, made with a styptic powder that basically cauterizes the wound and burns the vein closed. When cutting a dog's nails, I always have a small open pot of the powder ready beside me in case it is needed. It can cause a tiny bit of heated pain to the animal, so avoiding cutting the quick would be the best method, but that is not always possible. Just do not panic and in so doing panic the animal.

How do I stop a dog's nail from bleeding?

  1. When the vein in the nail is cut, it is best to act fast, just to avoid a mess.
  2. Take some of the powder onto your finger and press it firmly to the end of the nail. The bleeding should stop immediately.
  3. If it doesn't, take a little more of the powder and repeat the process.
  4. Do not panic the dog. It is not life-threatening and easy enough to do if you remain calm.

Why cut the nails if there is a chance they will bleed?

Dog's nails should be kept short. When they are long, it can cause toe deformation and pain. It can cause a crippling malformation and arthritis. The long nails can also become broken causing bleeding and pain when the quick (the inside vein) is damaged. Regular walking on pavement or playing ball on asphalt can wear the nails so that oftentimes they do not need cutting. Unfortunately, the Dew Claw, the claws higher up on the paws, are not affected by normal wear and should be kept short and filed to avoid them getting stuck on blankets or toys and breaking.

What equipment is needed to cut dog's nails?

There are a few styles of cutters for the nails. Chose the one that is best for you. You must feel comfortable with your equipment in order to do a proper job. You should also have a small pot of styptic powder for those little accidents when the quick is cut. Another thing that is handy is a file to take off those sharp edges.

The Classic nail cutter...The Guillotine. Note the different sizes for the cutting area. The hole has to be big enough for the nail to fit inside.
The Classic nail cutter...The Guillotine. Note the different sizes for the cutting area. The hole has to be big enough for the nail to fit inside.

Guillotine Cutter

One very popular one is called the guillotine. The small blade can be replaced when dull by another with the kit usually supplied with this type of cutter. When buying a Guillotine cutter, be advised that there are a few sizes, based on the size of the nails of the dog. If you are not sure which, get the larger one since it can cut any size nail. The smaller ones are good for a cleaner cut for miniature dogs. Used properly, this can be a strong, functional tool.

Using the Guillotine Dog Nail Cutter

Pliers Nail Cutters - Dogs

Pliers Cutter

This style is a favourite of mine. It is solid and fits well into the hand. It can be used on all sizes of animals, from birds to large dogs. It should always be held vertically when cutting, to avoid cracking the nails. The blades of the deluxe pliers will stay sharp for many years and should never need any form of sharpening. Remember, you get what you pay for and paying a little extra for a strong set will save you money in the long run.

Cheap and functional, sometimes homemade is the best.
Cheap and functional, sometimes homemade is the best.
Round the ends to make it more comfortable for your hand.
Round the ends to make it more comfortable for your hand.

Nail File

Again, there are many types of nail files on the market. You can spend a little or a lot. The best though is a homemade version. Take a piece of wood (approx 3 inches x half inch x 1 inch), round the ends off so it will be comfortable in the hand and then glue strips of Medium Sandpaper on one side and Fine Sandpaper on the other. At just about no cost, you will have a function nail file that will work better than any on the market.

How do I file the nails?

When filing the nails, it is really important to remember to only go one way on each side. Stroke in one direction and do not go back and forth. Top side to bottom side only or it can cause chipping, breakage or cracking. When smooth, do the other side of the nail, top side to bottom side. Regular filing can actually replace the cutting. Some dogs will take to having their nails filed rather than cut.


If there is any danger of the dog biting when the quick is cut or he or she just has a huge fear of having the nails cut, a muzzle should be used. Remember that there can be a certain amount of discomfort if you nip that nerve quick or have to cauterize the blood flow. Often, a dog is very embarrassed by his bad behaviour once it is over but the human should never put the dog in the position of such a grievous mistake as biting. Since nail cutting should be a regular affair, get a proper muzzle that fits your dog. Yes, it is saying that you don't completely trust them, but a dog is a dog and accidents happen. Sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry and there is no shame in muzzling. Your confidence and the dog's confidence become one at times like nail cutting or injuries. If you feel nervous about one inch teeth tearing your arm apart, the dog will feel it, making him or her nervous as well and more prone to biting if pain is involved. Also, remember to talk to them, calmly, happily, tell them how wonderful they are and hugs and kisses when the job is done.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2016 Susan May Gudge


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    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Very helpful.


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