Toe nail trims can bring out the worst in any dog.
In my opinion, toe nail trims (TNT, for short, and yes, the acronym should be the first hint) are one of the most common and most annoying services we offer. It takes a lot more skill and patience than anyone would think. Consider how many people say, “My dog will let me do anything, except clip his nails.” Another one of my favorites remains, “Barney is so well behaved, but he doesn’t like his feet touched.” Another quick example of TNT aversion is, “Bingo has never bitten anyone, except when they tried to touch his feet.”
I have personally witnessed several frightening and surprising transformations over the years. A kind and docile Lab suddenly becomes a ferocious, semi-feral canine from the wild. A sweet and gentle Pomeranian magically obtains the strength of Samson and treats those clippers as if we were about to cut his enchanted locks. A sedate and quiet Retriever quickly flips out and gator rolls all the way to the door.
Not to discriminate, our feline patients are also subject to the transformative power of the nail clip. Just recently, we had the cutest, most adorable kitten brought in for an appointment. Everything went well, until the nail trim. She screeched and howled and hissed so loudly that I felt the need to make a disclaimer to the people in the waiting room that we were not abusing any animals in the treatment area.
Now, I am a results-driven person. I have no qualms about sweeping the floor, holding an animal, taking x-rays, or even filling medications if that needs to be done, but the one job I avoid (like cold coffee or meatloaf – I really hate meatloaf) is clipping nails. I consider myself the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. There has never been a nail trim where I didn’t cause bloodshed.
I don’t even clip my own dogs’ nails. I once made the mistake of agreeing to help my parents clip Bella’s (their dog) nails. After my mother explicitly told me she was holding Bella, my mom then let go of her and Bella bit me. Immediately following that brief act of violence (my dad now holding her), I clipped four of five nails on the first paw. Of course, on the fourth nail, I nicked a quick, and Bella went ballistic. Has anyone pricked a finger or seen a nail bleed? It’s quite a large amount of blood. Just ask my dad. He started hysterically yelling, “The blood! There is so much blood! What do we do?” He rivaled Chicken Little with the falling sky.
I learned three valuable lessons that day. Firstly, I cannot trust my family to competently help with veterinary-related issues. Secondly, always have some QuickStop (that powder that stops bleeding) on hand, and thirdly, even the family dogs are not immune to the TNT transformation.
I tell this story as a reminder and warning for all. A simple toe nail trim is not so simple, and cherish those groomers and technicians who hold the mystical secrets and power of the nail trim.
Dr. Casey Kurtz, Associate Veterinarian
French Creek Veterinary Hospital