Does Cutting Dog Nail Quick Hurt?


Trimming a dog’s nails is an important part of routine grooming and health maintenance. Dog nails that are too long can crack or split, become painful, and negatively affect the dog’s foot structure. Long nails can also snag on surfaces, tear, or get stuck in materials or between objects. Keeping nails neatly trimmed prevents issues.

However, cutting into the quick, the blood vessel inside the nail, can be painful for dogs and cause bleeding. Knowing how to identify the quick and avoid hitting it when trimming nails is crucial. This guide covers dog nail anatomy, techniques for safe trimming, treating a cut quick, and preventing issues.

Anatomy of Dog Nails

A dog’s nails are composed of three main parts: the quick, nail bed, and nail plate. The quick is the soft tissue inside the nail that contains nerves and blood vessels. It’s usually pinkish in color. The nail bed is the skin under the nail, and the nail plate is the hard outer covering that extends past the nail bed. The quick recedes back into the nail bed as the nail plate grows longer.

The most important part to be aware of when trimming your dog’s nails is the quick. If the nail is cut too short, the quick will be exposed and start bleeding. This can be painful for dogs and difficult to stop. Knowing where the quick ends inside the nail will help prevent painful accidents.

According to this source, the quick has an abundance of nerve endings and blood vessels that aid in nail growth and sensation. It’s essential to avoid hitting the quick when trimming your dog’s nails. Dog nails also contain veins and arteries that can bleed profusely if cut.

Identifying the Quick

looking at dog's nail anatomy

The quick is the soft tissue inside the nail that contains nerves and blood vessels. It extends partway down the nail and looks pink or reddish in color.

In white or light-colored nails, the quick is easier to see and appears as a pinkish area surrounded by the harder nail material. In black or dark-colored nails, the quick blends in and is harder to identify.

As you look at the nail, the quick is located in the center portion, not near the tip or bottom edge. It fills about two-thirds of the entire nail.

To locate the quick before trimming, you can shine a flashlight through the nail to see the pinkish area. You can also lightly press on the nail to feel where it goes from hard to soft, indicating the start of the quick.

Knowing how to identify the quick will allow you to avoid cutting into it when trimming your dog’s nails.

Source: Confident K-9 Education

Using Caution When Trimming

When trimming your dog’s nails, it’s important to take steps to avoid hitting the quick. Here are some techniques to help prevent painful accidents:

Go slowly and trim only a small amount at a time, especially if the nails are overgrown. The quick recedes as the nail is trimmed down, so you can remove a little length and then check again for the quick.[1]

Look for the quick before each cut. The quick is pink and you may see a blood vessel inside the nail. If you can’t see it, trim only a tiny sliver off the end.

Use a bright light or flashlight to illuminate the nail. This will make it easier to see the quick.

Cut nails after a bath when they are soft and the quick is more visible. Avoid trimming when the nails are dry and hard.

Use sharp trimmers designed for dogs to get a clean, even cut. Dull blades can crush the nail instead.

Cut white nails from the side instead of head-on to avoid the quick. Position the blade just in front of the quick’s pink color.

With black nails, lop off small pieces from the underside rather than the top edge.

Go extra slowly if your dog is wiggly or impatient. Stop if they jerk their paw away.

Praise and reward your dog during nail trims for cooperating. This will help make it a more positive experience.

What Happens If You Cut the Quick

If you accidentally cut your dog’s quick while trimming their nails, it can be a scary and painful experience for both you and your pet. When the quick is cut, blood vessels are severed, which causes bleeding and pain.

One of the most noticeable effects is that the nail will start bleeding profusely. The quick contains nerve endings and blood vessels, so cutting into it can be quite painful for dogs. Some signs your dog is in pain include whimpering, shaking, holding their paw up, or excessively licking the nail.

Along with pain and bleeding, cutting the quick also poses an infection risk. The open wound is exposed to bacteria, which can lead to an infection developing if left untreated. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, discharge, and a foul odor around the nail. Pain and lameness may worsen as the infection progresses.

dog's paw bleeding from cut quick

While an accidental quick cut can be alarming, the good news is that the bleeding will usually subside on its own within 5-10 minutes. Applying styptic powder or cornstarch can help stop bleeding faster. If the bleeding persists or an infection develops, it’s best to have your vet examine your dog’s nail and provide proper treatment.

Treating a Cut Quick

If you accidentally cut your dog’s quick while trimming their nails, the most important thing is to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. There are a few effective ways to do this at home:

Apply direct pressure to the nail with a clean towel or cloth. Hold for 5-10 minutes while maintaining steady pressure. This will help the blood clot and stop bleeding (source:

Use a styptic powder or pencil specially formulated to stop bleeding for dogs and cats. These contain compounds like potassium ferrate or ferric subsulfate which will cauterize the wound. Gently apply to the nail tip and hold for 30-60 seconds (source:

After the bleeding has stopped, you can bandage the paw with some non-stick gauze and medical tape, being careful not to wrap too tightly. This protects the nail while it begins healing. Give your dog an over-the-counter pain reliever like baby aspirin to ease discomfort.

Monitor the nail over the next few days as it starts growing out. Keep it clean and dry and avoid activities that could cause further injury.

Preventing Further Injury

If you accidentally cut your dog’s nail quick, it’s important to take steps to prevent further injury while it heals. Here are some tips:

Keep the nail clean. Gently clean the nail with a dog-safe antiseptic cleaner or just mild soap and water. This helps prevent infection. You can apply a dog-safe triple antibiotic ointment as well. Be sure to clean and inspect the nail daily.

cleaning dog's hurt nail

Watch for signs of infection. If the nail becomes red, swollen or oozing pus, or if your dog is excessively licking the paw, see your vet right away as antibiotics may be needed. Other signs of infection include loss of appetite and lethargy.

Try not to bandage the paw unless instructed by your vet, as bandages can trap bacteria and moisture, leading to infection. It’s best to let the nail stay open to air.

Limit your dog’s activity for a day or two to allow the nail time to start healing and the bleeding to stop. Avoid walks on rough terrain during this time.

You can apply a small amount of styptic powder (Wahl) or cornstarch to help stop minor bleeding. But do not use these if the bleeding is severe.

Monitor your dog closely over the next week as the nail heals. If bleeding resumes or you notice any problems, contact your veterinarian right away.

When to See the Vet

In most cases, a nicked quick will heal on its own within a few days. However, you should take your dog to see the vet if any of the following occur:

Severe bleeding – If the bleeding does not stop after 10-15 minutes of pressure with a clean cloth or paper towel, you should seek veterinary care. Uncontrolled bleeding can lead to blood loss and other complications.

Persistent pain – If your dog is excessively licking at the nail or seems to be in significant discomfort even a day after trimming, there may be an underlying issue that needs veterinary attention. Persistent pain could indicate a more serious injury or infection.

Infection – Signs of infection include redness, swelling, oozing pus, and a bad smell around the nail. Infections require antibiotics and other veterinary treatment. An untreated infection can spread and cause greater harm.

Seeing the vet promptly if any of these symptoms are present after clipping the quick can help prevent further injury or complications. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your pet’s health.

Teaching Your Dog to Accept Nail Trims

Nail trims can be stressful for some dogs. Using desensitization training techniques can help make the process easier and more comfortable for your pup. Here are some tips:

Start by letting your dog get comfortable with the tools. Let them inspect and sniff the clippers/grinder while giving treats. Gently touch their paws and feet while praising and rewarding. Work up slowly to holding their paw for longer periods before touching the clippers to their nails. Go at your dog’s pace and keep sessions short.

giving dog treats during nail trim

Use high-value treats to positively reinforce calm behavior and build positive associations. Give treats frequently during the process so your dog learns nail trims = yummy treats!

Limit and stop if your dog shows signs of fear like trembling, withdrawing, or hiding. Pushing too far can make anxiety worse. Take a break and try again later.

Be patient! For extremely anxious dogs, work on counterconditioning by simply showing your dog the clippers then putting them away and treating. Progress over many sessions until your dog can relax through an entire trim.

Consult a certified dog trainer for guidance on using desensitization to overcome nail trim fears if your dog continues resisting. With time and positive associations, you can help make grooming less stressful for anxious pups.



While proper nail care is important for all dogs, it requires care and caution to avoid cutting the quick. Trimming too short can be quite painful for dogs and cause bleeding and other issues. Make sure to carefully examine each nail before clipping. Go slowly, look for the pink quick inside, and stop before cutting it. If you do happen to nick the quick, use styptic powder or cornstarch to stop bleeding. Keep an eye on the nail for signs of infection. Don’t trim again until fully healed.

With time and positive reinforcement, you can train your dog to accept regular nail trims. Just go at their pace, reward cooperation with treats, and keep sessions short and sweet. Proper nail care prevents problems and keeps your dog comfortable. Reiterate the importance of careful, regular trims to maintain healthy nails and avoid issues.

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