Cutting to the Quick. Trimming Your Dog’s Nails While Under Anesthesia


Quicking a dog’s nails refers to trimming the nails down to the quick, which is the living tissue inside the nail. When a dog’s nails become overgrown, the quick can extend out with the nail, making it prone to injury and bleeding if the overgrown portion is clipped off.

Veterinarians often recommend quicking a dog’s overgrown nails under anesthesia. This allows the vet to safely trim the nails down without causing pain, discomfort or bleeding for the dog. The anesthesia keeps the dog still and blocks any pain while the quick of the nail is exposed and trimmed back.

Quicking dog nails under anesthesia involves multiple steps. First, the dog is prepped and given anesthesia to sedate them. Once anesthetized, the vet can carefully trim each nail down to the desired length above the quick. The vet monitors the dog during recovery until the anesthesia has fully worn off. Aftercare may involve antibiotics and bandages to prevent infection as the nails heal.

The rest of this article will provide a comprehensive overview of the process, risks, aftercare and prevention for quicking dog nails under anesthesia.

dog having nail trimming procedure under anesthesia

Why Quicking is Needed

Dog nails continue growing throughout a dog’s life and need to be trimmed regularly to avoid overgrowth. Overgrown nails can curl and split, becoming painful for the dog. Long nails also force the foot into an unnatural position that alters gait and posture, putting pressure on joints and ligaments. This can lead to arthritis and other orthopedic issues over time.

Keeping nails trimmed to an appropriate length has many benefits for a dog’s health and comfort. Shorter nails allow the toes to properly spread out, promoting better traction and stability. The normal foot placement also reduces strain on the legs and spine. With trimmed nails, there is less risk of nails snagging and tearing as well. Overall, regular nail trims keep the feet in good condition and enable a dog’s natural movements.

When nails grow too long, they extend past the quick, which is the blood vessel inside the nail. Trimming into the quick causes bleeding and pain. Quicking, or cutting back overgrown nails, gets them to a healthy length while avoiding injury to the quick. This allows the dog to gain the many benefits of proper nail length. Quicking is especially useful for dogs who hate nail trims, as their nails often overgrow substantially. Doing it under anesthesia provides safety and comfort when extensive trimming is required.

Risks of Quicking at Home

Hitting the quick while trimming your dog’s nails at home can lead to significant pain, injury, and other risks. The quick contains blood vessels and nerves, so cutting into it will likely cause bleeding and be very painful for your dog Dog Nail Quick: What It Looks Like and How to Avoid …. An exposed nail quick is also at high risk of developing an infection if left untreated.

According to veterinary experts, an exposed quick can take up to 7-10 days to heal and seal over What to Do When Your Dog’s Nail Quick Is Exposed. During this time, bacteria can enter and cause infection. Signs of an infected nail quick include redness, swelling, discharge, and a foul odor.

Most cases of quicking will require veterinary care. The veterinarian will properly clean and disinfect the nail to treat any infection. They may also use products like Quick Stop powder to help stop bleeding. In severe cases, the nail may need to be partially removed or antibiotics prescribed to manage infection.

To avoid complications, never leave an exposed quick untreated. Seeking prompt veterinary care is recommended anytime the quick is cut at home.

Choosing the Right Anesthesia

When quicking a dog’s nails under anesthesia, it’s crucial to select the right type of anesthesia to keep the dog calm and pain-free during the procedure. There are several options for dog anesthesia, each with their own pros and cons.

General anesthesia provides the deepest level of sedation and pain management. Dogs are fully unconscious and unresponsive under general anesthesia. While very effective, general anesthesia does require administration by a veterinarian and regular monitoring of vital signs (Puppy Domicile). The dog will also need to stay at the vet clinic for recovery.

Heavy sedation is an alternative that can be administered by a vet tech or groomer. Drugs like acepromazine, butorphanol, and midazolam cause relaxation and drowsiness, but not full loss of consciousness. This allows the nails to be trimmed safely while avoiding risks of general anesthesia. However, sedation may not prevent pain as effectively (Dog Forums).

Local anesthetic blocks like lidocaine can numb the paws and prevent pain, while leaving the dog awake. This minimizes risks, but the dog must stay very still to avoid injury. Topical creams only provide mild pain relief on the surface.

Ultimately the veterinarian and pet owner must weigh the benefits and risks to choose the right anesthesia for quicking the dog’s nails gently and safely.

Pre-Procedure Preparation

Proper preparation before quicking a dog’s nails under anesthesia is crucial to ensure the procedure goes smoothly and safely. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) guidelines, dogs should undergo a full pre-anesthetic evaluation and exam prior to any procedure requiring sedation or anesthesia (AAHA, 2022). This allows the veterinarian to assess the dog’s overall health status and identify any concerns that could impact anesthesia administration. It’s especially important for senior dogs and those with medical conditions like heart disease, kidney/liver issues, or respiratory problems.

Fasting is also an important part of preparing for anesthesia. Most vets recommend withholding food for around 8-12 hours before anesthesia, but water can usually be given up until 2 hours pre-procedure. This helps prevent vomiting under sedation and reduces the risk of aspiration. Puppies under 16 weeks old may need special fasting instructions since they can hypoglycemic when denied food for prolonged periods (Johnson, 2022).

If the dog is anxious about having their nails trimmed, the vet may prescribe a mild sedative like Trazodone to give at home before arriving for the procedure. This helps relax the dog beforehand so the anesthesia induction goes more smoothly (DogsBestLife, 2022). Owners should follow all pre-medication instructions carefully and watch for any adverse effects.

With proper preparation, anesthesia quicking can be done safely, humanely and with minimal stress for dogs who resist nail trims while awake.

veterinarian performing pre-anesthetic exam on dog

Administering the Anesthesia

When administering anesthesia for nail trimming in dogs, there are a few common methods used:


One method is to inject an anesthetic drug like propofol intravenously. This provides a quick onset of anesthesia usually within 30-60 seconds. The vet will calculate the proper dose based on the dog’s weight and health status. An IV catheter is placed to administer the drug. The dog is closely monitored and additional doses can be given as needed (VCA Hospitals).


Another technique is inhalant anesthesia using a gas like isoflurane or sevoflurane. This involves placing an endotracheal tube down the dog’s throat into the windpipe. The tube is connected to an anesthesia machine to deliver oxygen and anesthetic gas. It provides continuous administration of anesthesia and allows easy adjustments. Heart rate, breathing, and oxygen levels are monitored throughout (Covetrus).

Step-by-Step Process

The typical process for administering anesthesia is:

1. Place an IV catheter and inject pre-anesthetic medications.

2. Induce anesthesia with propofol injection or inhaled gas anesthesia.

3. Intubate the dog and connect to the gas anesthesia machine.

4. Monitor vitals continuously like heart rate, breathing, blood pressure.

5. Give additional doses or gas as needed to maintain surgical depth of anesthesia.

dog recovering from anesthesia on veterinary table

6. Carefully monitor recovery and extubate when swallowing reflex returns.

Trimming the Nails

When trimming the nails under anesthesia, it’s important to use proper clipping tools and techniques. The vet will likely use sharp guillotine-style trimmers or scissors designed for trimming dog nails. The tools should be sterilized before use. Care should be taken to clip the nail below the quick, while avoiding cutting into the quick itself. This takes precision and skill.

If the quick is accidentally cut, bleeding can occur. To stop this, the vet may use a cauterizing agent like potassium permanganate or ferric subsulfate. This chemically cauterizes the nail to stop bleeding. Some vets may also use a heat cauterizer. After cauterizing, antibiotic ointment is often applied and the paw may be bandaged.

Aftercare if the nail is quicked involves keeping the area clean and dry. The bandage should be kept on for 24 hours. Pain medication may be prescribed. The quick will gradually recede on its own as the nail grows out. Trims should be kept gentle while the nail fully heals. Signs of infection like swelling, heat, or pus should prompt a vet visit.

Recovery Monitoring

After the nail trimming procedure is complete, your dog will need to be closely monitored as they recover from the anesthesia. This is an important stage, as it allows you to ensure your dog is regaining alertness as expected and that their vital signs remain stable.

Most dogs will begin regaining consciousness within 30-90 minutes after receiving anesthesia. You should expect your dog to be very sleepy and lethargic initially. Their eyes may remain closed and they may not respond right away to stimuli. This is normal. As the anesthesia wears off, your dog will become more alert and responsive over the next few hours.

It’s important to monitor your dog’s vital signs during recovery. Check their breathing rate and rhythm, heart rate, and rectal temperature. Notify your veterinarian if you notice any irregularities, such as labored breathing, a slowed heart rate, or low body temperature. Your veterinarian may want to administer supportive care or medications if your dog’s recovery seems abnormal.

Make sure to keep your dog warm, comfortable, and quiet during recovery. Avoid overstimulation. Offer small amounts of water once your dog is alert and able to swallow without issue. Recovery usually takes 6-12 hours, sometimes longer with older dogs. Your veterinarian will advise you on what to expect and when your dog can return to normal activity.

With proper monitoring and aftercare, your dog should recover fully from anesthesia and be back to themselves in no time after their nail trimming procedure.


After quicking a dog’s nails under anesthesia, proper aftercare is crucial for your dog’s recovery. There are several things you should do:

Activity restrictions – Your dog should avoid strenuous activity while recovering. Limit exercise to short, gentle walks. Don’t allow running, jumping, or playing. This allows the paw and nail beds time to heal without further injury.

Pain management – Your vet will likely prescribe pain medication to keep your dog comfortable. Be sure to give this as directed. You can also use ice packs on the paws to reduce swelling and discomfort.

dog wearing cone collar and bandage on paw after nail procedure

Follow-up vet visit – Your vet will want to see your dog again in a few days to check healing and remove any stitches if they were placed. Follow your vet’s advice on when to come back.

Watch for signs of infection like pus, worsening swelling/pain, or fever. Call your vet if you notice anything concerning. With proper aftercare, your dog should make a full recovery within a week or two.

Preventing Future Overgrowth

Once your dog’s nails have been properly trimmed and quicked under anesthesia, it’s important to take measures to prevent overgrowth from occurring again. Here are some tips for keeping your dog’s nails short:

Regular at home trims – Get in the habit of trimming your dog’s nails at home every 2-3 weeks. With the quick shortened from the vet procedure, you should now be able to trim off smaller portions of the nail on a regular basis, preventing overgrowth.

Pet nail grinders – Using a pet nail grinder allows you to slowly grind down the nail little by little. This is gentler than clipping. Grinding nails weekly helps keep them nicely trimmed. Here’s a guide for using grinders effectively.

Trips to the groomer – If you don’t feel comfortable doing nail trims at home, book your dog in for professional grooms every 4-6 weeks. Groomers can properly maintain nails, especially if they have already been quicked under anesthesia. Getting on a regular schedule will prevent overgrowth.

Staying on top of nail care at home or with a groomer will help prevent the need for quicking under anesthesia again in the future. With some diligence about regular trims, you can keep your dog’s nails short and comfortable.

Scroll to Top