Nail trims are one of the most common non-medical tasks that the veterinary healthcare team is asked to perform. Sometimes, the request is made because a pet owner is afraid to hurt their pet. More commonly, however, it’s a result of the fact that the pet has developed a fearful response to gentle restraint, handling of its feet, or some other aspect of the grooming process and resists at all costs. I’ve worked in many veterinary practices over the years where clipping the nails of fearful pets is accomplished using muzzles and as many staff members as it takes to get the job done. While the pet may leave with short nails, he also goes home with an escalating sense of fear that can potentially be generalized to other places and situations and may eventually place family members at risk.
At Priority Pet Hospital, we feel that behavioral health is a critical part of overall wellness for pets. Our entire team believes that muzzles, manhandling, and pig-piles on top of fearful pets are rarely appropriate and never useful in reducing fearful behavior. Drs. Dan Estep and Suzanne Hetts, applied animal behaviorists, recently released a great audio postcard about conditioning your dog–young or old–to gentle handling of the feet and nail trimming (click HERE to listen). They also make the very good point that fearful dogs should never be wrestled into complaince, because it will only make the behavior worse. Gentle–and in some cases reversible–sedation is very safe, and by far the best way to minimize fear and risk of injury to fearful dogs for routine procedures.
Don’t be afraid to tell your veterinarian that you would like to have your fearful pet sedated for nail trimming. Your pet–and your veterinary healthcare team–will thank you for it!