Nail trimming can be quite stressful for many dogs.  Often, if a pet will not tolerate nail trims at home it can be even more stressful for them in the veterinary office since it is an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar faces.  While with enough restraint even the most anxious pet can have their nails trimmed, this will inevitably lead to further anxiety down the road, making future visits even more stressful and potentially dangerous.  

Clarendon Animal Care has taken many steps to ensure that our clients and patients enjoy a low-stress visit.  Our staff members are educated in the techniques of Fear Free and Low Stress Handling. This means we are well-versed in both canine and feline body language and are able to read the subtle signs of stress or anxiety that patients can start to exhibit when anxious, stressed, or afraid.

We take many precautions to make visits as low-stress as possible, including infusing calming pheromones throughout the hospital, playing relaxing music, utilizing yummy treats, and using low-stress handling techniques while in appointments. If patients become too stressed or anxious our assistants, technicians and doctors will take a step back to reassess each situation.

In some cases, taking a mild pre-visit sedative can facilitate the visit and nail trimming, allowing the pet to be more relaxed.  These medications are typically very safe and well-tolerated, but do need to be prescribed by a veterinarian. Most work best when administered 2-3 hour prior to the visit, though specific instructions will be provided.  These medications can often also be used at home as well, to facilitate desensitization and counter-conditioning in a less stressful environment.

If oral pre-visit antianxiety medications are not enough, some patients need to be sedated with injectable medications in order to perform a safe nail trim.

There are many ways to work with your pets at home to get them accustomed to having their feet handled or nails clipped, as well as alternatives to clipping, such as dremels or scratchboards. We recommend the “Nailed It” course by Lori Nanan - ($39) - which goes through step-by-step instructions to desensitize pets to having their feet and nails handled.  

Alex, a Licensed Veterinary Technician, is working on specialization in behavior, and is available for individual appointments to work with patients using positive reinforcement to counter-condition and desensitize patients to veterinary handling.  You may contact her at to set up an appointment.

Additional Resources:

And for the dogs where nail trimming is just not going to happen…Train them to use a scratch board!: