Dr. Suzanne Stack, D.V.M.
You can tell if your greyhound’s toenails are too long by standing him on a flat surface. You should be able to slide a piece of paper up under his nails. If you cannot do this, they are too long.
Fortunately, greyhounds are accustomed to having their nails clipped several times weekly while racing; though it is amazing how wimpy some of them become in their retirement. Greyhounds are used to having their nails cut while standing, with you standing beside them, facing the tail and lifting each foot on the opposite side, much as a farrier trims a horse’s hooves. There are two types of nail clippers which can be purchased at pet shops. One has a “guillotine” end and the other looks more like a pair of pliers with heavy plastic handles. I prefer the “plier” type on these big dogs, and that is what all the racing kennels use.
Nails are best managed, especially if they are over-long, by cutting them weekly until they are back to normal. Since the blood vessels in the nail grow along with the nail shell, you cannot cut long nails back completely in one session without drawing blood. To get an idea how short you can go, see if your greyhound has any white nails. Start with these as you can see the pinkish blood vessel through the translucent nail. Take off only a small bit at a time, maybe cutting five or six times until you can either see you are near the vein or the dog becomes sensitive, indicating that your are close. Unfortunately, some dogs will cry out with any cutting what-so-ever. After you’ve done the white nails, you can use them to guesstimate how far to trim the black nails. Remember, start by taking little bits off the end and working your way back. Never cut up high in the nail all at once, as this is a great way to get a fast bleeder.
It is best to cut nails outside, so that if you do get bleeding, it doesn’t get all over the house. Veterinarians use silver nitrate cautery sticks to stop the bleeding, but it is impractical to buy a pack for just one or two dogs, as they fall apart in just a few months. If you are reluctant to try trimming your greyhound’s nails without them, ask your vet for a few sticks just before you do it. Silver nitrate sticks sting when applied to a bleeding nail, so be ready. Other items that can be used to stop bleeding are styptic (shaving) pencils, various blood-stop powders (available from pet shops), flour and baking powder (fill a small container and dip the nail in it). Dry the nail first with a paper towel, then quickly apply the cautery substance before the bleeding re-starts. If none of these things work well, and if all fails, the bleeding will stop on its own. Just let them run around outside until it does and give them an extra dog biscuit.
Note: If you prefer not to cut your greyhound’s nails bring them to the AAGI Nail Clinic on the 2nd Saturday of each month.