For most people, cutting a dog’s nails is a really challenging task for both the dog and the owner. They don’t understand what’s going on and what they don’t understand – they fear. This leads to wriggling and a drawn out process which can often lead to a total failure and the nails remain unclipped.
However, there are certain steps you can take to make the whole process easier which includes sedation either medically or naturally to make things easier and we’re going to help you understand which is the best way and what you’ll need to do it.
This article will not contain any advice on other methods outside of sedation – they have their own dedicated pages which all link to our best dog nail clippers page.
What can I use to sedate a dog for nail clipping
Before we start, we will not be listing any kind of medication that should only be used by a vet such as anesthetic. You should never self medicate your dog under any circumstances.
Below is a list of substances and techniques to get your dog to a calmer place to make clipping their nails easier. They are safe to use, freely available to buy online and highly effective. The first port of call is to try and get your dog to be used to nail clipping so that no sedation is needed but if you’ve tried everything then this article should help a lot.
Before we begin
It is absolutely pointless looking for guides on how to sedate a dog if they aren’t well fed, exercised and calm to begin with. Don’t start a nail clipping session when they’re hungry and full of life because it will make the below sedation substances ineffective. Make sure they’ve got a full belly and they’re tired and you’re more likely to have success with sedation.
Antihistamines AKA diphenhydramine are designed for humans to treat the effects of allergies, however one of the side effects of antihistamines is drowsiness and that is an ideal state for a dog to be in when they get their nails cut. Benadryl and Nytol are example brands which are commonly used in the UK.
You’re probably wondering just how much antihistamines to give your dog. Well, for a start do not give any to your dog if they are currently on any other medication or have an underlying condition as antihistamines can have other unwanted side effects which can be aggravated further. You can consult your vet for a second opinion, however a rough guide is to give them 2-4mg of antihistamine per kg of their weight.
If this is your first time doing it we recommend sticking with the 2mg or less, making sure they’re got plenty of water and to keep a very close eye on them for a few hours after the dose and clipping.
This isn’t a guaranteed fix but the drowsiness may make the act of holding them down easier.
There are many benefits of lavender and its scent and in recently years has been adapted way beyond a simple oil. Now you can get it as a cream, spray and candle wax. The scent of lavender can help calm humans and dogs as well as help them sleep – both of these are desirable but it’s the former which is more likely in the context of nail clipping.
We recommend adding a tiny amount of lavender into their pre nail clipping meal as well as rubbing some into their necks. Lastly, you can even use a spray with the scent to prepare the room in which the nail clipping session will take part in.
It won’t sedate them much on its own but as lavender is perfectly safe and often can be used with no contact whatsoever it can boost the sedation effect of all the other methods you’re using.
Certain herbs have strong calming qualities which can help sedate a dog ahead of having their claws cut. A selection of these herbs are chamomile (we’ve all heard of this one), hops, valerian and catnip. Yes, you heard that last one right, catnip.
You can mix a small amount of these into their food that they eat not long before you cut their nails or you cut their nails once you see your efforts starting to work.
We would not recommend using all 4 of these herbs at the same time as one of them will do and you don’t want them to overdose or ingest too much or you’ll have much bigger problems than long nails to deal with.
Calming music is no recent invention, it has been around for years and love by many humans to help keep them calm and focused. Dogs are also fans of certain kinds of music (or rather ‘sounds’) and it has been proven to help calm them down.
Music blocks out other noises such as vibrations if you’re using a nail grinder or even the clipping noise itself with scissors. It can also keep their mind off whatever’s going on and go to a happy place.
If you’re using other methods of sedation then the music is simply another piece of the puzzle. Get everything in place with the music and suddenly the clipping experience goes from being super anxious to a dream land for your pooch.
Adaptil is a spray or diffuser which releases natural dog calming pheromones into the air which can relax and calm them very quickly over a short period of time. It’s safe to use and non-toxic and is one of the most common products used by kennels and rescue centers. It’s a little pricey and there are some doubts on its effectiveness and legitimate questions about side effects such as diarrhea.
This all sounds amazing but we’ve put it down the bottom of the list as it’s expensive and a bit hit and miss with dogs in the UK and some owners have reported side effects. It could be the best thing ever or it could be a total waste of money.
CBD oil or cannabidiol has been scientifically proven to improve the feeling of wellbeing, reduce inflammation and reduce anxiety in humans and dogs and it can also be used to help relax a dog before you clip their nails. CBD oil is now perfectly legal and doses suitable for dogs can be purchased so worry not about dosage or whether you’d have to do any deals in the dark to get any.
So there we have it, plenty of ways to sedate a dog for nail clipping without having to use any dangerous medication and for the most part, very cheaply. As usual, take great care in what you give your dog and always follow veterinarian advice.
Ronnie is the JugDog site editor and a dog expert who has lived and worked with dogs his entire life. Living in St. Helens, UK with his wife son and Jug Dog Jeff Ronnie spends most of time researching the answers to the burning questions of the dog community as well as reviewing the latest and greatest dog products.