How Do I Sedate My Dog To Cut His Nails

While you may enjoy a trip to a salon for a bit of pampering in order to get your nails done, this is not always true of your pet. Your dog may be nervous or frightened at the prospect.

This situation may require a little more than a pat on the back and some encouraging words. So, you may be wondering, just how do I sedate my dog to cut his nails?

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What can I give my dog to calm him down to cut his nails?

There are a number of substances available for use in sedating your canine companion. Some, like Benadryl or Melatonin, are available over the counter, but others, like Acepromazine, will require a prescription. Be aware that anytime you sedate your dog, you must seek advice from a professional to avoid dangerous consequences.

What you should know before trying to sedate your dog?

There are a number of things you should know before you decide to sedate your furry friend.

Sedation is a complicated procedure, and should be undertaken only by a professional. You certainly wouldn’t attempt to medicate yourself prior to a complicated medical or dental procedure, so you should treat your pet with the same consideration. 

Any substance used in the sedation process should be considered a medication, whether purchased over the counter or by prescription, and must be treated as such.

Only a qualified professional can decide on the proper dosage, and advise you on how to administer it. And your canine should be examined by a vet before you even consider the process to determine what substance will work most advantageously with the least side effects.

This is especially true if the animal is already on other medications, as some sedatives may interact adversely with other medications. Certainly, your canine companion will need his nails trimmed from time to time, but there is no reason to make the process any riskier than it should be.

Substances that can be used

One common medication used to sedate canines is Benadryl. You may be familiar with the name, as it is commonly used in humans as well.

Benadryl is an antihistamine used to treat allergies, both environmental and circumstantial. A vet may advise you to use this substance if your pet has been stung, or has a reaction to pollen in the Spring. But it also has a mild sedative effect, and can be used to calm a nervous animal.

The common dosage recommended by vets is 1 mg per pound. Since most tablets are available in 25mg sizes, a single tablet will suffice for a twenty-five pound animal.

But remember to consult a vet before you administer any amount to your pet, as there are certain conditions which could make the use of Benadryl dangerous, such as glaucoma, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease.

Melatonin is yet another commonly used human medication, available over the counter, which may be of use is sedating an overly anxious animal in need of nail trimming.

Although Melatonin has not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for use in pets, it has been used by many pet owners, under the supervision of their vets, with much success and very few, and usually minor side effects.

This substance is commonly used on a continual basis to treat overactivity in companion animals, epilepsy, and even hair loss. It can also be sued as needed to treat nervousness during thunderstorms or fireworks, or simply to allow for a good night’s sleep.

As with any medication, a trip to your vet will be necessary before you consider dosing up your best friend, as there are a number of things to consider. A professional will be able to determine the correct dosage, and even if your dog would benefit from the medication.

Melatonin has been known to work poorly with some other medications your pet may be taking, and should not be used at all by pregnant animals or puppies.

There have been some side effects reported, although rarely. These can include stomach upset and/or cramping, itching, confusion, and tachycardia. Your vet will advise you how to handle these.

While the two drugs mentioned above are available over the counter, other appropriate medications will require a prescription from a licensed vet.

Have you ever thought of giving your furry companion a dose of Valium? Well, this commonly used human drug, generic name Diazepam, has also been used to treat pets who are prone to convulsions, over excitement, or who are in need of a muscle relaxant.

Just as in human usage, diazepam comes with a plethora of warnings. It may interact adversely with a variety of other medications your animal may be on, it can leave your friend weak and uncoordinated, and, if used on a continual basis, you may find yourself dealing with an addiction. That’s right, your pup may turn into a junkie.

Despite the fact that the FDA has not approved diazepam for use on animals, vets are fully qualified to prescribe its use. But you can only obtain it from a licensed vet’s office, or with a prescription from one. Diazepam is a controlled substance, and, as such, should be administered and stored with care.

Another prescription medication available is Acepromazine. This drug has been approved for administration to your pet before and after surgical procedures, as well as to control overly excited animals.

If you are considering using this to calm down your companion before attempting to trim their nails, a trip to the vet will be necessary, as only a professional is qualified to prescribe the drug, advise you on its efficacy and appropriateness, and warn of any side effects which may arise.

This drug may be contraindicated if there is a history of liver disease, heart disease, seizure disorders, or if the animal in question is pregnant or lactating. Side effects are rare, but there could be an allergic reaction. Other signs may include difficulty in breathing, swelling in the face, lips, or tongue, and hives.

Acepromazine should be administered 45 minutes to an hour before attempting to trim the nails, as to give it time to take effect. This drug can be very effective, as well as affordable, since it is sold as individual tablets to be used as needed.

If you have noticed a theme in any of the above mentioned substances, it is that these medications, whether available over the counter or by prescription, should only be used under the direction and guidance of a qualified veterinarian. Neatly trimmed nails are not worth the risks involved otherwise.

Calming Your Dog with natural solutions.

Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable dealing with the situation in a more homeopathic manner.

Aromatherapy is one way to go. Try massaging a small amount of lavender oil onto the back of your furry friend’s neck, or at the base of his spine. Lavender has been known to have a calming effect.

Pheromones may also be the answer to your excitable companion’s problem. Try a Sentry calming collar, or a Comfort Zone Diffuser with dog appeasing pheromones. These products contain the same pheromones produced by mamas to comfort their puppies, and have a calming effect on adult animals as well.

Herbal alternatives are also on the market. You could try Dorwest Herbs Scullcap and Valerian tablets, as the herbs they contain have been proven to be effective against nervousness, excitability, restlessness, and anxiety. But don’t use this on lactating mothers or puppies under two months old.

Another herbal choice is Vetzyme Stay Calm liquid, which contains a combination of chamomile and ginger. Simply follow the dosing recommendations and mix in with your pet’s daily meals.

Dealing with your dog’s fear of Nail Trimming.

There are certainly other ways of easing, or eliminating, the anxiety involved in nail trimming. The most obvious way is to eliminate the need for trimming at all.

Enough exercise may lead to natural wear on the nails, so they will require no trimming. You could try using rough floor mats specially designed to wear down nails. Or teach a behavior such as running the paw over a sandpaper covered board. The latter will involve multiple training sessions, but will allow you to escape the trauma of the trimming process.

Finally, you could embark on a program which will eliminate the fear of the process. Start with a new grinding tool, as the old one may evoke unpleasant memories. And make sure it is sharp, and continues to be sharpened regularly. A dull tool can make for a painful experience.

Start with getting your pet accustomed to having his paw handled. Then introduce him to the tool itself, but with no sound. Gradually introduce the operating device, until he is accustomed to seeing and hearing it, and having his paw handles, without concern.

When you feel he is ready, try to complete the process. This whole routine will require more than a bit of time and patience, but you will both be rewarded in the end.


Whatever way you choose to alleviate your furry friend’s anxiety, be it medications, homeopathic remedies, or behavior training, it is worth the effort. Your canine companion will be spared the discomfort of walking around on painfully uncomfortable nails, and your floors and furniture will be spared from the wear and tears such paws can inflict. Not to mention your own delicate skin.

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