On the Grind: Dog Nail Trimming with a Dremel Tool

On the Grind: Dog Nail Trimming with a Dremel Tool

Was My Friend an Animal Abuser?

A good friend of mine became a mother to a beautiful baby boy a few years ago.

One night while on a phone call with her, she complained to me about how the scariest part of motherhood so far had been having to clip the baby’s fingernails.

She was terrified she would clip the delicate skin around her baby’s nails causing him to bleed. My thoughts instantly turned to the sense of dread that filled me each time I had to cut my dog’s nails.

She laughingly said, “I wish I could just use the Dremel on the baby like we do the dog.”  To which I relied, my voice full of shock and horror,”You do WHAT to your dog!?!”

What is a Dremel?

Dremel cutting through metal boltI sort of already had an idea of what a Dremel was. I’d seen one used before to notch out some trim around a door on a new floor install and to cut through some metal once, sort of like in the picture.

See those scary sparks? I figured it was basically a tiny power saw.

“So you guys use an electric saw to groom your dog? It just seems a bit…dangerous.”

“Girl, no! My husband even uses our Dremel to ‘exfoliate’ the calluses on his feet! It’s all about which bit you use.” That set her off on a 20 minute spiel about the wonder tool that is her Dremel and how much it had changed her life (and her dog’s) for the better.

By the time our conversation was done, I was completely on board with the idea and encouraging my friend to get herself a job in sales somewhere.

For those of you that may not already know, let me tell you exactly what a Dremel is. Simply put, it’s a rotary tool.

There are lots of different ones available on the market. Dremel is just the name of the company that happens to make one of the most popular ones.

“Rotary tool” just means the bit you put in the tool rotates and quite rapidly at that. That’s essentially all the Dremel itself actually does.

It’s the different bits and attachments that do the real work. Check out the Dremel website to browse through hundreds of awesome projects you can do with a Dremel.

Dremel has attachments for:

  • Carving
  • Cleaning
  • Cutting
  • Drilling
  • Engraving
  • Etching
  • Grinding
  • Polishing
  • Sanding
  • Sharpening
  • Trimming

Materials such as:

  • Aluminum
  • Bookboard
  • Ceramic tile
  • Glass
  • Leather
  • Mirrors
  • Plexiglass
  • Polymer clay
  • Steel
  • Stone
  • Wood

And much, much more.

Dremel Pet Grooming ToolApparently Martha Stewart uses a Dremel to make earrings. Thanks to my friend dropping some knowledge, I got one and now use mine for grooming my dogs’ nails along with about a billion other things.

They actually make a special model of Dremel for dog grooming. The only major difference between a regular Dremel and the one made for pet’s nails (besides the little blue paw print on the front) seems to be the accessories that are included in the box.

The Dremel 7300 N/8 Mini Mite 4.8 is virtually the same thing, except it comes with additional accessories for uses other than trimming pet nails.

So If you already own a Dremel, you can just purchase the 1/4 inch Dremel sanding bands to use to file down your dog’s nails.

Why You Should Use a Dremel to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Dremel Vs. Electric Drill for Grinding Dog’s Nails

So since it’s “all about the attachments,” can’t you just use a regular drill to grind your dog’s nails? Here’s why I wouldn’t:

  1. Your typical electric drill does not have the same speed as a Dremel (30,000 rpm). That speed is really the key to getting the best results out of the accessories.
  2. The fact that an electric drill can be a bit bulky and heavy also doesn’t help matters much. The Dremel’s small size and light weight make it a more practical tool for applications requiring a bit of finesse such as trimming your puppy’s nails.
  3. The Dremel is designed for sideways loads that the bearings of a standard electric drill, which are designed for end-on loads, wouldn’t be able to handle. That means Dremels can be used with non-Dremel accessories such as drill bits and grinding wheels, but not really vice versa without risking doing a sloppy job or destroying your standard drill.

Dremel Vs. Traditional Dog Nail Clippers

Traditional pet nail trimmerThe pet nail clippers I was used to using before I discovered the Dremel were the scissor type and the guillotine type.

I have accidentally cut into the quick of dog’s nail causing them to bleed with both types in the past and felt like the worst human being on the planet when I did.

Sometimes cutting a dog’s nails is a necessary evil though. Cutting is the fastest way to remove length. If too much time has passed since you last gave your pooch a pedicure, cutting is going to be your quickest option.

Grinding puppy’s nails, such as with the Dremel, uses an abrasive surface (like sandpaper) to remove thin layers. It’s best when used for weekly maintenance on your pooch’s nails or for smoothing and rounding the nail after the cut.

If you maintain a short length with the Dremel, you won’t have to use the regular clippers.

Tools Needed to Dremel a Dog’s Nails

The secret to true happiness in life (aside from a yard full of puppies) is having the right tool for the right job. So before you jump feet-first into unfamiliar territory, make sure you have all your tools all in a row. Literally, each one of these five items laid out within arm’s reach;

1. Dremel

Imagine that.

2. Dremel Attachment

Choosing the right attachment is crucial here. The sanding bands are available in different grits. Too fine (higher numbers) and you’ll be there all day. Too course (lower numbers) and you’ll shred your dog’s nail.

The Dremel made for pet grooming comes with a 120 grit sanding band. That’ll be your best bet to start out with.

3. Round-tipped Scissors

Round Tipped Scissors for Pet GroomingYou may want – or need – to trim away some of the hair on your pup’s paws in order to have the best view possible of the nails while grooming them.

The easiest way to do this without accidentally poking your wiggly dog with the sharp points found on standard scissors is to use rounded tip scissors. 

4. Bleeding Nail Medicine

If you do not have any styptic powder or styptic gel on hand, please don’t attempt to cut or grind your dog’s nails until you do. If you accidentally get into the quick of the nail, these products help end the bloody nightmare you’ve just found yourself in the middle of.

5. Treats

Black dachshund with cucumber

Treats can help distract your pet and keep them calm. For ideas for some safe foods your pup can feast on during their doggie pedicure, check out this link:  Can my dog eat that?

And don’t forget the cucumber slices!  Because really, what spa day treatment would be complete without them? They also make a safe and healthy snack for dogs.

How to Use a Dremel to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Tips

  • The Dremel can get uncomfortably warm for your pet if you leave it grinding in one position for too long.  Keep moving the tool in a slow, gentle motion around the tip of the nail to avoid this issue.
  • If you or your dog has long hair, it can easily get wrapped around the rotating bit if it comes into contact. Ouch!  Keep your hair pulled back for this chore, and for your pup’s fur, simply use round tipped scissors to trim the long fur around the nails that could become problematic.

FAQs About Grinding Dog’s Nails with a Dremel Tool

How Often Should I Use a Dremel on my Dog’s Nails?

The answer will obviously vary from dog to dog, but if you are looking to replace cutting with grinding, then you’ll probably have to do weekly touch-ups to avoid overgrown nails. If too much time has passed since you last gave your pooch a pedicure, you may be forced to cut.

If you make it a point to maintain a short length on the nails with the Dremel, you won’t have to use the regular doggy nail clippers anymore.

Where does the Quick Start and Stop in my Dog’s Nails?

Can’t say for sure, but boy, will you know it when you find it.  The shorter you start keeping the nails, the more the quick will actually recede greatly reducing the likelihood of you cutting or grinding into it.

dog nail quick diagram

How Do I Stop my Dog’s Nail From Bleeding?

It is much more difficult to accidentally reach the quick of a dog’s nail and cause them to bleed when you grind them than it is when you clip them. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Dremel attachment pet nail safety guardIf it happens, remain calm. If you get upset, so will your pup. Check out one of my previous posts about the proper way to stop a dog’s nail from bleeding.

Dremel also makes a nail guard attachment for pet grooming to help prevent accidentally grinding into the quick of the nail which will cause bleeding.

Do I HAVE to Trim my Dog’s Nails?

Yes, you do. Well, not necessarily you, but somebody sure needs to do it.

If your pup’s nails become too long, they exert force back into the nail bed with every painful step they take. If neglected for too long, this can actually realign your dog’s toe joints making them more susceptible to injuries and causing walking and running to be painful and difficult.

Pros and Cons of Grinding Dog’s Nails with a Dremel

Pros

  • Won’t cut deep into the quick like traditional pet nail clippers
  • The Dremel can be used for a multitude of other purposes

Cons

  • Noise/vibrations upset some dogs
  • Costs more than traditional dog nail clippers
  • Must be done more frequently than clipping

Conclusion

When you’re anxious, your pet can pick up on it and become anxious, too. I find that I’m personally a lot calmer with the Dremel than I ever was with the other types of clippers I had tried over the years simply because I’m no longer afraid of making one wrong snip that ends in a bloodbath. It’s Dremel for the win!

About the author

Jennifer Marshall

Jennifer is the proud pet parent of three plucky pound puppy pals. She also loves alliteration. When she's not cheering on her beloved Vikings, you can usually find her at the dog park or on the back porch unsuccessfully playing fetch with her mutts. You can follow her on Pinterest