How to Trim Guinea Pig Nails

Here are some tips on how to trim guinea pig nails! Your guinea pig can’t very well trim his own little nails. It’s something you’ve got to do for him.

Guinea Pig Back Foot - Nail TrimmingIt’s very important to keep them well trimmed for several reasons:

  • The longer the nails are, the more likely they are to get caught in floor coverings in his cage. That is why it’s so important to use soft things like fleece, and why you must never let your guinea pig walk over an actual caged surface.
  • As guinea pigs age, their nails become more brittle and more prone to breakage. If nails break, they can do so unevenly and even painfully for your pet.
  • If you don’t trim their nails, over time it can deform their feet as their toes bend sideways.

Some people put a stone in their guinea pig’s cage thinking he will step across that regularly and keep his nails dulled, but that just doesn’t work. Your pet doesn’t know the stone’s purpose and even if he did, he wouldn’t feel like crossing it often enough to make a difference.

Don’t wait until your guinea pig matures before you institute a nail-cutting regimen as part of his hygiene.  No matter how old your guinea pig is, he will struggle masterfully during your first attempts to trim his nails.

As time goes on, he will resist less and less. It’s best to begin when he’s young and get him accustomed to this routine.

White nails are easy to cut as you can usually see the blood vessel (Quick).

Black nails are best cut at about 1mm at a time

There’s also the matter of the blood vessel within his nails. Just like dogs, cats, and humans, there is a supply of blood that feeds the nail beds. With humans, your blood supply ends well before the nail itself grows out long enough to cut, although you know how sore it gets if you “cut below the quick.”

With small animals including guinea pigs, the blood vessel grows up into the nail itself. The longer you let the nail grow, the longer the vessel will grow, and the more likely you will nip the vessel. If you do, it will cause him pain–and yes, it will bleed quite a bit.

Types of Clippers

Many people prefer to use human clippers, the small type used for finger nails. It might even be worth making the trip to the baby supply section of your store and looking for infant clippers—they are really tiny, but so are your guinea pig’s nails!

However, It is worth noting that human clippers press the nail together before cutting and this can be a little painful for your pigs.

So, we recommend the following type of guillotine style clippers…

You can purchase these clippers at your local pet supplies shop and they have a guillotine-type cutting blade:

As you squeeze the handle, with the nail aligned over one blade, the top blade comes down slowly over the nail and cuts.

Some people like the models that have a guide to keep the pet’s nail from slipping while it’s on the blade.

You can also get them for a fairly decent price delivered from Amazon, Like these Super Small Pet Animal Clippers pictured below…

Guinea Pig Nail Clippers

Gather Your Supplies

You will need:

  • Clippers – preferably like what’s pictured above
  • Styptic pencil or Cornflour in case of a cut (see below)
  • Tiny pieces of carrot or green pepper to reward him after each cut
  • Recommended – A friend to help you!

Hold Your Pet Properly

You will need to secure you pet snugly against you as you prepare to cut the first nail. Expect that he will be struggling. It’s best to wedge him with his rump backing into your lap and supported carefully so that he doesn’t hurt his back. You also must avoid holding him too tightly. The first few times you trim his nails, get a friend to help you hold him in place.

Some people recommend wrapping him and three of his limbs in a towel so that they are confined as you work on the fourth limb. You must be careful, however, not to suffocate him or wrap him too tightly. He will get easily overheated.

You may be lucky to have a guinea pig who doesn’t freak out on his back. If this is the case, cutting nails can be very easy! Just support your guinea pig between both held together knees as you trim away.

The Actual Cutting

Hold up his foot between your thumb and forefinger so you can visualise the nail. As you hold it up to the light, you will be able to see the blood vessel as a shadow within the nail.  Make your clipping beyond that shadow so that you do not hurt your pet. If his nails are dark and you cannot see the vessel, then do not cut off more than a couple of mm’s at a time.

How to Cut Guinea Pig Nails

Now that you’ve made the first cut, give your guinea pig a big of carrot to reward him! Keep extra little pieces on hand so that he can have a tiny bite after each nail. Some owners actually give them their treat just before they cut, but others believe that if the little fellow is not accustomed to the process yet he could choke on his food.

If You Cut Him

Don’t berate yourself—it happens, even when an expert does the cutting. Just be prepared ahead of time. Get the styptic pencil you bought ahead of time and dab it on the end of the nail, and the bleeding should stop right away. If you don’t have the styptic pencil, try using some corn-starch from the kitchen pantry, and apply pressure at the site of the bleeding.

Keep a careful eye on the foot area to ensure the bleeding stops within a few minutes. If not, a vet visit may be necessary.

Keep the Nails Groomed

Even as that blood vessel grows longer into the nail when the nail needs to be cut, it will likewise recede with regular cutting. Attend to his nails on a monthly basis to be certain you are keeping them short enough. With time, he will get used to the process and struggle a bit less.

As a last note, be certain that your guinea pig has a diet with the proper amount of calcium, since it helps keep skin and nails healthy.

However, Do not overfeed him with calcium rich foods, as that can make him prone to kidney / bladder stones. You can read all about what to feed your guinea pig here.

Happy Guinea Pig

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Guinea Pig Care

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