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How to Trim Guinea Pig Nails Without Getting Bitten

Are you wondering how to cut guinea pig nails without getting bitten?

As you’ll find out, caring for your cavy’s claws is essential for their health and not something you can overlook.

But that’s why we’re here with our complete step-by-step guide on how to trim guinea pigs’ nails. 

How to Cut Guinea Pig Nails Step-by-Step

Unlike other household pets, guinea pigs don’t wear their claws down when they walk and don’t sharpen them on your furniture.

But cavy nails grow constantly, and that’s a problem. 

Overgrown guinea pig nails can curl, grow into the footpad, and cause extreme pain and discomfort for your pet. They can also lead to foot wounds and serious infections.

Needless to say, clipping your piggy’s nails should be part of your routine care.

But how to trim guinea pig’s nails when they’re scared and avoid getting bit? Let’s find together. 

#1 Gather the Essentials

Before you start trimming your cavy’s claws, you should prepare a couple of things:

  • Suitable guinea pig nail clippers. Specialists recommend animal or baby ones because they cause less discomfort. We’ll discuss human clippers in a bit.
  • Styptic powder or another clotting powder. You’ll need it to stop the bleeding if you cut the quick. 
  • A towel or a cloth to restrain your cavy. Prepare paper towels as well to wipe up any blood. 
  • Treats to relax and calm do your cavy. Choose a healthy snack, such as carrots, lettuce, and apples.

If you’re a first-time owner, you might not have suitable animal clippers around the house. Can you use human nail clippers on guinea pigs then?

Human clippers are safe to use on guinea pigs if you don’t have another option. But they can be too uncomfortable for your cavy. 

#2 Prepare the Area

Once you check that you’ve got everything you need to trim your guinea pigs’ nails, you should organize your equipment on a table or a counter.

Sprinkle some of the styptic powder on a paper towel so that you can apply it quickly in case of an emergency. 

#3 Get Your Guinea Pigs Out of the Cage

Not all guinea pigs like it when you pick them up and a depressed guinea pig is likely to be uncooperative.

That’s why you have to know how to pick and hold your cavy, especially when you take your remove them from the guinea pig cage. 

Support your cavy’s bottom with one hand while holding the other beneath the chest. Check out the video below for a demonstration.

#4 Restrain Your Guinea Pig

Once you’ve got your pet out of the cage, sit on the floor and place your cavy in your lap. Then wrap them in a towel to prevent squirming and wiggling. 

Just be careful not to wrap your pet too tightly, or they can suffocate or overheat. 

#5 Relax Your Cavy 

Before you begin trimming guinea pig claws, spend a bit of time relaxing your guinea pig. You can talk to them, stroke them, or cuddle.

Bribing your pet with their favorite food also works. 

#6 Secure a Foot

When your guinea pig is calm and relaxed, take hold of one of the front paws. If your cavy squirms too much, let go of the foot and wait a couple of minutes.

#7 Locate the Quick

Take a claw between your thumb and index finger and look for the quick. It’s the pink stuff (blood vessel) inside, easy to see in translucent nails. 

Unfortunately, darker nails are tricky, and you may have to use a bright light to locate the quick in black nails.

Don’t worry if you cut into the quick. It’s painful for your cavy but not life-threatening. 

But how long should guinea pig nails be? The golden rule is to cut just above the quick. If you can’t locate it, cut 1/4 of the tip. 

#8 Repeat

Work your way through the claws on the front legs and then do the hind legs. You may give your guinea pig some time to relax if they start to wiggle too much. 

#9 Reward

It’s important to reward your cavy during and after the clipping session to reduce the stress and make it a pleasant experience.

Safe food snacks work the best for positive reinforcement, so have a lot of treats at hand. 

#10 Get Your Guinea Pig Back in the Cage

After you reward your guinea pig, you can put them back in the cage. Then gather the trimmings and throw them out.

If there was any bleeding during the cutting, check the claw to ensure the bleeding has stopped.

Wipe up the clotting powder you’ve used since your cavy shouldn’t consume it. 

Check the video below for an actual demonstration:

3 Tips on How to Cut Your Guinea Pig Nails

Cutting your cavy’s claws can be stressful when you don’t have practice. So, here are three additional tips to get you through this ordeal. 

#1 Get Help

Ask a friend to hold your guinea pig while you do the cutting.

You can also take your cavy to the vet for a trimming. It’s not a complicated procedure, and likely won’t cost much. 

#2 Don’t Panic

Even an experienced owner can panic when cutting a guinea pig’s nails causes bleeding. But try to stay calm and apply the clotting powder. Your cavy won’t bleed out. 

#3 Have Regular Nail Trimming Sessions 

You should cut your guinea pig’s nails at least once a month to prevent claw curling. Regular trimmings also prevent the quick from overgrowing down the claw. 

FAQs

What Clippers are Best for Cutting Guinea Pig Nails?

Guillotine-style clippers are the best because they cut the claw without squeezing it. But you can use human or baby ones if you don’t have any others available. 

What to Do If Your Guinea Pig Hates Having Its Nails Trimmed? 

a lady trimming guinea pig nails

Get your cavy used to you handling their paws and claws. Use plenty of positive reinforcement and take it slowly, one claw at a time, until your cavy is comfortable. 

How to Cut Guinea Pig Nails That Are Black?

Use a magnifying glass with a LED light to shine under the nail and locate the quick. Then cut just above the blood supply. Or just trim the tip a little bit at a time.
Watch this video for a demonstration.

Conclusion

It takes practice to learn how to cut guinea pig nails without compromising the claws’ blood supply. So, don’t take it hard if it doesn’t go well the first time.

You and your cavy will get used to the routine in time, and it won’t be such a scary experience anymore.

What do you think about our step-by-step guide on how to cut guinea pig nails? How do you do it? Share your experience in the comment section. 

References:

  • Hanford, Monique. 2016. “How to Hold a Guinea Pig | How to Pick up | Handling Guide & Video.” Guinea Piggles. October 6, 2016. https://www.guineapiggles.co.uk/handling-guinea-pigs/#how-to-pick-up.
  • “How Long Should Guinea Pig Nails Be? (Find out Now) | Squeaks Scales & Tails.” 2021. Squeaks Scales & Tails. May 16, 2021. https://squeaksscalesandtails.com/how-long-should-guinea-pig-nails-be/.
  • QUESENBERRY.KATHERINE. 2020. “Routine Health Care of Guinea Pigs.” Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Veterinary Manual. 2020. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/all-other-pets/guinea-pigs/routine-health-care-of-guinea-pigs.
a brown guinea pig having her nails trimmed

Do you have other tips on how to trim guinea pig nails? Please share below!

Grigorina
Grigorina

Grigorina grew up surrounded by animals – dogs, cats, cows, goats, sheep, and horses and that has shaped her into what I am today – a crazy cat lady who always has a place for one more cat (or a dog). She has two female cats – Kitty and Roni, and two tomcats – Blacky and Shaggy, but she also feeds her neighbors’ cats when they come for a visit. I just can’t say no to them. Follow her on FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM
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