Like our nails, guinea pig nails are continuously growing. In the wild they file down naturally but when kept domestically their toenails don’t have the opportunity to do this. That means we have the task of cutting their nails to prevent them from curling around which can make walking painful and uncomfortable.
Cutting your guinea pig’s nails can be a tricky job but it is essential that this is done on a regular basis – ideally every two to four weeks. If they are left they become more difficult to clip. They will begin to curl which makes trimming them extremely challenging. The more often you do it, the more confident you will become and the easier it will be.
Like with other pets, there are clippers especially made for clipping your guinea pig’s nails. They have a rounded blade but some people find these tricky to use and prefer to use straight forward nail or toenail clippers.
Choose whatever you feel comfortable with and find the easiest. Some of the nail clippers designed for humans don’t have quite enough gap to fit the guinea pig’s nail but these clippers have an extra large gap and are the ones we recommend.
You’ll generally find that young guinea pigs have much softer, delicate nails than older guinea pigs whose nails can get thicker with age. Also, nails on the rear feet tend to be thicker than the front ones.
Many owners get nervous about nail clipping as they are scared about cutting the ‘quick’. This is the red blood vessel that runs through the nail and if you cut it, it will bleed so you should try to avoid this. The more often you cut the nails, the more the “quick” will recede. This makes each time a little easier and less stressful.
This is sometimes easier done with 2 people but it is good to get used to doing it yourself.
Pick your guinea pig up and hold them securely on your lap. The position depends on what you and your pet are most comfortable with but one option is placing them with their back against your stomach so you can hold their feet in front of them. You could also try holding with their side against you.
Look carefully at the nail and you may be able to see where the quick is. In lighter colored nails, you can see the quick as a darker line running through but in darker nails you will need to be more careful. Trim to just below the line of the quick.
Some guinea pigs, usually darker ones, have black nails. This makes it virtually impossible to see the quick and can be a little disconcerting when it comes to nail clipping. Try making sure you are in an extra light area and use additional lighting if required. A helping hand from someone else to shine a bright light underneath the nail may help – see “how to make nail cutting easier” below.
If you are very nervous about this you may be better to get a professional to do this for you.
Even if you are very careful, you may accidentally cut the quick. If you do, it will bleed but don’t panic and don’t get upset – it happens to most guinea pig owners at some time or another. You can stem the blood using styptic powder or cornflour by simply dipping their foot into the powder.
Don’t put your pet back into their cage until you are sure the bleeding has stopped. If it is a problem and becomes sore or won’t stop bleeding, consult your vet who will be able to advise.
It is important to make the difficult task of nail clipping as easy as possible.
You should make sure you’re in a well-lit area. You could even position a light (bedside lamp) on the floor underneath the nail which may help show up the “quick”.
We often use magnifying glasses which come with inbuilt LED lights. Since using these, the nail cutting has become a whole lot easier and less stressful. It takes away so much of the worry because you can see much more clearly where you’re cutting. It also helps with seeing exactly where the “quick” is, particularly on darker nails.
As your guinea pig’s nails become longer, so does the blood supply – it follows the nail down. Therefore if you cut your pet’s nails right back from very long to normal length, the nail will bleed.
With overgrown nails, trim a little every few days to make the blood vessel recede. Once you have done this a few times on a regular basis, the nails will be a normal length and the blood vessel will have shrunk back. At this point you can then cut every 2-4 weeks and your job will be a lot easier.
The more often you cut your guinea pig’s nails, the more confident you will become. If you leave it because you’re worried, your guinea pig will suffer and is likely to get incredibly sore feet which can then become infected. So, if you find it too difficult or are concerned that you may not be able to do it properly, you should find a professional who can do it for you on a monthly basis.
Nail clipping services for guinea pigs may be offered at the following places:
If you take them to the vet, it will usually be the veterinary nurse who will cut your guinea pig’s nails. If you ask, they might also show you how to do it yourself so you can have a go when they are next due for a cut.
The cost varies depending on where you go. Rescue centers, boarders and pet grooming services tend to be the cheapest places for guinea pig nail cutting services.
Some places also offer a discount for more than one guinea pig which will save you a bit of money if you have several guinea pigs.
Vets tend to be more costly, so we would recommend trying the rescue centers first, if you have one near where you live.