Guinea Pig Nail Clipping: How To Trim Guinea Pig Nails

Written by Dana Mayor
Updated: September 30, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Oleksandr Shchus
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Key Points 

  • Guinea pigs’ nails should be trimmed once a month.
  • Because their nails are similar to cats’, it is possible to use nail trimmers used for domestic felines for the purpose.
  •  Providing your pet with a snack like carrots or lettuce may make the ordeal less stressful for them.

As with most pets, guinea pigs require a certain amount of grooming care. While long-haired guinea pigs need their hair brushed on a weekly basis, short-haired guinea pigs need brushing attention just a couple of times each month. Bathing a guinea pig is a good idea especially if it spends a lot of time in an outdoor enclosure. Nail clipping is another task on the guinea pig grooming list. If you’re new to owning a guinea pig you’ll want to know how to trim guinea pig nails.

Discover the steps of how to trim guinea pig nails along with how to keep your pet calm during the process. Plus, learn what to do if you accidentally cut your guinea pig’s nails too short.

How to Trim Guinea Pig Nails

It’s helpful to examine your guinea pig’s nails before you begin the nail clipping process. If your guinea pig has white or light-colored nails it is going to be easy to see a thin red line inside each nail. This is a blood vessel called the quick. The quick delivers blood to this small animal’s nails. If your guinea pig has black nails, aim a flashlight close to the nail so you can see inside it to locate the quick.

Once you see the quick, hold onto your guinea pig’s leg firmly while placing the nail trimmer just beyond the end of the quick. The goal is to avoid cutting into the quick. If your guinea pig becomes agitated, take a break, and let your pet relax a little bit before trying again.

What Tools Are Used for Nail Clipping?

A pair of small animal nail clippers is the best tool to use to trim the nails of your pet. Small animal nail clippers are available with handles that are easy to grip and control. This type of clipper has a sliding blade. So, after putting a guinea pig’s nail through the hole of the nail clipper you simply squeeze the handles together to operate the blade. Guinea pig nails are thin, so it takes just a second or two to trim each one.

Many owners of guinea pigs use nail clippers designed to trim a cat’s nails. A cat’s nails and a guinea pig’s nails are similar, so if someone already owns a nail trimmer for their cat it can double as a trimmer for the family guinea pig.

A nail clipper that is used to trim pets’ nails. If your guinea pig’s nails are not trimmed regularly, it can lead to serious discomfort.

iStock.com/anastas_

How Do I Keep My Guinea Pig Calm While Trimming Its Nails?

Understandably, some guinea pigs are anxious or frightened at having their nails clipped. This is true especially if it’s the first time an owner has undertaken this task. Fortunately, there are some ways an owner can make the process less stressful for their pet.

Gather together some leafy vegetables for the guinea pig to munch on while it’s having its nails trimmed. A few lettuce leaves, a carrot, or hay can all serve as a delicious distraction for a guinea pig during the nail clipping process. As a bonus, giving a guinea pig a treat is likely to make it feel even more relaxed the next time it needs its nails trimmed.

Petting a guinea pig and talking to it in a soothing voice are other ways to calm this pet in order to trim its nails. If you find your pet responds to music playing quietly on the radio, then put on some music.

If possible, sit on the floor when trimming your guinea pig’s nails. The pet may feel more at ease near the floor as opposed to being up on a table or on a bathroom countertop. In addition, being on the floor means if the guinea pig were to slip out of your hands, it wouldn’t fall a long way and hurt itself.

Think about holding your guinea pig in a soft towel while you do the nail clipping work. Your guinea pig may feel more secure if its body is partially wrapped in soft fabric. Another advantage to holding your guinea pig in a towel is it may shed some of its hair during the process. Guinea pigs along with other animals shed some fur when they are nervous. The towel prevents too much fur from getting on your clothing. But, of course, the goal is to soothe the guinea pig to a point where it doesn’t shed much hair.

Every guinea pig is different, so it’s smart to try a variety of methods to see which ones put your pet most at ease. Once you find out what works best for your pet, it can make the nail clipping process a lot easier for both of you.

How Often Do I Trim a Guinea Pig’s Nails?

As a general rule, nail clipping should be done once a month. Of course, one owner may need to clip their guinea pig’s nails more often.

One way to tell if a guinea pig’s nails are too long is to give them a quick visual exam. Are the ends starting to curl back beneath the pet’s feet? This is a sure sign that nail clipping is needed. In fact, if the nails are starting to curl into their feet, the guinea pig may start to limp or run around in an awkward way. This is because the end of one or more of its nails is pressing into the sensitive pads of its feet.

A second way to determine whether nail clipping is needed is to watch for snags. A guinea pig may snag one of its nails on a piece of fleece cloth used as bedding in its cage. This is a sign its nails are getting too long.

If you see a guinea pig biting or pulling at its nails, this is a sign they are getting too long and need a trim. Biting or pulling at the nail means the pet is trying to solve the issue itself.

An adult male American Guinea Pig getting his nails clipped. It is important to keep your guinea pig calm during the process of nail clipping.

iStock.com/Aneese

What Should I Do if I Cut Too Close to the Quick of the Nail?

Unfortunately, it’s easy to cut into the quick of a guinea pig’s nail. This can happen as a result of rushing the process or not being able to see the quick clearly inside a darker nail. Cutting the quick of the nail causes some bleeding and a bit of pain for the guinea pig. If this happens there are some steps to take to stop the bleeding.

First, gently hold a soft cloth or paper towel up to the nail to slow the bleeding. Next, apply styptic powder to the injured nail. This is done by pouring a little of the powder into a shallow bowl and dipping the pet’s nail into it. It’s best to put the powder in its own bowl as opposed to trying to put the animal’s nail in the actual container of styptic powder. Styptic powder is designed to make blood vessels contract or close, to stop the bleeding. Not only does it stop the bleeding, but it also stops bacteria from entering the wound. Styptic powder can be found in most pet supply stores and even online.

Why is it Important to Trim the Nails of My Guinea Pig?

A regular schedule for nail clipping is important because in severe cases long nails can cause injuries to their little feet. If this pet’s nails continue to grow, curl and poke into the bottoms of their feet, they can actually wedge themselves inside the footpad. Not surprisingly, this is very painful for a guinea pig and requires the intervention of a small animal veterinarian to remove the nail or nails.

A second reason why it’s important to keep their nails clipped is to prevent snagging injury. As mentioned above, a guinea pig can get its overly long nails caught or snagged in a piece of cloth in its habitat. When the guinea pig pulls its foot to remove it from the cloth, it may injure or break its nail in the process. This can lead to infection.

How Can I Keep My Guinea Pig’s Nails Short?

Though nail clipping is necessary for guinea pigs, there is something an owner can do to keep this pet’s nails from growing too quickly.

A guinea pig that’s allowed to run around on concrete is going to be filing its nails on this hard surface while it’s having some fun. An enclosed patio area is a great option for this type of exercise. The area would provide safety while allowing this pet to move around. As a note, a guinea pig shouldn’t run around on the concrete surface for more than 20 minutes. Allowing it to run around for longer can injure the pads of its feet.

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Guinea Pig Nail Clipping
Guinea Pig Nail Clipping
iStock.com/Oleksandr Shchus
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About the Author

I love good books and the occasional cartoon. I am also endlessly intrigued with the beauty of nature and find hummingbirds, puppies, and marine wildlife to be the most magical creatures of all.

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