HOW DO YOU CUT GUINEA PIGS NAILS?
Much like our own nails, Guinea pigs’ nails just keep on growing, so regular nail trimming is essential for their health and wellbeing. While they may all look similar, these nails can be very different depending on the age of the guinea pig; young piggies tend to have very sharp nails while older piggies tougher and more brittle ones. Regardless of the age though, we’d suggest to aim for a nail trim once-a-month.
Guinea pig nails typically fall into two categories; dark nails and light nails. When it comes to cutting, light nails are a lot easier, as the 'quick' (the blood supply that runs within the nail) is easier to see and therefore easy to avoid! Dark nails provide more of a challenge, as the quick is hidden and cutting too much nail off can result in bleeding. That said, if you keep up with a regular nail cutting routine, the quick will recede and your job will become easier. It's definitely a case of 'less is more' (i.e. cut less off and do it more regularly) than the other way around!
How do you cut your guinea pigs’ nails?
You can take your piggies to the vet, who will do nail trimming for you (for a fee, of course!), but it will save you a lot of time (and money) to learn how to do it yourself.
So if you are going to take this task, be prepared and make sure you are comfortable with the idea... here’s a few hints and tips that we’ve found helpful, so hopefully you will too!
What do you need?
A good pair of clippers. Make life easier for yourself with a decent pair that are sharp and will cut cleanly. Some people even find that ‘human’ nail clippers work well.
A torch, if you have guinea pigs with dark or black nails. This can help you to see the ‘quick’. Failing that, err on the side of caution and don’t take too much off the nail, but ensure you trim regularly to avoid nails getting too long.
It can be handy to have a styptic pencil (you can find these in chemists/beauty stores - they are used to help stop bleeding from shaving cuts). If you do catch the quick and the nail bleeds, use the styptic pencil to stop the bleeding. Or, use some general first aid knowledge - have some cotton wool/tissue to hand and apply pressure to the appropriate nail.
Have everything you might need ready and close by. To avoid too much stress, remember, most guinea pigs are happiest when munching on something tasty. Get their favourite food and give it to them before/during/after nail trimming to distract them and then make them feel good afterwards!
Make the animal feel safe and secure. You can sit down and have the piggy on your lap (place a towel over your knees), held securely and close to your body. If you have someone to help you, even better – one person to hold and one person to clip! Or, place your guinea pig on a flat non-slip surface (you can use the towel again!), standing with your body close to the piggy to provide comfort and support.
If you have a pig that’s a bit of a diva (we do!) and/or is not a fan of a trip to the nail salon, try wrapping them securely (but not too tight!!) in a towel to minimise any wriggling, leaving the appropriate paw free for clipping.
Ensure you get the right angle when trimming – see our diagram below for this.
Nail clipping can be a nail-biting experience for even experienced guinea pig owners(!), but with patience and practice it can be done by you (yes you!) at home. Don’t panic if you are worried about cutting the quick - if you are cautious and keep nail trims quite short, this will be enough as long as you ensure you do them regularly.