Like humans, guinea pig nails keep on growing their entire lives. While in a natural environment, these nails would be ground down, that’s not the case for the modern domestic guinea pig. You’re now responsible for helping your guinea pig through nail trimming.
How Often Should You Trim Guinea Pig Nails?
Guinea pig nails require regular trimming. It’s best to get into a routine, and roughly every two weeks helps your guinea pig immensely. However, going longer than three weeks means that your guinea pig’s nails may start to curve in weird directions. This growth can cause avoidable foot damage and pain.
To do a guinea pig nail trimming, you need:
- Small animal nail clippers (cat clippers will do in a pinch)
- Styptic powder
- An old towel
Preparing the Piggle
The first step to nail trimming is catching the guinea pig. Unless you’ve spent considerable time desensitizing your guinea pig to the nail trimming process, it’s best to wrap the guinea pig in an old towel. Then talk and pet the guinea pig a little before moving to the actual trimming.
This action does two things. First, it duplicates the feeling of an enclosed area, which helps the guinea pig feel safe. The second is it restrains the guinea pig’s movements. If you’ve ever tried to catch a runaway guinea pig, you understand why that’s a good thing.
Guinea Pig Nail Trimming Method
Trimming guinea pig nails takes practice, and inevitably the guinea pig will wiggle. If you accidentally cut too far into the nail, stop clipping and apply styptic powder immediately. This powder forces the blood vessels in the nail to contract, which stops the bleeding. Be careful what you let touch the dust, though; it can stain.
To begin the nail trimming, let your guinea pig see and sniff the nail clippers. Many guinea pigs will also nibble the clippers, so make sure your fingers are out of the way. Then, with the guinea pig wedged securely in the towel, pick up the first paw with one hand and the clippers with the other.
The trick to clipping nails is not getting too close to the quick, which is a blood vessel within the nail that can pump out a prodigious amount of blood when cut. If your guinea pig has light nails, the quick is the darker pink part. You need a strong light source to see the same thing on a guinea pig with dark or black nails.
The goal is to trim the nails back close to the quick without cutting it. On guinea pigs with light nails, you can line up the nail clippers directly. Then it’s just a fast clipper closure and on to the next nail. On guinea pigs with dark nails, it’s best to clip the tip of the nail and work backward from there in a series of small clips. Your guinea pig will usually inform you when you are getting close to the quick.
Continue until you’ve trimmed all the toes. If you’re using the old towel, you may need to wrap the guinea pig again after the front paws for easier access.
After the Nail Trimming
After trimming your guinea pig’s nails, it’s best to let them back into their cage where they feel safest. You can talk to them afterward as well and offer treats so that the experience is not entirely negative.