How to Trim Your Guinea Pig’s Nails

Guinea pig nails need regular trimming. This can be surprising for any new owners; it isn’t common to need to trim the nails of a small pet.

But a guinea pig’s nails should be trimmed once per month. This is more frequent than in dogs, cats or any other pet. If their nails are not looked after, it could result in a curvature of the claws. This means they could eventually grow into the footpad, making it impossible to walk and causing pain.

Open wounds on a guinea pig’s foot can lead to bumblefoot as well. This is a potentially fatal infection. So, trimming your guinea pig’s claws isn’t just going to make them more comfortable, but will also limit their risk of disease. You also need to keep their living quarters clean.

When cutting a guinea pig’s nails, you need to help them feel comfortable. Most people will do this by sitting the guinea pig on their lap and holding them securely so they don’t move and can’t flinch. But if your guinea pig isn’t keen on being handled, you will want to do this how best you see fit.

Where to cut a guinea pig nail

If you are familiar with cutting the nails of dogs and cats, you will have heard of a term called ‘the quick’. This is a blood vessel which runs through an animal’s claw. It doesn’t go right the way through, though.

So, you need to take enough off the claw to make a difference yet not enough to cut the quick. If you are nervous about this, have some styptic powder to hand. Some of this applied to a claw will stop the bleeding.

Most guinea pig nails are actually translucent, so you can spot the quick easily. This can actually make it a lot easier than cutting the nails of a dog, which is why it can be done at home rather than by a groomer or vet.

If your pet’s nails are black, shining a light underneath may give you a rough guide as to where the quick is. It will be darker and central within the claw.

Guinea pig yawning
Unlike eating the right foods to keep their teeth short, there’s nothing a guinea pig can do to keep their own nails short

How to trim a guinea pig’s nails

You will need:

  • Small animal nail trimmers
  • Styptic powder
  • Treats
  • Paper towel

The treats will act as a distraction and reward. Pick their favourite treats; if they love a certain fresh vegetable but it is limited in their diet, save it until this time of the week! A paper towel will wipe up any excess blood.

Step 1: Hold on to your guinea pig

Don’t squeeze too tight but they need to be secure. If they don’t usually like being picked up, sit on the floor and let them come to you first. Have them on your lap or on a table; their bottom needs to be secure. The treats come in handy here!

Step 2: Start cutting

Gently pick up a leg and secure it. Then, cut their first claw. If they struggle at any point, allow them to relax before continuing.

If all goes well, continue until all claws are cut.

Step 3: Reward

They need to know that what they have been through is a) necessary and b) doesn’t cause them harm. Rewarding them will make it more appealing next time. This is called positive reinforcement.

What to do if you can’t cut your guinea pig’s nails

Never just leave it – as mentioned, it can cause infection if the claws start to curve. Ask your vet how best to go about this. They may even say to just bring your guinea pig into the practice every month to have this done. It should only take a few minutes.

It shouldn’t be too expensive, either. Or, ask around local groomers to see if they’d be happy to do this service. Check they’re used to working with small animals first, though.