How to cut guinea pigs nails blog

Cutting guinea pig nails is one of the most nerve-wrecking parts of piggy parenting. To avoid your guinea pigs’ nails from getting too long, regular guinea pig nail trimming sessions are so important. Our pets’ wild relatives keep them short by running across different surfaces, like rocks and wood, but our cute companions need a little extra help or your guinea pigs’ nails could curl and injure them. Fear not - we’ve got all the info you need to learn how to cut a guinea pig’s nails like a professional!

Whether your piggies are little wigglers or stay calm, cutting guinea pig nails is a tricky task. And, as with anything else, practice makes perfect, so don’t worry if the first time doesn’t go super smoothly. We’ve all been there - and we also learned that it gets easier with time.

To make the guinea pig nails pedicure the best experience for you and your precious pets, find out how to trim a guinea pig’s nails, where to cut guinea pig nails, and how to stop a guinea pig nail from bleeding if a little mishap occurs.

Remember, it’s guinea be okay!

Guinea pig on a lap, getting their nails trimmed.

Do guinea pigs need their nails trimmed?

Many new piggy parents wonder if their floofs need regular pedicures. Other pets, like dogs and cats, often manage to wear their nails down by going for walks or scratching different surfaces. So do guinea pigs even need their nails trimmed? And how long should your guinea pigs’ nails be?

Let’s find out more about guinea pig nails!

Short answer: Yes, guinea pig nails need to be trimmed

Regular guinea pig nail trimming is super important for our floofs. If a guinea pig’s nails curl, it means they’re too long and overdue for a good trim. If your guinea pigs’ nails get too long, there’s a number of health issues they could end up with:

Too Sore To Move

If you imagine walking on curled toenails… it’d be pretty impossible! The same goes for our floofs - if a guinea pig’s nails curl, their feet don’t meet the ground properly. That makes it not only really difficult, but actually uncomfortable for them to walk, zoom, and popcorn. And as our furry potatoes love to eat all day long, the lack of exercise could end in an overweight pig. In extreme cases, they may be too sore to head over to their hay pile and food bowl. Either scenario brings a whole host of health issues with it and could affect your guineas in the long run.

That’s why we’re big advocates of keeping guinea pig nails in tip top condition at all times!

Injured Paw Pads

If a guinea pig’s nails are too long, they often start curling underneath their feet and in extreme cases even pierce the paw pads. Now, if you’ve ever touched your piggies’ paws, you’ll know how soft and sensitive they are. Anything sticking into them is going to be so painful for little pigs, and even more so if it’s a hard nail curling back into the paw. Imagine trying to walk on that!

Even if the nails aren’t curled so that they’d pierce the paw pads, long guinea pig nails are always much more likely to get stuck in bedding and accessories. In a mild case, your piggy would feel a little sore after getting their nail stuck. In the worst case, they could rip their nail off, and that would lead to a whole host of other problems… like infection.

Skin Infections

Long guinea pig nails can injure the floofs in a few ways, sadly, but that’s not the only resulting problem. Once a piggy’s foot or nail is injured, the injury has to be treated and kept clean to stop any infection from setting in - and that’s a big task in our piggies’ messy palaces. 

If a long nail leads to injury without the piggy parent noticing and infection sets in, the hurt floofer usually needs a trip to the vet with antibiotics and painkillers as treatment.

The best way to avoid these antics? Regular guinea pig nail trimming for pawfect piggy paws.

How long should a guinea pig’s nails be?

If you’re wondering, ‘How long should my guinea pigs’ nails be?’, you’re probably also considering how to cut a guinea pig’s nails and where to cut the guinea pig nails. The ideal length for our piggies is fairly short, with the nail not even touching the ground when the paw is sitting on a flat surface. If you can hear the nails clicking against tile or laminate flooring when your pigs walk, it’s time for a trim. If your guinea pigs’ nails are too long, though, you’re best off just cutting a tiny bit off regularly, to avoid hitting the quick.

The quick is a blood vessel running through every guinea pig’s nails. It’s the bit you don’t want to touch during a guinea pig nail trimming session, or they start bleeding. If this does happen, don’t panic. It’s a bit sore for your pig, but they’ll be fine. We’ll go through some tips on how to stop a guinea pig’s nail from bleeding later on.

When a guinea pig’s nails grow too long, so does their quick. So the longer the nail, the smaller the bit you cut off. By trimming a small bit every other week, the quick recedes. With regular grooming work, you can get your piggies’ nails looking short and shiny.

A hand displaying how long this guinea pig's nails are

How often should I cut my guinea pig’s nails?

There’s no one-size-fits-all for guinea pig nail trimming. Different guinea pig nails grow at a different speeds, so it’s all down to your floofs how often you clip their claws. As a rule of thumb (or paw!), every piggy parent should be cutting guinea pig nails at least once a month. Many cavy carers prefer to cut just the tip every two to three weeks instead. You can find a good rhythm that suits your piggies’ paws best. For first time piggy pedicurists, we’d recommend sticking to the more regular and shorter trims. That way, you’re much less likely to hit the quick and end up with a bleeding nail.

Remember that your guinea pigs’ nails curl when they get too long, and they become much more difficult to cut. They can also become a real problem for your floofs, and even require veterinary care - which comes with a vet bill.

Make guinea pig nail trimming a part of your bi-weekly grooming routine and keep your cavies comfortable!

Where can I get my guinea pigs’ nails clipped?

If you’re really not sure about cutting guinea pig nails, don’t feel pressured to do it. There are plenty of experienced guinea pig enthusiasts who can show you how to cut a guinea pig’s nails, or simply clip the claws on your behalf.

The best people you can ask for support are cavy-savvy vets or vet nurses, a pet groomer, or experienced piggy parents who are confident in this area. Usually, the fee for a nail trim is very low, so if you decide you don’t want to do it yourself, you can simply book a regular appointment for your pigs and their paws.

Guinea pig getting their nails trimmed by a vet

Step by step guide to cutting guinea pig’s nails 

1. Get your tools ready

When it comes to cutting guinea pig nails, there’s a number of tools and accessories that’ll help you make it a smooth experience for you and your guinea pig. Before you start on guinea pig nails, make sure to get all of these tools ready:

Nail clippers

The most important tool in your box are, of course, the nail clippers. You’ve got the choice between human nail clippers or ones specifically designed for small pets. Generally, both options work okay, but guinea pig nail clippers make it so much easier for you and your floof. Human nail clippers don’t open as wide as the pet ones, so it can be difficult to fit guinea pig nails in it. Plus, guinea pig nail clippers are designed to cut through thick piggy nails, so they’re much easier and safer to use.

You can grab a pair of nail clippers designed specifically to trim your piggy's nails from our grooming kit, complete with all the tools needed to successfully groom your little floofer.

Pad or Towel

While you’re cutting guinea pig nails, make sure your floof is sitting on a comfortable, flat surface. Ideally, you would put them on a Potty-proof Pad or Fleece Liner, but even a towel is a good option. And, on the off chance that the guinea pig nail trimming cuts a bit too short, you’ve got a clean cloth under your piggy’s sore nail.

Corn Starch or Styptic Powder for Guinea Pigs

All piggy parents hope they know how to trim a guinea pig’s nails without cutting them too short. But it happens to the best of us, so every cavy carer should have an injury plan ready. And the first thing you need? A way to stop the bleeding. Both corn starch and styptic powder for guinea pigs are good, safe options.

If you apply styptic powder for guinea pigs or cornstarch to the bleeding nail, the bleeding soon stops. And that’s when you can clean the nail and feed your pigs lots of treats. It’s guinea be okay!

Small Flashlight

Piggies come in all shapes, sizes, and colors - it’s what we love about them. When we look at guinea pig nails, however, their variety can make things a bit more tricky. Some piggies have dark and even black nails, so it’s difficult to see the quick, the blood vessel in guinea pig nails. Holding a small flashlight - or even a phone torch - under the nail often helps spotting the quick in darker nails.

Here's an example of how to cut a black guinea pig’s nails by Tara from the Kavee Rescue:

Tasty Treats

Guineas can take a while to get used to guinea pig nail trimming, so a bit of bribery works wonders to help them relax. You can offer them a bit of parsley or their favorite snacks while you’re cutting guinea pig nails. And if your piggy is too nervous to eat during the trim, don’t worry. They’ll appreciate the snacks after.

 2. Make your guinea pig comfortable

This is an important step, especially if you’re a first-time cavy claw clipper. You’ll want your floof to be as comfortable as possible to let them know nothing bad is happening. So take your time setting everything up and then catching your guinea pig, too.

There are two ways to trim piggy nails easily. If you have a hooman helper, you can place the pig on their lap and ask them to hold the piggy gently and distract them with snacks. You would then sit in front of them to get good access to the guinea pig nails. If you’re operating on your own, you can sit on the floor, place your guinea pig on your lap with plenty of snacks, and go through every nail from above.

Always make sure your piggy has plenty of tasty treats available to make it a positive experience for them. The walking stomach will thank you!

 3. Securely hold your guinea pig's leg

Guinea pig held by hands with nail clippers to trim the nails.

Now that your piggy is all relaxed, you can pick up a leg of theirs. Make sure to hold it securely without squeezing the leg, and lift it only as far as is comfy for your cavy. If they start struggling and trying to pull away, give your floof a break before you start again. It’s all about giving them a good experience, right? Going at your piggy’s pace is a great way to turn the guinea pig nail trimming into a bonding experience.

 4. Spot the quick of the nail and cut

We’ve already found out that the quick is the blood vessel inside each nail, and that we want to avoid cutting it. If your piggy has pink or white nails, it’s usually pretty easy to spot the quick. It’s the pink center in the middle of the nail, and it’ll end a little before the tip of the nail. With darker guinea pig nails, it’s best to use a flashlight right underneath the nail to find it.

Once you’ve got an idea of where the quick is, you’re ready! Leave a little bit of room in front of the quick when cutting guinea pig nails makes sure that your piggy won’t feel the cut. If you’re struggling to find the quick, it’s best to do a little guinea pig nail trimming every other week instead of cutting off a larger chunk.

Now you know how to trim a guinea pig’s nails - time to do the first cut. You’ve got this!

 5. Start in the front

Person holding the guinea pig while another person trims the guinea pig's nails at the front.

Find a routine that works for you and your pig. If you’re unsure how to trim guinea pig nails when they are scared, we recommend starting with the front paws, so they can see what you’re doing. It’ll help them understand, in the future, that you’re just doing the regular guinea pig nail trimming, and that they’re safe.

You can work your way from nail to nail, front to back. It can help to look at the length of the nails you’ve already cut if you’re unsure about the quick in other nails. Remember to give your piggy time to adjust if they get squirmy, and take breaks if you feel worried or stressed. Not all nails have to be cut in one day.

Practice makes perfect, remember?!

 6. Treat Time all the way through

There’s nothing piggies love more than snacks - and that’s true even for a guinea pig nail trimming. By giving them snacks throughout and after, you’re putting them at ease, distracting them, and also making sure they’re getting something out of it - other than nails at a comfortable length, of course.

Some piggies can be nervous during the clip, so don’t worry if your floof doesn’t eat until after. They’ll still love their tasty treats!

If you're still unsure about how to do this, check out this handy video guide from Kavee Rescue's Tara and Ian on how to cut your guinea pigs' nails:

Cutting Guinea Pig Nails FAKs - Frequently Asked Kavees

How do you trim the guinea pig's nails when they are scared?

If your piggy seems stressed, uncomfortable, or fidgety, give them a little break to settle down. Snacks also help them feel more comfortable and settled. Once the guinea is feeling calm again, you can start cutting guinea pig nails.

Remember, you don’t have to finish all the nails in one go. If you or your piggy get stressed, give it another go the next day. Slow and steady wins the guinea pig nails race!

How do I know if my guinea pig’s nails are too long?

Your guinea pig’s nails are too long if you can hear them clicking against the floor, for example on tile or laminate. When a guinea pig’s nails curl, they’re also overdue for a good trim.

What happens if I cut my guinea pig’s nails too far?

If you cut the nail’s quick, its blood vessel, the nail starts bleeding - but don’t panic! This happens to the best cavy claw clippers every now and again. If you’re wondering how to stop a guinea pig’s nail from bleeding, your best option is adding styptic powder for guinea pigs or cornstarch to the nail. Once the bleeding has stopped, you can clean it and give your piggy lots of treats.

Are nail trims painful for guinea pigs?

Guinea pig nail trimming is not painful for the floofs, just like cutting our nails doesn’t hurt us. If the piggy parent cuts the quick, the nail’s blood vessel, it’s a little sore for the piggy, but they’ll recover quickly - especially with extra treats.

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