Like all pets, guinea pigs will need some routine maintenance, and part of that responsibility includes trimming their nails. If their nails are not kept short, they will eventually grow into long, tangled strands. In due time, they can get severe infections, damage their feet, or lead to mobility issues. Stones with rough edges can be put into their cage for them to scratch, but even the most active scratcher will need a proper trimming job to keep their nails at bay.
For the completely inexperienced: go to the vet first
If you are not confident about your own abilities to trim your guinea pig’s nails, then this task is probably best left to a professional. Many veterinarians are trained so that they can handle exotic pets, and trimming your guinea pig’s nails will be a simple task for them.
It may be prudent to ask them for tips on how to properly trim your guinea pig’s nails so that in the future you can perform this task yourself.
Veterinarians are also able to check a guinea pig’s teeth and ears while they are at it. Since their teeth are constantly growing, these will also need to be kept in check as well as their nails. If you are not able to locate a vet with exotic pet experience nearby, a bird groomer may be able to do the job as well.
Trimming a guinea pig’s nails on your own
Those of you who are more adventurous might want to clip your guinea pig’s nails yourselves. Before you begin, you will need to get the right tools. Make sure you have a specialized nail cutter for small animals, which can be found in large department stores or most pet stores.
Keep a clean towel at hand to cover the guinea pig’s body as you are doing the trim job. Your guinea pig might feel scared, so don’t be afraid to work in stages should you need to.
To start the clipping process, take your guinea pig out of its cage and let it relax for a few minutes – you don’t want to overstress it too quickly. Next, gently wrap your guinea pig with a towel, exposing only one limb at a time for nail clipping. Grasp the exposed foot with one hand while holding the clipper with the other.
When cutting, make small cuts and slowly work your way up. There will be a vein that is located in the base of the nail, known as the quick. Cutting the quick will be painful and will cause bleeding. If you believe you are approaching the quick of the nail, stop cutting and move on to the next toe.
Things to keep in mind
Remember, this is a stressful experience for your guinea pig and sometimes it is necessary to work in stages. After the first foot is done, let your guinea pig de-stress before continuing to the next foot. Wrap it again in the towel and hold it close to your body to reduce wiggling.
Find the balance of trimming enough – not too much that you cut the quick, and not too little that it is insignificant. The primary goal is to keep excessive nail growth in check, not to completely strip your guinea pig of nails. Your guinea pig will likely scratch its nails on rough surfaces by itself anyway.
Once the job is completed, you will want to help it calm down. This is a perfect opportunity to give it a special treat, for instance. Allow your guinea pig time to rest before performing any more activities that can stress it out.
If you accidentally nipped a quick, stop the bleeding immediately. Minor cuts will stop on its own in a few minutes. If the bleeding won’t stop, a trip to the vet may be required. Don’t jeopardize the safety of your pet by refusing to take care of their injuries.
The most important thing to keep in mind when trimming your guinea pig’s nails is that if you haven’t nipped the quick, you are most likely not causing any pain even if your pet is tossing and turning trying to get away.
Clipping your guinea pig’s nails is for their own benefit in the long run, even if they protest and cry every time you clip their nails. For owners who do not want to risk injury their pet or get bitten trying to trim their pet’s nails, perhaps paying the fees for a vet to do the job would be a wiser investment.