AJ Cavies

Clipping Nails

Nail clipping is an essential activity you must do often to keep your guinea pigs feet in good working order. If nails are left to grow too long they eventually grow into a "corkscrew" shape and interfere with the natural movement of the feet. If you don't want to, your vet can do it for you!


The nail is a bony structure consisting of a tip with no blood or nerve endings and a small reserve of blood that sits just below the tip and runs into the paw. This is clearly visible in a guinea pig with white nails as they are almost transparent. Guinea pigs with black nails are slightly more difficult to trim as you cannot clearly see where the blood begins. Trimming too low will cause bleeding and pain to your pet, but accidents happen and you can quickly stop the bleeding by dipping the nail into Corn flour or antibiotic powder. You may also wish to treat the paw with warm salty water to keep it clean.

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Some breeds of guinea pig have differences in the growth patterns of their nails. For some reason, Rex guinea pigs nails tend to be thicker and grow faster than any other breed. Also, many of the smaller smooth-haired breeds seem to have slow growing nails on the front paws!


White nails are helpfully almost transparent so you can clearly see where the blood begins. The ivory tip is safe to trim, and the pink hue is the blood.

Black nails are harder to successfully trim because they are dark and not transparent. If you view the nail from the underside you may be able to see where the blood begins and where is safe to trim. If viewing the nail from the underside still does not identify where you may trim safely, try using a torch to illuminate the nail and discover where the blood supply is.


Some people use human nail clippers as they find them easier to use than animal nail clippers, however I don't use them because they can squash the nail tip and potentially cause pain to your pet in this way. I also find that some guinea pigs with thicker nails on the rear feet (such as the Rex breed for example) are better off with animal nail clippers because some thicker nails just won't fit into a pair of human clippers.


Nails on the rear feet should need only a couple of millimetres trimmed each time to keep them tidy.

For a tame guinea pig, you may gently and slowly sit him/her up on your lap and support him/her under his/her arms until his/her rear legs are stretched out in front of him/her and he/she is resting against your tummy. Do not tip him/her back too far because this will put strain on his/her spine. You may want to try this a few times until your guinea pig is comfortable being held in this way. Take your time and be patient with him/her because this is a very unnatural position for him/her to be in.

Guinea pigs that are not tame or are difficult when clipping their nails should be held gently but firmly by one person and the nails clipped by another.

You need to have a steady hand when clipping nails to avoid clipping them down too low and causing them to bleed. Carefully position the clippers over the end of the nail where you want to make the cut and trim off the tip. When his/her nails are trimmed, gently sit him/her back up again and let him/her sit normally in your lap while you stroke him/her and tell him/her what a good boy/girl he/she is.


Nails on the front paw are smaller than those on the rear paw and require more concentration to trim. Fortunately nails on the front paws don't generally require trimming as often as those on the rear paws and you can just trim the tip off.

There is no better way to do the sometimes fiddly job of clipping nails on front paws, so gently handling the paws in a way that allows you to trim the nails is preferable.

When handling front paws be careful not to pull the arm away awkwardly from the guinea pig which can cause discomfort and even injury. You can identify how far you can afford to move the arm because the guinea pig will pull his arm away if he/she is uncomfortable and his/her body will automatically give resistance to any unnatural movement.

The above images have been kindly provided by www.rodentswithattitude.co.uk