Sep 192015

An important aspect of caring for your guinea pig is trimming his nails. Because guinea pigs are usually not able to keep their nails trimmed down on their own, you will need to learn how to trim your guinea pig’s nails. Guinea pigs can be a bit squirmy when it comes to having their nails trimmed, but, with practice, you can make the experience go more smoothly for the both of you.


Obtaining Nail-Trimming Tools

  1. Select a pair of nail clippers. Baby or animal nail clippers will work, so you could use either type. Keep in mind, however, that human clippers squeeze the nail together before clipping it; this may be painful to your guinea pig.[1]
    • Animal clippers are guillotine-style, ensuring that the nail won’t be squeezed. Also, they open more widely than human clippers, which makes the nails easier to trim. You can find this type of clipper at your local pet store.[2]
    • You can try both types of clippers to see what your guinea pig is most comfortable with.
  2. Purchase styptic powder or corn starch, if you do not have them already. These substances will quickly stop the bleeding if you trim the nails down too far. They are equally effective at stopping the bleeding, so you can use either one. [3]
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    • Styptic powder can usually be found with men’s shaving products at your local grocery store or pharmacy.
    • Cornstarch is located with the baking products.
  3. Select a hand towel. In case your guinea pig is squiggly during nail trims, you can wrap him up in the towel to restrain him more easily.
    • If you have previously used a towel to trim his nails, keep using the same towel each time. This will help to keep the process more consistent. Plus, he may feel more comfortable with one towel over another.
  4. Prepare the area where you will trim your guinea pig’s nails. Organizing everything that will you need for the nail trimming ahead of time will help the process go more smoothly.
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    • Place a small towel, nail clippers, and styptic powder (or cornstarch) on a counter or table top.
    • Placing a small amount (about 1/4 teaspoon) of styptic powder or cornstarch on a paper towel ensure that you have quick access to these substances in you need to stop a nail from bleeding.

Restraining Your Guinea Pig

  1. Take your guinea pig out of his cage. After reaching into the cage with a slow and steady movement, place the thumb of one hand under his jaw and support his hindquarters with your other hand.[4] Using the proper method to reach into the cage and pick up your guinea pig will not only ensure that he is not frightened, but will also keep you from getting bitten.
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  2. Wrap your guinea pig in the hand towel. Be careful not to wrap your guinea pig too tightly; this could cause him to quickly suffocate or overheat.[5]
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  3. Position your guinea pig in your lap. He should be facing away from you, which will make it harder for him to bite or nip.[6]
  4. Relax your guinea pig. There are several things that you can do to relax your guinea pig before trimming his nails, such as petting him gently behind his ears and giving him snacks.[7] Keeping him relaxed will help you trim his nails more easily.
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    • Healthy snacks for your guinea pig include bell peppers and carrots. Cut the vegetables into small pieces so that your guinea pig can eat them easily.[8]

Trimming Your Guinea Pig’s Nails

  1. Choose a leg and gently pull it out. Do not be surprised if your guinea pig wiggles when you do this. If he wiggles too much, release his leg and let him calm down before you try again.
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  2. Secure one of his nails. Using the hand that is holding your guinea pig’s legs, steady the nail between the thumb and index finger. Do not squeeze too tightly to keep the nail in place; this may hurt your guinea pig and cause him to squirm.
    • Selecting a nail on one end of the foot and working your way to the inside or outside of the foot will help you keep easier track of which nails you’ve trimmed.
  3. Pick up the nail clippers with your other hand. Position them in front of the nail that you are about to trim.
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  4. Identify the quick in the nail. The quick is the blood vessel that runs in the middle of the nail. Identifying it will be easier to do with a clear nail than a darker nail. Using a flashlight may be helpful in seeing the quick in a darker nail.<br
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  5. Trim the nail. If you can see the quick, trim the nail down to just above the quick. If you cannot see the quick, use caution and trim a little bit at a time.
    • If you cut the quick, the nail will start to bleed. Although this will be painful to your guinea pig, you have not caused any serious damage. Simply dab a small amount of the styptic powder or cornstarch on the nail and the bleeding will stop quickly.[9]
  6. Proceed with trimming the rest of your guinea pig’s nails. If you see that your guinea pig is becoming restless, give him some time to calm down before trying to finish trimming his nails.
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    • Giving your guinea pig a treat after trimming each nail can provide positive reinforcement and keep him distracted. Make sure that he finishes eating before starting on the next nail to prevent him from choking on his food.
  7. Put your guinea pig back in its cage and tidy up the nail trimmings. If this was your first time trimming your guinea pig’s nails, don’t be too hard on yourself if things didn’t go quite as expected. Guinea pigs will wiggle when getting their nails trimmed at any age.
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    • If this time didn’t go well, consider trimming your guinea pig’s nails over several days instead of all at once. This may be easier for the both of you.
    • If you put styptic powder or cornstarch on any of the nails, check these nails to make sure that the bleeding has stopped. Wipe off the substance from the nail before you put your guinea pig back in his cage to prevent him from eating it on accident.



  • If you are not comfortable trimming your guinea pig’s nails, your veterinarian can do so. You could also ask your veterinarian for tips on how to trim the nails on your own.
  • In the beginning, it may be helpful to have someone else hold your guinea pig while you trim the nails. This would help you get comfortable with the nail-trimming technique without having to restrain your guinea pig at the same time.
  • Guinea pig’s nails can get easily caught in their floor coverings, especially if the nails are long. Consider using soft cage coverings, such as fleece.[10]
  • Start trimming your guinea pig’s nails when he is young. This will help him get comfortable with the nail-trimming process.[11]
  • Trim your guinea pig’s nails regularly (about once a month). Regular nail trims will prevent the quick from growing so far up the nail that the nail becomes difficult to trim.[12]


  • It is possible that a guinea’s pig feet can become deformed if its nails are not trimmed regularly. This could be extremely uncomfortable for him.[13]

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Sources and Citations

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How to Cut Guinea Pig Claws
Source: How To Of The Day