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How to Trim a Bearded Dragon’s Nails (with Video Guide)

Nicole Cosgrove

If you’ve had your bearded dragon longer than a few months, you’ve likely noticed the length of its nails increasing. If you notice that your beardie’s nails are long enough that they’re starting to turn their toes out to the side, then it’s probably time to give them a little trim. Sometimes, these nails can get long enough that they start scratching you up when you handle your beardie, and sometimes they’re even long enough that they’ll start getting stuck in things and may even break. Broken nails can be painful and difficult to manage, and they open up a pathway for infection, so prevention is one of your best tools. It can be intimidating when you start trimming your bearded dragon’s nails, but the more you do it, the more both of you will get used to it.

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How Often Should You Trim Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails?

brown bearded dragon_Hans Braxmeier_Pixabay
Image Credit: Hans Braxmeier, Pixabay

It’s extremely variable how often you have to trim your beardie’s nails and is based on your tank substrate and your bearded dragon’s activity level. If you have a soft substrate, then your beardie’s nails may require more frequent trimming than they would on a stone or tile substrate since the substrate is not helping to file the nails down. This also applies to the places that your beardie is going when you take it exploring. If you’re going into the backyard and letting it walk around on grass, this isn’t going to shorten the nails as much as concrete or gravel would.

Generally speaking, you’ll likely only need to trim your beardie’s nails twice a year. Just remember that every bearded dragon and setup is different, so your beardie may need more or less frequent trims.

How to Trim Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails

  • Make sure you have a pair of small animal nail clippers. Most pet stores carry these in-store, but if you’re having trouble finding them in your area, they’re readily available online. Small animal nail clippers are made specifically for the size and shape of reptile and small mammal nails, so these are going to be your safest option. Human nail clippers are a bad choice because they may fracture the nail and cut unevenly. Besides, you don’t want to share clippers with your beardie. Some dog and cat nail clippers are very similar in design to small animal clippers, but they are usually larger and may be more difficult to manage when handling a reptile.
  • Hold your beardie however it will be most comfortable and feel most secure. If they’re wiggling a lot when you’re trying to trim, it’s going to be difficult to do a good job safely. If you have to, only do a foot or a couple of nails at a time, and then take a break. This break may only need to be a few minutes or hours, or you may have to split this task up over multiple days.
  • Once you’ve got the clippers and your bearded dragon, you’re ready to start clipping the nails. When you look at the nails, you’ll see that there is a thick part of the nails that’s tipped with the thin, sharp point. To start, trim just past the sharp point, removing the end of the nail. If you’re used to trimming cat and dog nails, then you’re familiar with avoiding the quick, which is the blood vessel that runs in the nails. Usually, you’d look for a dark line in the nails to indicate where the quick ends. However, beardies tend to have a dark line running most of the length of the nail and isn’t related to the quick. They do have a quick in the nail, but it’s not as easy to differentiate as it is in many mammals.
  • Once you’ve trimmed the tips of the nails off, evaluate the nails to see if you think a little more needs to come off. Be conservative with your trimming. You can always come back to trim more if needed, but you can’t undo cutting the nails too short. Past the nail tip, any cutting you do should be like peeling thin layers off the nail with the clippers, not removing large chunks at a time.
  • If you happen to hit the quick on your beardie, it’s not the end of the world! It’s a good idea to have styptic powder on hand to stem any bleeding that may occur. If you notice you’ve cut your bearded dragon’s nail a little too short and there is some bleeding, just gently dip the nail into the powder or press powder onto the end of the nail. This will help stop the bleeding and it also helps seal the nail to reduce the chance of infection. Be aware that some brands of styptic powder contain components like benzocaine, which may not be appropriate for reptiles, so make sure to check the package.

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In Conclusion

Trimming your beardie’s nails doesn’t have to be a huge event or a stressful task for either of you. It will take some practice and will be easier the more used to being handled your bearded dragon is. Start small and work your way up until both of you feel comfortable and safe with nail trims. Break up the trimming across as many hours or days as both of you need and if you trim a nail too short, just stem the bleeding and keep an eye on the nail. As always, if you’re too uncomfortable with trying to trim your bearded dragon’s nails at home on your own, ask your veterinarian to do it! Most vet clinics that see exotics will happily trim nails that owners aren’t comfortable trimming at home.

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Featured Image Credit: KeraMik, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.