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Home > Bearded dragons > How to Trim a Bearded Dragon’s Nails: Vet-Reviewed Video Guide & Tips

How to Trim a Bearded Dragon’s Nails: Vet-Reviewed Video Guide & Tips

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If you’ve had your bearded dragon housed in an enclosure where they can’t naturally file down their nails, you might have noticed their nails appearing somewhat overgrown. If you notice that your beardie’s nails are long enough that they’re starting to turn their toes out to the side or appear to seem in discomfort when they walk, then it’s probably time to give them a little trim.

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?

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Image By: 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 them out of their enclosure.

Generally speaking, you’ll likely only need to trim your beardie’s nails a few times each year. Just remember that every bearded dragon and setup is different, so your beardie may need more or less frequent trims. Here are signs that your bearded dragon might need their nails trimmed.

Signs your bearded dragon’s nails are too long
  • Your pet seems to be walking on their nails, not their footpad
  • Your pet’s nails appear to be turning to either the right or left
  • Your pet often gets their nails caught on surfaces
  • Your pet’s nails seem exceedingly sharp whenever you handle them
  • Your pet’s nails frequently break when they walk on a flat surface

How to Trim Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails


It is always best to take your pet to an exotic veterinarian to have their nails trimmed. This step-by-step guide isn’t a substitute for a veterinarian’s expertise. Please note that your pet requires prompt veterinary care if you accidentally cause a nail to bleed as you’re cutting them.

1. Have the Right Clippers

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. 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.

2. Hold Your Bearded Dragon Securely but Comfortably

Hold your beardie and ensure that they are calm. If they’re wiggling a lot when you’re trying to trim, it’s going to be difficult to do a good job safely. Scoop your bearded dragon up and hold your pet with the palm of your hand under their belly and the legs and feet poking through your hands.

3. Trim the Nails

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It is best if you have a helper for this step. However, experts are able to do this alone. If you’re doing it alone, begin by holding one foot in your fingers to get a good view of the nail.

When you look at the nails, you’ll see that there is a thick part of the nail that’s tipped with a 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. As the color of the nail changes, this is where blood vessels are located. Don’t cut to where the color changes—allow a little space because blood vessels protrude out a little way to the nail ends.

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.

4. Check the Nails Again

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.

5. Use Styptic Powder if Necessary

If you happen  to hit the quick on your beardie, you should act quickly. It’s a good idea to have styptic powder on hand to stem any bleeding that may occur. This will help stop the bleeding. Take your pet to the vet promptly, as a nail cut too short is very painful, and your pet might require medicine to manage the pain. Your pet may also require supplements to help their nail regrow rapidly; your veterinarian may prescribe these as necessary.

6. Wash Your Hands

As a general rule, you should always wash your hands after handling your bearded dragon. This is especially important if you’re cutting their nails, as your pet might have stepped on substances that could be harmful to you.

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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. It is best to ask your vet for a demonstration before attempting the task yourself.

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, remember to promptly use a styptic pen or powder and seek veterinary advice for your pet.

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Featured Image Credit: Kate Schreiber, Flickr

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