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Home > Guinea Pigs > What Happens if a Guinea Pig’s Nails Get Too Long? (Vet Answer)

What Happens if a Guinea Pig’s Nails Get Too Long? (Vet Answer)

Cutting guinea pig nails at home

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Dr. Kelly DeBaene Photo

Written by

Dr. Kelly DeBaene

Veterinarian, DVM MPH

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Your guinea pig’s nails require regular maintenance as their nails are continuously growing, just like humans, dogs, and cats. To maintain healthy and comfortable nail length, it is best to routinely trim your guinea pig’s nails once or twice a month. Regularly trimming your guinea pig’s nails will keep their nails comfortably short enough to prevent damage to their feet. If a Guinea Pig’s nails get too long, it may harm your Guinea Pig’s feet and will make them feel uncomfortable.

Clipping the nails more frequently than once or twice a month can “train” the quick (or blood supply of the nail) to not extend so close to the nail’s edge. Maintaining a short quick can be helpful in keeping nail trims an easy and comfortable experience for both you and your guinea pig.


How Do I Know if My Guinea Pig’s Nails Are Too Long?

If your guinea pig’s nails are left to overgrow, their nails will begin to curl and cause damage to their feet, including inflammation, cuts, wounds, ulcers, and infections.

When your guinea pig’s nails begin to curl, your guinea pig’s nails are too long. It is important to trim their nails to prevent further curling and damage to their feet.

Guinea pig long nails
Image By: Lipatova Maryna, Shutterstock

Are Nail Trims Painful for Guinea Pigs?

No, nail trims are not painful for guinea pigs, just like nail trims are not painful for us.

However, if your guinea pig is held incorrectly during a nail trim or if the nails are trimmed too short (i.e., touching the quick), then your guinea pig could experience discomfort or pain. If your guinea pig already has overgrown nails that are causing wounds or inflammation in the feet, a nail trim may be an uncomfortable but necessary experience to relieve the primary source of pain (the overgrown nail). In those situations, it is often best to have the nails trimmed and any wounds treated by a veterinarian.

What Do I Need to Trim My Guinea Pig’s Nails?

To properly trim your own guinea pig’s nails at home, you will need a few supplies:

  • Human nail clippers or clippers for small animals
  • Cornstarch or other hemostatic powder in the event you accidentally hit the quick
  • Your guinea pig’s favorite treats available to distract and comfort them during the nail trim
  • A towel to place under your guinea pig during the nail trim.


The 3 Steps to Trimming a Guinea Pig’s Nails

1. Choose a quiet setting that is comfortable for both you and your guinea pig

Place the towel underneath them and offer some of their favorite treats. Doing so before, during, and after each nail trim is a form of positive reinforcement, so they begin to associate nail trims with the positive experience of treats.

2. Identify the quicks of your guinea pig’s nails

The quick is the blood supply to the nail and is identified by locating the pink part of their nail. If your guinea pig’s nails are very dark, shine a light (e.g., a flashlight or your smartphone’s light) against the nails to visualize where the quick stops along the length of the nail. It is important to avoid hitting the quick as it can be painful for your pet and can cause them to bleed.

guinea pig in the arm
Image By: The Escape of Malee, Shutterstock

3. Begin trimming the very ends of the front nails first so your guinea pig can watch and get familiar with what you are doing

You can begin slowly and gradually at first until you both become more comfortable. It is also helpful to look and compare the nail lengths to check for symmetry. Once the front nails are done, you can trim the back nails. It is helpful to continuously reward your guinea pig with treats throughout the nail trim. If you accidentally hit a quick during the trim, don’t worry. Calmly collect some cornstarch or hemostatic powder on your fingertip and gently press it against the tip of the affected nail for a few seconds to stop the bleeding. Some guinea pigs (and their owners) prefer to take a break when this happens.


How to Handle Stress While Trimming the Nails

If your guinea pig seems too stressed during nail trims, let them take a break and offer them another treat and a calm cuddle. Once they’ve relaxed, try to slowly begin the nail trim again. If they become stressed again, it is okay to take a longer break and try trimming the nails later in the day or the next day.

If you yourself become very stressed during your guinea pig’s nail trims, that is okay. You are always welcome to consult a veterinary professional to perform the nail trim. Some pet owners also ask for an extra helping hand from a family member or friend.


Final Thoughts

People often think that rodents do not need to have their nails trimmed; however, with small mammals like guinea pigs, overgrown nails can be a problem. Now that you have read this article, we hope that you will be able to tell when your guinea pig’s nails need a cut. Good luck and happy trimming!

Featured Image Credit: Lipatova Maryna, Shutterstock

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