How to Cut Guinea Pig Nails? A Comprehensive Guide!


Like guinea pig teeth, guinea pig nails also continue growing throughout their lifetime. While the nails of wild guinea pigs file down naturally when they are moving over rough surfaces, in the case of domesticated guinea pigs, the toenails need to be regularly clipped by their owners.

If not trimmed regularly, guinea pig nails would start curling and might possibly grow into the footpad, which would cause immense pain to your piglet. Therefore, it is crucial that as responsible guinea parents, we cut our guinea pigs’ nails regularly.

Most guinea pigs do not like the sight of tools like nail clippers and scissors, so they might get a bit squirmy as you get hold of them for their nail-trimming session. This makes clipping guinea pig nails a big hassle, especially for novice guinea pig owners, who have never clipped guinea pig nails before.

Well, stop worrying and continue reading to learn how to make guinea pig nail clipping sessions a smooth experience for both you and your guinea pig.

Before we get to the step-by-step guide on how to cut guinea pig nails, let’s first discuss why is it important to regularly cut guinea pig nails. So that you never think of skipping or delaying a guinea pig nail trimming session.

What If You Don’t Cut Guinea Pig Nails?

If you don’t cut your guinea pig’s nails regularly, he is going to be in constant pain.  The overgrown nails are going to curve and grow into the guinea pig footpad, this would be causing constant pain to your guinea pigs. Overgrown nails also increase the risk of injuries and wounds on guinea pig footpads, which leads to increased susceptibility to bumblefoot.

On top of that, “quick,” the delicate blood vessel that is supplying blood to guinea pig nails, keeps growing closer to the tip of nails when they are not being trimmed regularly. This would increase the risk of you accidentally nipping the “quick” and making your guinea pig bleed. Besides that, it would also increase the risk of guinea pig nail getting ripped off while playing around.

Therefore, it is crucial that you trim your guinea pig nails regularly to prevent unnecessary pain to your piglets due to overgrown nails.  

What If You Don’t Cut Guinea Pig Nails? 
• Overgrown nails would curve into guinea pig footpads. 
• Overgrown nails can open wounds in guinea pig footpads and make them susceptible to bumblefoot.
• The “quick” of guinea pig nails would be growing closer to the tip if not regularly cut. 
Read: How to Bathe a Guinea Pig? Step-by-Step Guide!

Supplies For Clipping Guinea Pig Nails

Illustration showing Essential items For Clipping Guinea Pig Nails

Before you get your guinea pig for clipping its nails, make sure that you have all the supplies. Here is what you will be needing to clip your guinea pig’s nails.

Supplies Required for Clipping Guinea Pig Nails
• A pair of nail clippers
• Styptic powder or corn starch 
• A comfy towel

Get a pair of guinea pig nail clippers

Introducing guinea pig to nail clipper before nail trimming session

You can either use a small animal nail clipper or a baby nail clipper to cut your guinea pig nails. However, keep in mind that the two work differently.

Small Animal Nail Clipper

Small animal nail clippers are guillotine-styled and are specially made to cut the nails of small pets like your guinea pigs. These small animal clippers won’t squeeze your piglet’s nails before clipping them. Typically, guinea pig nail clippers have a rounded groove in blades that gives a refined finish to guinea pig nails.

Human Nail Clipper

Unlike guillotine-styled small animal nail clippers, human clippers would squeeze the nails together before cutting them, which could be hurtful to our little piglets.

While you can try out both types of nail clippers, it is advised that you use animal clippers for the nails of your younger piglets, as they would be soft and delicate. However, you can use a human nail clipper to cut the nails of senior guinea pigs.

Get some Styptic Powder or Corn Starch

You may end up accidentally nipping that red vessel (quick) in your guinea pig’s nail, making your guinea pig bleed. In such cases, styptic powder and corn starch come in handy to instantly stop your furball from bleeding. Application of these powders might hurt your piglet a bit at first, but they will effectively stop the bleeding.

Get a Comfy Towel

Guinea pigs might get uncomfortable and start to squiggle during nail trims, which could lead to an accident. In such cases, wrapping your piglet in a comfy towel helps. It would not only make your puppy feel comfortable but would also help you easily restrain your furball more easily.

How To Cut Guinea Pig Nails in 6 Easy Steps

1. Wrap Your Guinea Pig in a Towel

Take your guinea pig out of its cage and wrap it in a comfy towel. This will help you easily restrain your guinea pig throughout the nail-clipping session.

  • Ensure that you are not holding your guinea too tight with the towel, as it would make him suffocate.
  • Ensure that the towel is not making your guinea pig too hot—piggies are sensitive to both heat and cold.

2. Relax Your Pet

Keeping your guinea pig relaxed throughout the nail-trimming session is the key. Guinea pigs usually get anxious when something is happening out of sorts. So if your guinea pig is not accustomed to nail trims, he might get anxious and act a bit jumpy, which could lead to accidents. Therefore, you must relax your guinea pig before starting the process. Guinea pigs love musiccalm and relaxing music. So, you can play relaxing music for your guinea pig as you prepare for the nail trimming session.

Guinea pigs love food, so you can offer your piglet its favorite treats to keep him busy, and relaxed. In addition, to hand-feeding your piggy, you should continue petting and talking to them.

3. Position Your Guinea Pig In Your Lap

If you want to have a good chance at holding your guinea pig still throughout the session, you should sit down on the floor and position your piggy in your lap, with him/her facing away from you. It will not only help prevent your piggy from backing up but also from potential nipping and biting during nail trims. 

4. Hold And Gently Pull Out a Leg

Now that your guinea pig is all relaxed and well-positioned, you should hold it upright against your stomach and choose a leg. Gently pull out the leg and don’t act surprised if your piggy starts wiggling at this stage. If the wiggling is too much you should let the leg go and start again when the piggy gets relaxed.

5. Secure One Nail on the Paw

Now that one leg of your piggy is slightly pulled out, you can go ahead and secure one nail starting from one end by putting it between your index finger and thumb. Before proceeding make sure that you are not squeezing the toe too tightly.

6. Identify the Quick in the Nail

Identifying where to cut guinea pig nails is very crucial, otherwise, you may end up cutting the quick in nail and make your guinea pig bleed. To identify the quick in the nail, you can get your guinea’s nail in an LED light. Once you have identified where to cut the guinea pig nail, you can pick up the nail trimmer in your other hand and position it in front of the nail you want to trim.

7. Clip the Nail

Once you have identified the quick, the red blood vessel, in your guinea pig’s nail, you can go ahead and cut the extended tip of the nail without making contact with the quick. Avoid trimming too close to the quick, because nipping it even slightly would be a lot hurtful for your piggy.

Vet clipping Guinea pig nails

8. Proceed With the Rest of the Nails

After successfully clipping one guinea pig nail, you can proceed to clip other guinea pig nails on the selected leg. To keep your guinea pig relaxed and distracted, you can offer a treat for its good behavior.

You may also want to check out the video below where Squeak Dreams walks you through the step-by-step process of cutting guinea pig nails:

How To Cut Guinea Pig Nails That Are Black?

The process of cutting guinea pig nails that are black is the same as the general guinea pig nail clipping process. However, identifying the quick in black nails would be virtually impossible, especially in black guinea pigs.

Therefore, to be better able to identify the red blood vessel in your guinea pig nail, you should use some extra LED light. If possible you can get someone to shine the LED light from beneath the nail to help you see clearly.

It would be challenging to cut black guinea pig nails without nipping the quick in the nail. However, after a few sessions, you will get an idea about where the quick is located and where it would be safe to cut the nail.

The golden rule of thumb is to clip no more than one-fourth of the tip of the nail. If you are doing it for the first time, we suggest you get someone experienced to help and guide you through the process.

How To Cut Guinea Pig Nails That Are Curled and Overgrown?

You cannot go ahead and cut the overgrown and curled guinea pig nails to the standard length because the quick in the nail that supplies blood to the nail also extends as the nail grows.

Instead of cutting the nail to its standard length in the first go, you should trim the overgrown nail bit by bit every other day to help the quick shrink.  When the nail is trimmed to its standard length, you can switch to trimming it every two to three weeks.

Cut Guinea Pig Nail Too Short Bleeding: What to Do?

Illustration showing torn guinea pig nail bleeding and ways to stop torn guinea pig nail from bleeding

It is hard to get your guinea pig to stay still throughout the nail trimming session, so accidents often happen. Even the most experienced and careful guinea pig parents and groomers often accidentally cut guinea pig nails too short, and it starts bleeding. If you have also cut the quick in your guinea pig’s nail, you should not panic or blame yourself, instead, you should get yourself together and get to stop your guinea pig from bleeding.

  • Put some styptic powder or cornstarch at the bleeding nail tip. It might hurt your piglet a bit, but it would effectively stop the bleeding.
  • If you don’t have any styptic powder or corn starch, you can simply apply pressure to the bleeding nail tip, or apply to press it into a bar of soap, if the bleeding is minor, it will stop.
  • If the bleeding does not seem to stop, you should immediately take your ball of fur into an emergency.
  • Never put your guinea pig back into its cage until you are 110% sure that the bleeding has stopped completely.
  • If there is any swelling or bleeding, take your pet to a veterinarian.
Read: My Guinea Pig Nail Got Ripped Off! [Vet-Reviewed]
Interesting Facts About Guinea Pig Nails
• Guinea pig nails harden and thicken with age.
• Nails on guinea pig hind limbs are thicker and harder than the nails of their forelimbs.
• The more often you clip guinea pig nails, the faster its “quick” recedes.
• In the wild, guinea pigs' nails are filed naturally.
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