Last week I was round at a friends house to clip the nails of their 2 little guinea pigs – Smudge and Caspian. Lovely friendly guinea pigs, each with their own little personalities – and challenges!
Smudge is the slightly larger of the 2 and is a little wriggler! She dislikes sitting still for too long, making nail clipping a bit more of a challenge. To combat this, if she wanted to pull her paw away and have a little wriggle or move about, I let her. Simply. This way I could clip her nails without the risk of damage; whilst she was still I clipped, whilst she wriggled I left her to it. This meant that clipping her nails took a little longer than anticipated but it got done, and no harm was done!
Caspian on the other hand is slightly smaller than Smudge; she is also a little more timid but less of a wriggler! I cooed and talked in a soothing voice more with Caspian as this helped her to relax (she knows my voice despite not being my pet) and she settled quite quickly. She was a little nervous about the nail clippers but allowed me to clip her nails, rarely pulling away. Again, if she pulled away I allowed her a moment before starting again. I got through clipping her nails quicker than with Smudge as she was quieter and kept still for longer.
Both guinea pigs were pleasant to nail clip and received a lot of fussing, cuddling and even a little treat each when their nails were done – so that the experience is not seen as a negative one. For their first time having their nails clipped they were lovely – and the inspiration for this post!
Nail clipping is an important part of pet grooming that sometimes gets overlooked, due to being seen as quite a daunting task, that can cause both pet and owner to become anxious! Many people take their pet to the vets and pay to have their pets’ nails clipped – but when you know how to clip your pets’ nails it’s easy and simple enough to do yourself!
Whether you do it yourself or take your pet to the vets, nail clipping needs to be kept on top of as overgrown nails can cause pain and discomfort, irregular gait (walking), broken nails, and (if left long enough) can cause long-term skeletal problems.
Guillotine or scissor clippers?
There are 2 kinds of pet nail clippers – the standard scissor type pet nail clippers (image 1), and guillotine type pet nail clippers (image 2). The scissor type nail clippers are used for small animals, cats and dogs. The guillotine nail clippers are usually only found for, medium and larger, dog breeds.
When buying nail clippers buy the ones for your pet, if you use large dog nail clippers on a small animal (not only will the clippers be very large compared to the tiny nail but) they may be too strong and cause damage to the nail/ your pet. Similarly, small animal nail clippers will be too small and weak to cut your dogs’ nails.
If you are clipping nails for a dog, find which nail clippers you feel most comfortable and confident using and get some added to your grooming kit! Most nail clippers will say what animals they are suitable for use on, and often even have pictures.
DO NOT use human nail clippers as these may split the nail of your pet.
This sterilised the nail and helps to stop the bleeding faster, if you do cut the nail too short – to the quick. Some nail clippers have this included inserted in the handle, however you can buy this as a separate product. The nail just needs to be dipped into the powder and left.
Walking dogs on pavement, letting your cat out, putting your small animal(s) in a run on the patio (so they HAVE to stay on the pavement for a bit) will help naturally wear down nails and reduce the frequency in which nails need to be clipped – but watch out for dew claws, if they does not reach the ground they will not get worn down and will need trimming even when the other nails do not!
You handle your pet often and this makes your pet comfortable with you – use this to your advantage to health check your pet and check out those nails! Some pets may need a little encouragement to allow you near their feet, this can be accomplished by distracting your pet with their favourite toy or a treat, and similarly rewarding them with a play or a treat after they have let you inspect their nails.
When checking out your pets’ nails during a handling or fussing time check the length and feel if you think the nails are becoming too long. If the nails are beginning to curl back on themselves it is probably quite likely that nail clipping ought to be done quite soon! Again, remember to check the dew claws if your pet has these, as these may need clipping more often. If it is just a routine nail clip, take approximately 2mm off end of claw, if the claws are very long a bit more may need taking off. Check your pets nails weekly to ensure you keep on top of nail clipping.
Getting used to the clippers
First, your pet needs to be okay with the nail clippers and you using them. The same process for getting your pet to allow you to check out their feet, can be done to get the pet used to the nail clippers too:
– Put the clippers near your pets’ toes but do not use them, then reward your pet.
– Put the clippers (closed) on your pets’ nails, then reward your pet.
(This can be done over a few days or a week at regular intervals)
Your pet will soon become accustomed to the clippers, and rewards can be given after nail clipping has been done too.
The quick is the blood vessel in the nail. This can be seen very easily in white nails as the pink bit running part the way down from the foot, however black nails are a problem as the quick cannot be seen and is therefore harder to avoid with the nail clippers.
If your pet has both white an black claws on the same foot, the black claws can be clipped using the already clipped white claws as a guide as to where the quick ends. If, like my little Bedlington, your pet has no white claws, then clip only a little bit off the end (use your own judgement based on the length of the claw).
If bleeding occurs, it usually stops in around 5 minutes. Do not put small animals back into shavings (bedding) until bleeding has stopped so the substrate does not get stuck to the nail.
Using the proper nail clippers for your pet species, clip the nail approximately 2mm away from the quick. Clip at approximately a 45° angle, one nail at a time. Take your time and if your pet wants to have a wriggle, and pull its’ paw away from you, let it! A little break may be what is needed before continuing.
If you and your pet are calm enough then nail clipping can be accomplished just you and your pet. If you and/ or your pet feel better with a second person then nail clip with a trusted second.
A Few Tips
- Talking to your pet in a soothing voice helps your pet to relax; they know your voice and are comforted by it
- Put your pet on your lap or a non-slip floor for clipping
- Tightly wrapping a wriggly or nervous animal, in a towel or blanket, with only the desired paw (and head) sticking out can help, as the tightness helps the animal feel secure
- A towel or blanket can also be used as a non-slip area under your pet that will catch the nail clippings, so the clippings are not lost in your carpet
- If necessary, get someone else to hold the animal for you, whilst you clip the nails
- There is NO point fighting with a wriggly animal as it’ll be okay for clipping again once it has calmed back down
- DO NOT tell off or punish your pet, this will make the experience of nail clipping a negative one and your pet may be more nervous or fearful the next time
- Reward your pet after with a treat, fussing or a favourite toy – this way your pet will associate the experience as a positive one, and will be less nervous or fearful next time