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Guinea Pigs/nail trimming


QUESTION: Hi, my guinea pig is VERY squirmy and she needs her nails cut very badly. I have the proper tool but I'm worried about cutting too deep. I can barely pick her up without her viciously wiggling. My mom is convinced that she can do it but I doubt it because my guinea trusts me the most and she still won't let me. I went to the vet to have them do it but they told me to come back later or to do it myself. I just want to know what would be better for me/my guinea, my attempting it or taking her somewhere? And also as a sidenote how should I do it if I decide to do it myself? Thanks :)

ANSWER: I find the easiest way to handle them is to hold the pig on her back with her head tucked between your arm and your body. Then you can stabilize the back feet and clip the nails. You could also try wrapping her in a towel with her back legs loose enough that you can hold tight while one of you clips the nails.

If you cut it to the quick and it bleeds, don't panic. That's a vein not an artery. Dip the nail in some cornstarch and that will help stop the bleeding. If the nails are white you can see the red vein, but if they're black you're going to just guess. Whichever it is don't worry that you're going to cause her irreparable harm.  You will not. The difficult part is having someone hold her still enough to do the job.

For the front feet sometimes it's easier if you just hold her with her front feet sticking out or hanging down, then nip each nail. I had a friend who told me she used to put her pig on a tennis racket. The toenails are then hanging down between the strings and she'd clip them that way.

It takes a little practice, but the big thing is to overcome the fear that you're going to hurt her. You won't.  So just gather up your courage and give it a try.

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QUESTION: That really helped, I'll be trying out those techniques later. I do however have another question. I've had her since April and I be never clipped her nails so the front ones are a little curvy and the back ones are very sharp/long. Is that only caused from lack of nail trimming or something else? And how often should I clip them?

That's normal for the fronts to be curvy like that.  In the wild guinea pigs are rock dwellers. They live in little holes in rocky areas, so they naturally keep their nails worn down by running over the stone.

You should clip them whenever you see them getting a bit long, which is about every four to six weeks. Sooner if you feel they need it.  I also have a few of my older sows that have the curvy nails and it's probably because they are on soft shavings and hay so there isn't anything to help them keep the nails worn.  

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Pat VanAllen


As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.


Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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