Guinea Pig Nail Clipping – Everything You Need To Know

Guinea pig plus nail clipper on white background.

Is your guinea pig having difficulty walking all of a sudden? Have you noticed any odd swelling or discoloration of the feet?

Or maybe those long nails are just starting to look very ugly and uncomfortable for your piggy. It might just be time to get those guinea pig nails trimmed.

In this article, you’ll learn when to clip their nails, where you can get it done, how much it’ll cost and whether or not you should cut them yourself (+ what you need to cut guinea pig nails).

No one wants their beloved pet to suffer. Always trim your guinea’s nails before they become a problem.

Overgrown nails can actually lead to serious injuries if left untreated in severe cases.

Do Guinea Pigs Need Their Nails Clipped?

Yes, guinea pigs need regular nail trimming in order to keep those feet healthy. These little critters are no different than dogs in that respect.

If you don’t trim your guinea pig’s nails, you could be dealing with several potential problems. Consider the list below:

  • Pain and discomfort
  • Inability to walk properly
  • Open wounds
  • Food inflammation
  • Secondary infections

Imagine lengthy nails causing open sores on your pet’s feet. Now consider what those feet walk over every day, especially provide them with outside time.

Any open sore is bad on an animal’s skin, but the feet are introduced to more foreign bacteria than nearly any other area of the body (except perhaps the mouth). Now that bacteria has a clear opening past the barrier meant to keep it out (which no longer exists).

Not only is this going to be painful, but your pet’s bloodstream is also in constant contact with foreign bacteria that shouldn’t be there. This can lead to sepsis in extreme cases, sometimes requiring amputation or ending in death.

Owner carefully cuts guinea pig nails on the hind legs.

A fresh wound can easily be cleaned carefully with hydrogen peroxide. According to the Purdue University, a 1:10 dilution of Nolvasan solution or betadine solution is recommended.

You’ll need to take care of the problem causing those wounds (the nails) first though.

When Should I Trim My Guinea Pig’s Nails?

Though your trims might vary, plan on a minimum of once a month at least.

More frequent clippings will help establish a routine and keep the vascular portion of the nail from growing too long.

Trimming those piglet nails should start around two months of age, often requiring a second person.

Regular clippings are especially important because guinea pig nails can actually curl, growing into the footpads if left unchecked. Remember all of the outcomes listed above?

Trim your guinea pig’s nails 1-2 times monthly.

As guinea pigs age, their nails tend to grow brittle and irregular, making trimming a must. Once the nails themselves begin to curl, trimming can become much more difficult.

Some pets will even chew on their hind nails, something you want to avoid.

Can you trim dark nails?

How in the world do you trim dark nails well, while avoiding a quick you just can’t see? Well, we have a few solutions for you.

Wear magnifying ‘glasses’ (not a hand held magnifying glass) in a well-lit room with plenty of light. High powered reading glasses will usually do well with something this close, but you could consider professional magnifying glasses with LED lighting.

Conduct your Guinea Pig nail trimming endeavors directly under the ‘white’ lighting provided by an LED lamp. The lighting should shine through the nail, but not the vascular quick (you’ll be able to tell where the quick is).

Use styptic powder to stop the bleeding.

Styptic powder is meant to control the small amount of bleeding you’ll see if you do actually cut into that quick. Combining a hydrophilic polymer and potassium ferrate with gradual pressure should stop the bleeding.

Flour or cornstarch can be used also.

Don’t apply too much pressure; you don’t want to injure your guinea piggy. Think of the same pressure you would use to control a child’s cut, but now imagine that child is 500 times (estimation) smaller.

The vascular portion of your pet’s nails does contain nervous tissue. While your piglet won’t feel the other portion of the nail being cut, he/she will feel this.

You want to do your best not to cut into the quick.

Magnifying glasses can really help.

Like we said above, magnifying glasses are very useful when trying to see something so small, especially when performing delicate work on a tiny living creature.

Where Can I get my Guinea Pig’s Nails Cut?

You can certainly get your Guinea Pig’s nails cut by a professional if you’re not comfortable doing this yourself. Consider the list below.

  • Veterinarian
  • Guinea pig groomers
  • Certain rescue centers
  • Certain small pet-boarders

Your small animal veterinarian will probably be the best person for the job. Even if they mainly treat dogs or cats, cutting nails should be fairly simple for them.

Thankfully, they normally don’t charge much more (sometimes less) than groomers and know exactly what they are doing.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Guinea Pig’s nails cut?

The price tag on cutting your guinea pig’s nails will really depend on where you go to get this job done.

Some veterinarians or groomers located in affluent neighborhoods will charge more since they often have much more sophisticated equipment and higher rent (not to mention more staff which should be offset by the plus of patients).

In the US in general, you’re looking at an average falling between $15 and $30. This isn’t much different from the price of cutting a dog’s nails.

Considering travel time, gas, and accumulating costs over time, it would be cheaper to do this yourself. It may not be easier, however.

For your convenience, we’ve listed a few great guinea pig nail trimmers below!

Can I File Guinea Pig Nails?

If you want to cut your guinea pig’s nails on your own, you could use both human nail clippers and those designed for small animals (cats, dogs). Simply be sure to avoid the quick.

An animal’s quick is the pinker or darker portion of their nails. It houses both blood vessels and nervous tissue, bleeding and causing pain if cut.

Human holds guinea pig with one hand while clipping the nails with the other hand.

If allowed to grow unchecked, the quick will also grow. This means you won’t be able to cut as much of the nail as you could before.

People have even used nail clippers created for babies. Nail clippers designed for use with dogs will probably be too large.

When it comes to filing – yes, you can ‘file’ the nails as opposed to trimming or cutting, but using a method that could cause excess trauma to such small feet isn’t recommended. You can file sharp tips with ease, but it likely becomes difficult after this point.

Nail trimming gets easier with experience.

As with everything, the more you trim those nails, the more confident you’ll become.

If you rarely trim your pet’s nails, you can easily become nervous. When you’re nervous, it’s easier to make mistakes, not do a good job, or just become frustrated.

Avoid frustration in order not to upset your cavy.

What Happens if You Don’t Cut Guinea Pig Nails?

What if you never cut your Guinea Pig’s nails, and just allow them to grow unchecked? Sorry to say, they won’t just fall off (and it is not good if they do).

Your pet’s nails will continue to grow until actually curling into the feet. Not only can this result in severe foot pain, but your pet may also no longer be able (or want to) walk.

Overgrown Guinea Pig Nails

Lengthy Guinea pig nails are prone to curl and begin impacting the footpads. If allowed to become overgrown, these nails can actually create open wounds in the feet.

Pododermatitis is mainly seen in overweight pets and/or those who live in dirty environments (i.e. when the cage isn’t cleaned regularly) as this makes them susceptible to bacterial infections. Diseases like this do not only lead to pain but also lameness.

Footpad infections are nasty for your little piggy.

Simply allowing your Guinea Pig’s nails to continue unchecked can lead to open sores. These open sores can allow bacteria to enter the wounds, potentially leading to several problems.

Lameness can be an issue.

Because of pain, discomfort, or infection, your small animal might no longer want to use these feet at all. Lameness describes this effect, an abnormal gait, or unusual stance.

Avoid pododermatitis.

This is the medical term you might hear your veterinarian use, simply meaning inflammation of the foot. Overgrown nails can easily lead to this condition, especially if allowed to impact the footpads.

Podo: meaning foot

Dermis: Skin

Itis: Inflammation

You might also hear the term ‘Sore Hocks’ or ‘Bumblefoot’. Pododermatitis basically refers to inflammation of the skin, feet, and skin of the feet, caused by open sores.

Clinical signs include swollen paws, lameness and reluctance to move. Clinical examination shows swollen paws with erosions or ulcers 0.5–3 cm in diameter on the palmar or plantar footpad surfaces. The feet and joints may also be hot to the touch and the guinea pig may cry out in pain when they are manipulated (Brown, Cindy. DWM.)

Treatment of pododermatitis in the guinea pig

Heard of osteoarthritis?

The inflammation of your pet’s feet can lead to Osteoarthritis, resulting in pain and discomfort when your pet walks. Osteoarthritis is the term given to inflammation caused by the cushioning cartilage between bones/joints deteriorating.

Though rare in comparison, Osteomyelitis (osteo = bone, myel = marrow) represents an infection in the bone itself, potentially traveling to other tissues.

This is definitely not a condition you want your Guinea Pig to suffer.

Best Guinea Pig Nail Clippers

The best Guinea Pig nail clippers available will be designed specifically for the feet of very small animals. They won’t cause excess trauma, will be simple to use, and effective.

Don’t use actual trauma shears on your pet’s nails.

Kaytee Small Animal Pro-Nail Trimmer, 6.25-in

I can think of three different types of handheld nail clippers for pets, the ‘grips’ you squeeze, the clippers the nail fits inside (both too large for small animals), and the ‘trauma shear’ type nail trimmers.

The ‘trauma shears’ are built with loops like regular scissors, except for your middle and index finger (giving more dexterity).

Trauma shears were specifically designed so medics or nursing staff can remove human clothing very quickly without any worry of poking the skin, and these also eliminate the worry of stabbing your little fellow.

Shiny Pet — Pet Nail Clippers for Small Animals

Designed with an anti-slip handle, these Guinea Pig nail trimmers are shaped only slightly different than the ones above. Both are very small, built for maximum dexterity.

Whichever you chose is more up to personal preference.

QuickFinder Nail Clippers for Cats and Small Animals

Whereas this type of nail clippers for Guinea Pigs might be a little more awkward to use (unless you prefer the ‘grip’ type) it is specifically designed to find those invisible quicks on dark nails. You are told where to clip and what not to clip.

Some people have a lot of trouble with guinea pig nail trimming, especially if your pet’s nails are dark.

Do baby nail clippers work?

Human baby nail trimmers can work for young guinea pigs, but they are designed for flat nails, as opposed to nails that curve. Though they are great for that sharp nail tip, or that young critter’s nails, they might not be good for adult Guineas.

In the end, it’s important you are comfortable, steady, and confident. Pick the nail trimmers you’re most confident with.


As long as you keep up with them, trimming your guinea pig’s nails at minimum once per month, they aren’t difficult to keep up with at all. By simply attending to your pet’s nails regularly, you can avoid all of the issues above.

The more you trim your guinea’s nails, the more comfortable you’ll become doing it, and the easier it will be.

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