It is essential to cut the guinea pigs’ claws, because when they are short, guinea pigs can run around without restriction. If the claws get too long, guinea pigs aren’t able to move properly and may even hurt themselves if the nails bore their way into the guinea pigs foot, which can additionally lead to painful inflammations. Therefore the length of the nails should always be checked and adjusted if necessary. Most guinea pigs don’t like that procedure, but it is important for their health and they will probably be less unforgiving if they receive a little snack after the treatment. The first time a guinea pig owner cuts their pets claws, (s)he should ask another guinea pig owner or the vet for help.
The first thing to be done before the nails can be cut is to secure the guinea pig. The best way to do this, is to grab the guinea pig around its chest and to press its back against the holder’s belly while the pet’s butt rests on the holder’s lap. This way one hand is free to cut the guinea pig’s claws. However, this is the advanced version and beginners should ask a second person for help. Then one person can hold the guinea pig the same way, but the second hand supports the pet’s butt and the other person can cut the nails. This is important because most guinea pigs hate the pedicure and will try to escape.
The nails should be cut approximately 1mm / 0.04 inches above the end of the vein / nerve cord. This is easy to spot when the guinea pig’s nails are bright, because a red shimmer shines through. However, the vein is hard to find when guinea pigs have dark claws. Owners can either ask a vet for help, carefully cut a tiny piece after another to test where the vein is or use a torch to light up the nails from behind. The cutting should be done diagonal with special scissors for guinea pig claws, which can be bought in every pet shop.
If it happens that the vein is cut as well, the guinea pig will squeak and the nail will start bleeding. Guinea pigs with a bleeding nail shouldn’t be put back into the cage, but held outside on the owners lap for a few minutes, so that the bleeding can stop. The bleeding claw could get an infection in the dirty cage and even after the bleeding has stopped, the risk of infection is still there. Therefore the feet should be checked regularly for a few days after the treatment.
When guinea pigs are kept outside, their claws usually wear down themselves. This can also be supported for guinea pigs living inside, but cutting the nails is still a must! Claws wear themselves down if the guinea pig gets some activity. Running on the flat’s floor and hard objects help to scuff the nails. Stones, bricks and branches in the cage assist additionally to wear away the claws.