Are you trying to figure out how to care for your rabbit’s nails? If so, then you have come to the right place! The steps below will teach you the correct way to care for your rabbit’s nails.
To care for a rabbit’s nails, handle your rabbit securely, purchase nail clippers that allow for precise and controlled clips, and have styptic powder on hand for any accidents that may occur. Avoid cutting the quick of the nail and go as fast and confidently as you can.
By following the steps below, caring for your rabbit’s nails will be quick and simple.
Why Do I Need to Trim My Rabbit’s Nails?
Just like humans, a rabbit’s nails are growing constantly. In the wild, rabbits’ nails will naturally wear because of all the digging and running around they do to survive. Pet rabbits though, don’t get the chance to exercise as much as their wild cousins. While they can still be healthy and happy in this lifestyle, their nails will need to be trimmed often to keep them short.
If rabbit nails get too long, they will change the way they stand on their feet and put lots of pressure on the back part of the foot. If left alone, this will eventually cause joint pain and walking problems. Long nails also mean running the risk of getting snagged on something and being broken or completely yanked out. Either of these options, especially the latter, is extremely painful to your rabbit. Other risks include causing the toe and foot bones to break and be dislocated which will be painful and hard for your rabbit to recover from.
Taking the time to cut your bunny’s nails is the best way to do prevent these dangers. Most vets are able to do this for a small fee, and will professionally cut your rabbit’s nails in a fast and pain-free way. If you want to avoid the fees though, trimming your rabbit’s nails is also extremely easy to do from home with some patience and knowledge. Your rabbit’s nails should be trimmed every 1-2 months, so being able to trim from home will save you frequent trips and money.
If you are worried about your rabbit harming their play-mate with his nails, trimming is the best solution. You’ll also need to follow up by reading Five Reasons Pet Rabbits Fight and How to Stop Them to be sure you take steps so that they are able to calm down and relax around each other.
Cutting Methods: What You Will Need
There are a few things you need to have on hand before you can trim your rabbit’s nails at home:
- Nail trimmers made for pets
- Styptic powder
- Good Lighting
- A human friend (optional)
The Right Trimmers
Owning the correct pair of nail clippers made specifically for pets can make the task of clipping your rabbit’s nails much simpler.
The clippers you buy don’t specifically have to be made for rabbits in order to get good results. When purchasing, be sure to get some with sturdy handles, curved blades, and a sharp, circle-like opening where the nail is placed. These can be purchased from nearly any pet store. These do not have to be expensive, though nicer ones may lead to faster, more precise results.
It may be tempting to use nail clippers designed for humans since you probably already have them around. However, these can crush and break your rabbit’s nails instead of smoothly cutting them, and are much less precise.
Styptic powder is a veterinary solution that is used to safely and effectively stop bleeding in nails that have been cut too short.
Cutting your rabbit’s nails too short will cause you to cut through the “quick” of the nail– a sensitive blood vessel that runs through the center base of the rabbit’s nail. Although this is fairly easy to avoid if you know what to look for, accidents happen you will occasionally cut into this blood vessel. This is painful to rabbits and is one of the big reasons why rabbits tend to put up a fight when it’s nail trimming time
In this case, applying a small amount of styptic powder will help stop the bleeding and numb the pain. Though it’s good to get official styptic powder to avoid infection, using bread flour, baking soda, and cornstarch can also work in a pinch.
Handle Your Rabbit Properly While Cutting Their Nails
Properly handling your rabbit is crucial during the nail-cutting time. A rabbit is capable of breaking its own back by kicking out. Your rabbit may start to do this if it is not handled correctly and feels threatened or insecure. Make sure your rabbit is feeling secured rather than feeling vulnerable and frightened. Can You Carry Your Rabbit Like a Baby? is a great article to read on how you, and your children, can properly hold your family’s pet rabbit.
When preparing to cut your rabbit’s nails, gently hold your rabbit close to you, either on a raised surface or on your lap in a way that helps you see what you’re doing. spreading a towel out on your desired cutting surface will help your rabbit have good traction, a comfy place to sit, and feel secure.
Do not squeeze or crush your rabbit in any way. You simply want them to be secure and steady so you can do what you need to do.
If you’re struggling to handle this on your own, ask someone to help you while cutting your rabbit’s nails. Having someone to help you will allow one person to hold the rabbit while the other person can clip the rabbit’s nails. Rather than having to worry about holding the rabbit and clipping its nails by yourself, having someone assist you will help to alleviate stress and ensure that both tasks are done correctly.
To handle your rabbit properly, have one hand supporting their back while the other supports their hind. Even if they are being held correctly, put them down if they start to kick out. Allow your rabbit to relax and resume after it feels calm once again.
WARNING: DO NOT FLIP RABBIT ON BACK
You may be tempted to flip the rabbit on its back when trimming its nails, as this can make the rabbit go still and become calm, a process called “trancing”. This behavior doesn’t mean they’re actually calm, however. Because rabbits are prey animals, being put in this vulnerable position scares them and their instinct is to play dead. While they will react to their surroundings less, don’t let that fool you. This is a fear response and is not good for them.
Once your rabbit is secure, Here are some things to keep in mind to help you get the best results:
- Set up in good light
- Avoid the quick
- Get fur out of the way
- Get all the toes
- Be quick
Good Light, Great Trim
When cutting, it’s a good idea to have a flashlight on hand. Simply laying a flashlight shining towards the nails you intend to cut will help you see more clearly. This will help you make fast, informed decisions which will help put your rabbit at ease. If you own a smartphone, you can use the flashlight function and place it face up underneath your rabbit’s foot so the light is shining up through their nails.
Don’t Cut the Quick
One of the most important things to keep in mind while trimming your bun’s nails is to avoid cutting the quick, which will be painful and will bleed. As described earlier, the quick is a blood vessel that runs through the center of the base of the nail near the toe. The quick can be clearly seen on rabbits with light nails, but is much harder to see on rabbits with dark nails. Whether your rabbit has light nails or dark nails, a good rule of thumb is to use the Press-press-cut method.
TIP: If you are a new owner or even an experienced one, you may not know about vaccines. Do Rabbits Need Vaccines? is my article that details which certain regions of people need to take their rabbit to the vet for a vaccine.
When placing your nail clippers, give the nail two light squeezes before you cut there. If your rabbit reacts and recoils, you know that the rabbit is sensitive in that area and that you are too close to the quick. Rabbits cannot feel anything beyond the quick, so if your rabbit doesn’t react, you’re good to cut.
Some rabbits will react and recoil no matter where you place trimmers on the nail, so if it’s still hard to tell where the quick is, only cut the very tip of the nail. Even if you think you could trim the nail more, cutting only the tip will help you avoid potential pain and bleeding.
Get Fur Out of the Way
Visibility is huge when you’re trimming the nails, so make sure all fur is out of the way when trimming the nail so you can see what you’re doing. You can brush the fur away from the nail with your thumb as you hold your rabbit’s foot, but it’s OK to trim some of the fur around the nail if it’s still in the way. This won’t hurt anyone! For fluffier rabbits, get the fur around nails wet so that it hangs off the foot and reveals the nails. This is an easy way to ensure that it stays out of the way
Get All the Toes
Rabbit’s back feet will have four nails, and the front paws have four and one dewclaws. The dewclaw, which is kind of like a rabbit’s thumb and is separated from the other toes on the front feet and can sometimes be easy to miss. In total, you should be trimming 18 nails every time, and keeping track of which ones have been done will help save you headache later.
Many rabbits dislike getting their nails done, and the best way to minimize their discomfort is to be swift, confident, and assuring. This will usually take some practice, but you will have many opportunities to do so together because of how often nails need to be trimmed. If you keep things fast and direct, Your rabbit will usually sense that you know what you’re doing and you will have better results. Bringing treats into the process and giving them lots of attention and pets will also help them know that they’re not in danger.