Guinea pigs have 4 toes on their front paws and 3 toes on their back paws.
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A pet guinea pig requires some basic maintenance from time to time, including a good nail trimming. If left untrimmed, a guinea pig's nails will eventually grow out in long, tangled strands. This can lead to serious infections, damage to the guinea pig's feet or mobility problems. Special stones with rough edges can be placed in the cage to encourage scratching, but even the most fastidious guinea pig occasionally needs a long nail trimmed off.
Perhaps the best way for many owners to trim a guinea pig's nails is to seek the services of a professional. Veterinarians trained to handle exotic pets should be able to trim a guinea pig's nails safely. They can also examine a guinea pig's ears and teeth at the same time. A guinea pig's teeth grow constantly, so a veterinarian may want to trim them as well while treating the nails. If a veterinarian with exotic pet experience is not available, a bird groomer may be able to trim a guinea pig's nails professionally.
If you feel confident about your own nail-trimming skills, you may want to perform the task yourself. You will need a specialized nail clipper for small animals, which can be found in most pet stores or larger department stores. You will also need a clean towel to wrap around the guinea pig's body as you work on each limb. This can be a scary experience for your pet, so be prepared to work in stages if necessary.
To begin the nail trimming, remove your guinea pig from its cage and allow it to calm down for a few minutes. Carefully wrap the towel around the guinea pig's body, leaving one limb exposed and the others covered. Use one hand to steady the exposed foot and the other to trim off a small section of nail with the clipper.
Work by nibbling your way up the nail, because a guinea pig has a vein that extends into the base of the nail. Stop trimming if you suspect you're approaching the vein. Continue this careful trimming process on each toe of the exposed foot.
After the guinea pig's first foot has been trimmed, allow it to calm down before repeating the process on the other feet. Rewrap the towel to expose another limb and hold the guinea pig close to your body to minimize wiggling. Trim each nail to a comfortable stopping point. Your main objective is to trim back excessive nail growth, not to clip the nails all the way back to the quick. The guinea pig will finish the job with his or her scratching rock anyway.
Once all of the nails have been trimmed, a guinea pig may want to spend some time destressing in its cage. This could be a good time for a special food treat, but allow the guinea pig to recover its bearings before handling it again. If the vein was nicked, some bleeding may occur. Minor cuts should stop bleeding within minutes, but major cuts may require a trip to the veterinarian to prevent further damage.
The main thing to keep in mind when trimming a guinea pig's nails is that you aren't causing significant pain, even if your pet decides to fight you at every turn and issues loud cries of protest. You're doing your pet a very big favor healthwise. Some owners consider the nail clipping fees charged by veterinarians to be a wise investment. An agitated guinea pig's bite can be quite memorable.