Pet guinea pigs, or cavies, require additional grooming besides simply brushing their hair. Their claws must be trimmed on a regular basis -- not merely for appearance's sake, but to maintain the guinea pig's health. When nails grow too long, they will curl in such a way as to impair the guinea pig's ability to walk. Take action if your cavy's claws are curling.
About the Claws
It's an incorrect assumption that you can put objects in the cage, like stone or brick, hoping the cavy will file her own claws down. Guinea pig's claws grow constantly and should be trimmed at least once a month. However, clipping more frequently will help create a routine and prevent the quick, or blood supply in the nails, from edging too closely toward the tip. Note that a young guinea pig's claws are sharp, but tend to become brittle as she ages.
Learning How to Trim
As odd as it may be for you to hold the guinea pig and clip her claws, remember that she's frightened when restrained from moving and kept in an unusual, upright position. Until you are able to hold and clip at the same time, it's best to have another person assist, where one holds the guinea pig and the other trims the nails. You may use a soft towel to hold the cavy, with her back against your stomach and legs pointed outward. Experiment with rodent nail clippers, available at pet supply stores; in a crunch, human clippers work as well. If your guinea pig is antsy, it's perfectly fine to work on one or two feet per day provided the claws are not excessively long.
Avoid Clipping Too Far
Clipping too much claw will cut into the blood supply, hurting the guinea pig who will learn to fear the experience. It's easier to see the quick in white or clear claws rather than darker nails. For this reason, always clip the claws in a well-lit room or shine a flashlight on the nails. Accidents can happen, so if the quick is clipped, press some corn flower or aluminum sulfate powder on the nail to stop the bleeding. Treat the foot with warm salty water to keep it clean.
Worse Case Scenario
The guinea pig will suffer if her curling nails are left untrimmed. At first, it will noticeably affect her ability to walk, which can easily lead to a loss of appetite and exercise. Injuries to the foot and leg can occur, including bumblefoot, sores, inflammation, redness and hair loss. Simply clipping the nails on a regular basis prevents this excruciating pain and discomfort. Though many owners can accustom the guinea pig to having her nails clipped, those who feel uncomfortable doing so or whose guinea pig proves uncooperative should seek the help of a veterinarian.
Pam Smith has been writing since 2005. In addition to her work for Demand Media, her articles have been published online at CBS Local. She also wrote for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary Map while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an editorial assistant for Circulation Research.