Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to Clip a Rabbit's Nails

We have three adorable bunnies, Wallace, Grommit and Darby. Every three weeks or so they need a nail trim, both for their benefit and ours. Rabbit's nails can grow extremely long and sharp, and when your trying to hold a large squirming rabbit, those strong back legs can do some damage. Our rabbits are fairly calm while being handled, but just to be safe, nail trimming is always a two person job. One to hold the bunny, one to do the trimming. We find that if you cradle them like a baby, it calms them and it usually doesn't bother them to have their feet touched. Be very careful when handling rabbits, they have a delicate spinal cord and can wiggle so viciously that they can break their own back. Like dogs, rabbits have a quick that extends into the nail and is the "live" part of the nail with a blood flow. It is important not to cut this or the rabbit will bleed and it's very difficult to stop. Always have styptic powder handy in case of an accident. If the quick is cut, apply the powder with firm pressure until the bleeding stops. To identify the quick, examine your rabbits nails thoroughly. If the rabbit has a clear nail this is easier and you can see the quick clearly, even if you know where the quick is always leave some space between where you cut and where it ends. If your rabbit has dark nails it can be trickier.
Grommit has dark nails so to be safe, we only clip a tiny bit every three weeks. If you cut the first nail and all goes well, we use that as a measure of how much to take off the rest. If your rabbit's nails are really long cut tiny amounts more frequently. As you trim, the quick will slowly recede and with each session you should be able to get them back to a reasonable length. Wallace and Grommit are Angora Rabbits so their feet are especially furry. I brush the wool backwards to expose the nail. If you gently press the pad of each "toe" the nail will pop forward making it easy to see. We use a guillotine type clipper where you insert the tip of the nail and a rounded blade slides up and slices the nail. Make sure the blade is sharp so you get a nice clean cut. If the nail shatters or if you're unsure as to where the quick is, you can also use a tool called the Pedi Paws, which I really like. You insert the nail into the rotary sander and it sands off the nail like an emery board. It leaves a nice clean edge. The only draw back is that you can't do a lot at a time. If the nails are really long you would have to do it everyday. It also heats up if you keep it on the same nail too long due to friction. But it is definitely a useful tool. If you're really unsure, take your rabbit to your veterinarian and have a professional clip their nails or show you how to trim your bunny in particular.

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