How To Trim Iguana Nails

Green Iguana
Getty Images/Bariscan Celik

Green iguanas have extremely sharp nails that are handy for climbing trees in the wild but can make handling them difficult (and painful). By getting into the habit of regularly trimming your iguana's nails it will make handling them a lot easier and will be less stressful for your reptile if they are used to having it done.

Steps to Trim Iguana Nails

  1. Gather all the supplies you will need. Your supply list should include small nail clippers (clippers meant for small dogs or cats typically work well), styptic powder, and a towel in which your iguana can be wrapped.
  2. Wrap your iguana in the towel (like a burrito) leaving one foot out to be trimmed. Hold your iguana with your left hand if you are right-handed (and vice versa if you are left-handed). You may need a holder if your iguana is wiggly or too large for you to comfortably and safely restrain alone.​
  3. Look carefully at the claws to see where you should trim. There is a thicker part of the nail with a pink vessel inside of it (the quick) and then a thinner curved part of the nail. Only trim a small bit off of this thinner part of the nail. It is better to trim a little bit off frequently than try to trim a lot off at one time if you aren't sure how far down on the nail to cut. You want to avoid cutting the nail too short and making your iguana bleed. Iguanas need their nails to walk and climb otherwise they will just slip so don't forget that they may appear longer than you think they should in comparison to some other animals.
  1. If you accidentally trim the nail too short be sure to quickly stop the bleeding with the styptic powder. This toe may be a little sensitive for a short period of time.
  2. Repeat this with the rest of nails, taking a break if your iguana gets too upset. If your iguana will only allow you to trim one or two nails a day that's alright. Keep working with them until they are comfortable with the process and allow you to trim all their nails in one short sitting.
  3. Trim your iguana's nails every two to three weeks or as needed.

Tips for Trimming Iguana Nails

  • Clippers that look like blunt scissors with a short notched blade where the nail is positioned and cut are best for iguanas (and are often labeled as cat nail trimmers or small dog trimmers). Human clippers can be used on baby iguanas but adult iguanas have nails that are much too thick for human nail clippers.
  • Cornstarch can be used (but you will have to hold it on the bleeding nail longer) if you do not have styptic powder available. Other substitutes to control bleeding are flour (packed onto the bleeding nail) and a bar of soap which is used to press the bleeding nail into.
  • If your iguana's nails are brittle or too hard for you to trim, let them have a bath or go for a swim for a few minutes and then trim their claws immediately after. Just like in people, the nails will soften after being soaked in water and are easier to trim.
  • Have someone hold your iguana for you the first time you attempt to trim their nails. This way you can focus on just the nails and will be less likely to cut one too short.