How to Trim Iguana Nails

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Green iguanas have extremely sharp nails that are handy for climbing trees in the wild but can make handling them difficult (and painful). Getting into the habit of regularly trimming your iguana's nails will make handling them a lot easier and less stressful for your reptile.

Steps to Trim Iguana Nails

  1. Gather all the supplies you will need: clippers, styptic powder, and a towel. The clippers look like blunt scissors with a short notched blade where the nail is positioned and cut. (These are often labeled as cat nail trimmers or small dog trimmers.)
  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. Examine the claws closely. 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 the thinner part. It is better to trim a little bit off frequently than try to trim a lot off at one time. 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. If you accidentally trim the nail too short, be sure to quickly stop the bleeding with the styptic powder. That toe may be a little sensitive for a short time.
  4. Repeat this with the rest of the 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 is alright. Keep working with the iguana until it is comfortable with the process and allows you to trim all nails in one short sitting.
  5. Trim your iguana's nails every two to three weeks or as needed.


  • Human clippers can be used on baby iguanas but adult iguanas have nails that are much too thick for human nail clippers.
  • If you do not have styptic powder, then cornstarch can be used (but you will have to hold it on the bleeding nail longer). Other substitutes include 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, bath it or let it go for a swim for a few minutes. Trim claws immediately after. Just like human nails, its nails will soften after being soaked in water and should become easier to trim.
  • Have someone hold your iguana for you the first time you attempt to do a nail trimming so you can focus on the task at hand.