Nail trimming is a necessary part of grooming your pet rabbit. Rabbit nails continuously grow (just like their teeth) so if they are not naturally wearing them down outside they will need to be trimmed using nail clippers. If you have never trimmed your rabbit's nails and you do not have someone to help you, you may want to seek help from a pet groomer or veterinary staff. If you have a young rabbit, make sure you take the opportunity to start trimming their nails while they are young and on a regular basis so they can get used to it.
How to Trim Rabbit Nails
- First, gather the supplies that you will need as well as a friend to hold your rabbit for you. You don't want to have to start and stop once you have your rabbit ready for a nail trim so get everything together in one place. Get yourself a good pair of nail clippers made for cats or rabbits (such as a Kaytee Pro Nail Trimmer), a towel, styptic powder opened up (to be ready in case you clip a nail too short), and treats for your rabbit.
- Have your holder wrap your rabbit in a towel to help keep them calm and safely restrained. A rabbit can kick and hurt (or break) their back so make sure you are handling them correctly and supporting their hind end well. If they start to struggle, stop the process. Set your rabbit back down, and try again once your rabbit calms down. You can use treats to reward your rabbit and entice them to be swaddled in the towel.
- Once your rabbit is wrapped in the towel and has calmed down, trim only the tip of the nails. It is far better to trim just a small amount frequently than to try and trim off a lot once the nails get too long. If your rabbit has clear or white nails and you can see the pink blood supply (known as the quick), you should be able to cut just before that (towards the tip of the nail) without making your rabbit bleed. Never cut the quick as it will bleed and is painful for your rabbit. Place the clippers on the nail where the cut is to be made. Slowly squeeze the trimmers to cut the nail and if the rabbit flinches move a bit toward the tip of the nail (you may be too close to the quick). Make the cut in a firm, swift motion to avoid crushing the nail.
- If a nail is accidentally cut too short, don't panic. Quickly pack some of the styptic powder on the end of the nail to stop the bleeding. While cutting the quick does hurt, the styptic powder contains a numbing agent to provide relief to your rabbit and the nail will grow out fairly quickly. Unless the nail has been cut drastically short, there is no reason for alarm if you accidentally cut a quick. Everyone who regularly cuts nails on their pet has trimmed one too short at some point in time so do not feel as though you are unable to trim nails if you get one too short.
- Repeat these steps for all of your rabbit's nails. Take a break between feet if your rabbit is struggling or the procedure is taking a while. This is especially important if you are using a towel for restraint to prevent the overheating of your rabbit.
- Once you are done trimming as many toes as your rabbit will allow, quickly recheck all the nails to make sure they are not bleeding before letting go of your rabbit.
- Finally, give your rabbit a treat! Even if you only got one foot done, be sure to reward your rabbit with some positive reinforcement and conditioning.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT