Rabbits’ nails, like their teeth, are continually growing. Wild rabbits wear down their nails by digging burrows and running over rough ground. But pet rabbits often need a trim, otherwise, their long nails may catch on things, or curl under and cause sore hocks.
Unfortunately, most rabbits hate having their nails done. But nail clipping is an important part of a rabbit’s health routine. And there are ways you can make rabbit nail clipping easier for your bunny and for you.
Rabbit Nail Anatomy
Rabbits have eighteen nails: four nails on each of the back paws and five on each of the front paws.
Each nail has a dark line going around it. This is the quick. It’s a vein. Consider this your stop sign. Don’t clip the line or anywhere above it. If you accidentally cut above the quick, it will hurt a lot and may bleed a surprising amount. To make things more difficult, the vein can be hard to see on darker colored nails.
If you can’t find the vein, try gently squeezing the nails with the clipper before making the cut. If your rabbit flinches or pulls away, try clipping closer to the end of the nail.
How Long Should Rabbit Nails Be?
There’s no single appropriate length for rabbit toenails. Some people give their long-haired bunnies a nail trim when the nails reach beyond the fur of their feet. Other people prefer to do their rabbit’s nails, clipping when they see them start curling.
The important thing is, when you trim nails, trim only the tip.
Is it Possible to Declaw a Rabbit?
It’s possible, but, just like declawing a cat, the harm to your rabbit wouldn’t be worth it.
Declawing can lead to both pain and mobility problems. Also, declawing would prevent your rabbit from scratching itself, digging, and performing other natural functions. It also gives a rabbit’s foot less traction, and would take away one of its primary means of self-defence.
How Often Should You Trim Your Rabbit’s Nails?
Check your rabbit’s nails every week or so as part of your grooming routine. The time between trims may vary from rabbit to rabbit, but every three weeks to one month is a good starting point.
Rabbit Nail Clipping, Step by Step
Are you ready to learn how to clip your rabbits’ nails? Let’s go!
Remember, many rabbits hate having their nails trimmed. If the process becomes unduly upsetting for either you or your rabbits, ask your vet if they can trim your rabbits’ nails.
What You’ll Need
First things first; gather your tools.
Many rabbits dislike being held. Even those that tolerate it may become nervous when you start poking around at their feet. We all know that a bunny can injure itself trying to get away when it feels that it’s in danger.
Using a towel to wrap your pet can keep your rabbit calm and properly restrained while it’s having its nails trimmed. It can also keep your rabbit’s claws from scratching you while you’re clipping your rabbit’s nails.
Here’s one way to wrap your bunny, as demonstrated by a vet.
In a pinch you can use thick human nail clippers. But for best results, choose a set of nail clippers made for a pet, or even better, for a pet rabbit. Your vet may even sell these. Small animal clippers are better suited to the size and shape of bunny claws than are human clippers.
Cotton Swabs or a Cotton Ball
If you do accidentally trim past the vein inside, use a cotton swab or a cotton ball to dab the blood from the nail. You can also use it to apply either styptic powder or cornstarch to the nail. Both of these can help to stop the bleeding.
Styptic Powder or Cornstarch
Styptic powder can help to stop bleeding fast. It also sterilizes the wound. Your vet may sell this. You can also purchase it online.
If you don’t have styptic powder to hand, cornstarch (corn flour) can also be helpful if the nail starts to bleed.
Pet Nail File (Optional)
Your rabbit’s nails may feel a bit rough after you clip them. If you like, use a nail file, or even a pet-safe dremel, to smooth the bottoms of the nails. Again, make sure to use a file made for rabbits, as their nails are both harder and coarser than those of we humans.
Grooming Glove (Optional)
A grooming glove has soft bristles that many pets, including rabbits, find enjoyable. Stroking your rabbit with a grooming glove can calm your bunny before clipping nails, and be a treat afterward.
Step 1: Prepare Your Bunny
If this is your first time clipping nails, calm your bunny, then take a deep breath and calm yourself. Lay a towel onto a flat, stable surface. Set your rabbit in the middle of the towel. Stroke them with a grooming glove, if your rabbit enjoys this.
Next, draw the front of the towel back, so that it covers your rabbit’s front feet. Bring one corner of the towel across your rabbit’s back, and then draw the other corner over in the other direction.
Your rabbit’s back feet should be accessible, but your bunny should not be able to struggle. Your rabbit’s head should be free.
Step 2: Examine the Claws
Look at each paw separately. Does the end of each claw extend beyond the fur? Does your rabbit have any excess fur hiding the nail? Consider trimming that away first. Are any of the claws beginning to curl under? Examine one foot then the other.
Step 3: Find the Quick
Remember to look for the dark horizontal line across each nail. Cutting through or above this line will cut through blood vessels, and it may hurt and bleed quite a bit.
Step 4: Ready Your Clippers
Now that you’ve found the quick, place your clippers beneath it. Before you clip, close the clippers around the nail and gently pull. Start lower down if your rabbit flinches or tries to pull away.
Step 5: Clip Your Rabbit’s Nails
When you’ve found a good place on your rabbit’s nail, clip firmly. Your rabbit shouldn’t feel anything, and there should be no blood. Examine and clip each nail separately.
Step 6: File (optional)
Your rabbit’s nail may be rough after you trim it. This probably won’t bother your rabbit, but it may bother you if your rabbit scratches you. File down rough rabbit nails using a file or a dremel made for a rabbit or other small pet.
Watch the process from start to finish here:
What if the Nail Starts Bleeding?
If you accidentally cut too close to the quick and your rabbit’s nails are bleeding, don’t worry. It’s easy to stop the bleeding. First, calm your rabbit. If your rabbit is still wrapped, this is a bit easier.
Now, use a cotton swab to dab styptic powder onto the nail, and wait for the bleeding to stop. If your rabbit seems distressed, consider giving it a break. Let your rabbit run around a bit and calm down before starting again. Or consider continuing the trim the next day.
Other Ways to Keep Your Rabbit’s Nails Short
A rabbit nail trim is a necessary but unnatural way to keep your bunny’s nails in check. There are other, more natural ways to help your rabbit keep its nails ground down so that you don’t have to clip them as often.
First, give your rabbit different surfaces to walk on. Concrete or paving stones are not only great for rabbit nails, but can help to dig-proof your enclosure. If you have two rabbits, then they can chase each other across these surfaces and get some exercise, too.
Rabbits love to dig, so giving them a digging box with sand and earth can satisfy that urge while grinding down those nails. There are actually a lot of things you can put in your digging box that will satisfy the digging instinct, provide mental stimulation, and help to keep those claws in check.
Try some of these:
- Cardboard strips
- Pine cones
Making a digging box is easy. Here are a few models to try out.
You’ll probably still have to trim your rabbits’ nails, but it may be possible to reduce the frequency.
The Final Cut
The thought of trimming your bunny’s nails may be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. The important thing is to keep calm, and to keep your rabbit calm. Avoid the quick, and clip firmly and confidently.
Few rabbits enjoy a nail trim, but if you work slowly and gently, it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.
And if it does turn out to be too stressful, either for you or for your rabbit, then an experienced rabbit vet can do your trim instead.
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