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How to Trim a Rabbit's Nails

brown and white rabbit

Just like with other pets, such as dogs, birds, ferrets and guinea pigs, keeping your rabbit’s nails trimmed is important for their overall foot health. Long, overgrown nails are more likely to get caught on things which can lead to painful injuries if the rabbit yanks a snagged nail. Overgrown nails also can affect the way the foot touches the ground, causing it to turn sideways, which can lead to foot related bone and joint issues if left long term. Compared to maintained nails, overgrown nails are an elevated risk to you or anyone who handles your rabbit as they are more likely to cause a significant wound if your rabbit scratches you. Although trimming your rabbit’s nails may seem like a daunting task, taking the proper steps can help make the task as stress free as possible for both you and your rabbit.

Supplies Needed for Trimming Rabbit Nails

First, before removing your rabbit from its habitat, ensure you have all the necessary supplies for the task. A towel can be a great way to safely secure your rabbit and prevent injury to you or your pet. Proper nail clippers designed for cats or small mammals are inexpensive and preferred over human nail clippers because the shape of the blade is rounded to match the shape of the nail. The rounded blade will make a smoother clip and apply less pressure to the nail than a human clipper which has a flat blade meant for flat nails. Last, Kiwk Stop is an important tool to always have when trimming nails. This powder will quickly stop bleeding should you accidently trim a nail too short.

How to Cut Rabbit Nails

Once you have gathered all your supplies, it is time to get your rabbit. 

Restraining a Rabbit for Nail Clipping

Wrapping a towel around your rabbit snuggly, securing all the legs but one, is an easy and safe way to restrain your pet and prevent them from kicking or panicking. The towel will help your rabbit feel safe and secure and keep the other three feet you are not working with tucked away.

Trimming Your Rabbit’s Nails

When looking at the foot, you should see a darker, or more opaque part of the nail at the base and in the middle a clearer part of the nail extending out further. The opaque part of the nail is called the quick which is where the blood supply to the nail is and cutting this should be avoided to prevent bleeding. Although the quick can be more difficult to see in darker nails, holding a flashlight to the nail may help make it more visible. Clipping the tip of the nail at a diagonal angle away from the nail will help reduce the chance of accidently cutting the quick. If you do accidentally cut too far and the nail bleeds, apply some Kwik Stop to the nail and give your bunny a small break. Closely monitor for the bleeding to stop before proceeding to the next nail.

Filing Rabbit Nails as an Alternative to Clipping

Some rabbits may tolerate filing of the nails better then clipping, or your rabbit may learn to accept both clipping and filing. While filing is not as efficient at removing length, it is a way to get the nails trimmed with less risk of cutting the quick if you are not comfortable with clipping. Filing also helps smooth any sharp edges which can reduce the severity of scratches both to you and your rabbit.

When starting out trimming your rabbit’s nails, it will be best to start slowly and reward behavior so that your rabbit associates the nail trims as a positive interaction. With your rabbit’s first nail trim, you may only want to trim a nail or two at a time and then give your bunny a break and a treat before moving to the next few nails. Eventually, once your rabbit is calmly accepting several nails being trimmed without a break, you can work your way up to one whole foot at a time or even finishing all nails on both front feet and then back feet. Treats will be an important factor in helping your rabbit make the positive association that nail trimming will bring rewards.

Recommended Products for Trimming Rabbit Nails

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Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.