How to Clip Your Rabbit's Nails
A rabbit’s nails grow continually. Since a domestic rabbit does not usually do enough digging or running around on hard ground to wear the nails down naturally, regular nail trims should be part of your normal grooming routine. Ideally, you should check your rabbit’s nails at least once a week and trim a little bit each time they start to get a little long.
Step One: Preparation Make sure you have all of your supplies ready before picking up your rabbit. You will need a set of trimmers specially designed for rabbits and something to use on the nail if you accidentally cut it too short (see step 3). It is also useful to have a cotton swab handy to soak up any blood. For nail clipping, it is best to lay your rabbit on his back and cuddle him like a baby with his head in the crock of your arm. Once your rabbit is used to this position, it will usually work to calm him down. If this is your rabbit’s first time getting his nails clipped, you may want to make a bunny burrito by wrapping him in a towel to keep him calm and restrained. It is important to keep your rabbit well supported and restrained because if he kicks, he can really hurt his back or cause himself other serious injury.
Step Two: Make the Cut Use your cradling hand to hold one foot at a time, pulling back any fur so you get a good view of the nail. Use your rabbit clippers to make a swift cut on each nail just shy of the quick. It is easy to see the quick on a rabbit with light toenails – you should see blood vessels underneath the nails. It is harder to see the quick on dark colored nails. If this is your first time clipping your rabbit’s nails, you may want to have someone hold a flashlight or pin light underneath the nail to make the quick more obvious. After some practice, you will be able to estimate where the quick is on the darker nails. If you have let your rabbit’s nails grow out too long, the quick will usually be pretty far from your rabbit’s paws. You will need to trim the nails once a week, allowing time in between for the quick to recede gradually.
Step Three: Inspection Make sure none of your rabbit’s nails are bleeding before you put him down. If you have cut any of your rabbit’s nails too short (cut into the quick) they may bleed a lot. There are several ways to stop the bleeding. You can dip the nail in flour or cornstarch to help the blood clot. You can apply light pressure against the bleeding nail with a cotton ball until it stops bleeding. You can press the tip of the bleeding nail into a bar of soap. Or, you can use a septic powder or pencil from a pet supply store specially designed for this purpose. This is also a good time to inspect your rabbit’s feet. Make sure that the padding on each foot is not worn down or matted. If the pads are worn down, your rabbit may not have enough soft, dry places to lay down. You will need to provide some soft rugs or blankets for your rabbit, making sure to change them as they become wet.
Just as with any other grooming procedure, your rabbit will slowly get used to having his nails cut. If your rabbit struggles too much, you may have to take a break between feet until he gets used to the procedure.