Just like any other pet, and even yourself, your pet bunny will need to have its nails regularly trimmed. You should do this at least once every few weeks to keep your rabbit’s nails at a healthy length.
As hard as it can be to hold a wiggling rabbit while trying to cut its nails, it’s one of the most important parts of rabbit ownership. Keep reading to learn more about why you should be regularly trimming your bunny’s nails and how to do it safely and easily at home.
Why you need to trim your bunny’s nails
There’s nothing better than snuggling up with your bunny, but it can become uncomfortable when his nails are too long, causing long scratches, and even some bleeding. Rabbit nails can be sharp, and sometimes, your bunny can cut you pretty deep, even by accident.
But nail trimming isn’t just for the sake of saving your own skin from scrapes and scratches from holding your pet rabbit. If not trimmed, your bunny’s nails will continue to grow. Once they hit the floor, they will curve. Not only is this painful, but this can also cause nerve damage and a lot of bleeding.
Even slightly overgrown nails can catch or chip on the ground, causing chipping and total nail loss. Not only does this risk infection, but it takes half a year to grow a healthy nail back again. Overgrown nails can also affect the way your bunny hops around.
As the nail grows, the vein, also called the quick, grows with it, along with the nerve. When nails become overgrown, it hurts and prevents proper trimming at the time when it’s most needed. This puts your rabbit at greater risk of bleeding out and infection from nail trims.
How often should you trim your rabbit’s nails?
A rabbit’s nails are continually growing, so they need regular maintenance. Wild rabbits don’t grow their nails slower, but they do have many more opportunities to wear them down by burrowing and digging.
Unfortunately, pet rabbits just don’t have that much time in the dirt. Even putting my two bunnies in an outdoor run isn’t sufficient to skip nail trims, as much as they’d both rather avoid it.
You should give your rabbit a nail trim every 3-4 weeks. This keeps them at the right length, keeping the risk of chipping or total nail loss down.
How to trim your rabbit’s nails at home
You can take them to a vet, and have it done, but it has to be done often, so those costs could add up. Further, the trips to and from the vet can become stressful for your bunny.
This is why it’s a good idea to learn how to do it at home. Doing it yourself can be tricky, but it’s often the best solution since your pet bunny trusts you the most.
Properly holding your rabbit for nail trimming
The first step to trimming your rabbit’s nails is learning how to hold him and cut at the same time. If your rabbit doesn’t want to stay still, this can become a problem. Some rabbits will never be used to being held. This is because it makes rabbits feel unsafe and will cause stress.
Hold your bunny with his bottom feet on the ground. You can support the rest of the bunny by placing your hand in the middle of the front legs. This is the midway point where you can make your bunny feel secure in your arms, while still being able to gain access to his nails.
Carefully pull one bottom leg out at a time. Most bunnies won’t fuss, as long as they can feel the ground below them. To make your bunny shift his way for the two bottom feet, simply play with the foot until your rabbit sticks it out.
The most important thing is making your bunny feel safe, so don’t be afraid to give him a good snuggle after each clipped nail and a big treat afterward. This also acts as positive reinforcement and teaches him that clipping is okay and that there’s no need to be afraid.
How short should a rabbit’s nails be?
The proper nail length is usually determined by the length of the quick. You should cut just past the quick, about a ½ centimeter (0.2 inch).
When a rabbit has darker nails, this makes the quick invisible to the naked eye, making nail trims more difficult and honestly, a little scary. However, there is a solution. To see the quick on a darker toenail, simply shine a flashlight under the nail and look for the shadow of the vein.
If your bunny’s nail is starting to curl even slightly, it’s already overgrowing and needs to be trimmed as soon as possible. But as I’ve already said, this often results in a longer quick.
For a bunny with a longer quick, it may take a few months of corrective clipping to get back to a healthy length. It’s also a good idea to put some padding on the bottom of your rabbit cage to make walking and hopping around more comfortable, especially if it has a wire bottom.
Best tools to use for rabbit nail trims
To trim your pet bunny’s nails at home quickly and easily, you need the right kind of tools. You have two options:
- trimming with pet nail clippers, or
- filing them with a pet nail grinder.
Every bunny has different comfort levels, so you may have to explore these options based on that. If your rabbit doesn’t like holding still for a long time or doesn’t like the noise of a grinder, then you should probably go with nail clippers, so that it can be shorter and less stressful.
Pet nail grinders
Pet nail grinders are often said to be easier than traditional nail clippers. This is because it files the nails, preventing chipping or over-cutting. However, this will take longer to do, which may create more stress for your rabbit than necessary. Plus, many grinders will make noises that could frighten your bunny.
If you do decide to go with a pet nail grinder, choose the one that has less vibration and noise. As a gentler approach, you can also use human nail files.
The most important part of deciding which clippers to buy is size and blade sharpness. It needs to be small enough for your bunny, and the blades should be sharp. Dull blades will only cause breakage and chipping on the nail.
The Living World Small Animal Clippers are one of the best bunny nail clippers. They stay sharp for a long time and are small enough to fit a rabbit’s tiny toenails. Every now and then, you can sharpen your trimmers by cutting them into a folded piece of tin foil for a few minutes.
What to do if you cut the quick by accident
On darker nails, it can be really hard to see the quick. So, cutting too close to the quick or over it is more likely to happen. It can also happen when your rabbit is constantly fidgeting and moves while you cut. When you cut the quick, there will be a lot of bleeding.
You will need to use some styptic powder and pack the toenail to stop the bleeding. It may also be a good idea to use some gauze and vet wrap to bandage it and keep it clean from debris and bacteria for a couple of days. Once the wound begins to heal, it may take a while to regrow the nail, but your rabbit will be okay, and that’s the most important part.
Trimming your bunny’s nails can be a bit intimidating, but it’s so important. Once you have mastered the right way of holding your bunny and trimming his nails, it will become easier for both of you.
Feel free to practice this with your bunny a few times before you start trimming to help him feel more comfortable with this stance. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, reach out to a small animal groomer or a vet to help you or even show you how to do it yourself.