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How to clip your rabbit's claws

Clipping your own rabbit's claws may be something that you feel you would like to do instead of taking your rabbit to the vets and asking your vet or nurse to do it for you. If your rabbit is known to be nervous or flighty, then it is safer to get someone to help restrain your rabbit whilst you are clipping their claws.

Your questions answered

What equipment will I need?

You will need a sharp pair of claw clippers, either the ones designed for rabbits or small cat clippers will be fine. Scissors, or any other cutting instruments are NOT suitable - you may cause pain to, and injure your rabbit if you attempt to use anything other than suitable clippers. You will also need to have some cotton wool dampened with cold water, styptic pencils or silver nitrate and cottonbuds to hand, just in case you do cut your rabbit's "quick" (the blood supply to the claw, which runs down the centre of the nail) on any of the nails.

How should I restrain my rabbit?

Place your rabbit on a non-slip surface, either a sofa or table with a rubber mat/towel under them so they don't slip. If your rabbit doesn't like heights, then sit on the floor with them instead. If your rabbit is very wriggly or nervous then wrapping them in a towel will give you extra control and make the rabbit feel more secure.

If you have one, your helper can restrain your rabbit by securely placing one hand either side of the body, making them feel protected and stopping them from running away.

What is the best technique to use?

With the hand that you don't write with, gently take hold of the foot you are going to clip first, and hold your claw clippers in the other hand - this will give you the most control. 

If your rabbit has white/clear nails then you will be able to identify the pink "quick" which runs down the centre of the nail. You need to clip approximately 2mm past the end of this - if you clip the nail too short you will make the "quick" bleed. This can be painful for the rabbit, so try to avoid it.

Open the clippers up and place them around the end of the nail, in a swift action close the clippers so they cut through the nail in its entirety. If you do happen to make the quick bleed, then hold a cold, wet piece of cottonwool, styptic pencil or cottonbud dipped in silver nitrate against the bleeding quick for a couple of minutes until it stops bleeding.  If it is still bleeding after 10 minutes or pumping with force, then call your vet for advice.

If your rabbit has dark nails, you may not be able to see the "quick". If this is the case then try taking a small amount off each nail in several clips - as a general rule, once the footpad hair covers the claw tip then don't go any further. Some rabbits have a mixture of white and dark nails; in this instance clip the white nails first so you can get an idea of how short you can clip the dark nails. 

Sometimes shining a torch under a dark nail will reveal the quick so you will know how short you can safely clip it. Ensure you clip all the claws on all four feet, including the dew claws. If you notice that any have grown into the foot then contact your vet before attempting to clip it, infection may be present so your vet may want to prescribe your rabbit with a course of antibiotics.

If your rabbit gets stressed during the process, then return them to their cage and try again in a couple of hours once they have clamed down. 

Once you have clipped all of the nails make sure you check them all to ensure that none of them are bleeding. 

What else do I need to know?

If you feel unable to clip your rabbit's claws, then book an appointment at your vets with a Veterinary Nurse who will be happy to clip them for you, they will also be happy to demonstrate how to do it, so you can do it in the future.

Check your rabbit's claws every month to see if they need clipping; rabbit's claws will grow at different rates depending upon the type of surfaces they exercise on - concrete will wear them down well, but soft surfaces such as grass or carpet will be of little use.

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