A rabbit’s nail grows continuously. If a rabbit is given the space to run and that space is a hard surface, the nails will be naturally worn down but in most cases, the amount of wear is not enough to counter the amount of growth. Rabbit nails will need to be checked and clipped regularly. Done properly, you will only find yourself removing a 1-2mm amount each time.
I will explain how you can go about cutting nails in this page. However, if you feel unable to do this yourself, for whatever reason, you can always pop into a veterinary clinic and book to have yours done by a nurse or vet.
Some people are able to put their rabbits onto their back and cut their nails that way. My rabbits find that extremely stressful and are liable to kick which can injure them (and me!). I have noticed that one of my rabbits can be tranced into having their nails cut quickly which has saved us a lot of time and stress. If you want to know about trancing, how to do it and the why some people don’t trance their rabbits, I have an informative post on rabbit trancing or tonic immobility as it is called scientifically.
You will need these items to help with rabbit nail clipping:
□ A pair of rabbit nail clippers that fit comfortably in your hands. I recommend those that are made for cutting rabbit nails as the size of the blades will be more suited. Most pet shops will supply these.
□ A person to help hold your rabbit still. You can manage by yourself if your rabbit is very calm. I’ve done mine on a table by myself before and it’s tough to get the most inner nail on the hands but it is doable. Having said that, an extra person means that if your rabbit panics, you are less likely to have an accident occur.
□ A towel to prevent clippings going all over the place and to prevent your rabbit biting or scratching your assistant.
□ Some healthy treat to encourage them to associate nail clipping with positive thoughts.
□ A tub of styptic powder or corn flour/corn starch in case you cut too deep and some tissue.
How to cut/clip you rabbit’s nails
To clip a rabbit nail, you must be able to identify the ‘quick’ on a nail. The quick is basically the blood vessel that runs into a nail. If your rabbit has light coloured nails, you can see this as the small pink red line within the nail. On a rabbit with dark nails, you can find the quick by shining a light at the nail. The idea is that you do not cut into the quick otherwise things will get really messy. Cutting into the quick will result in some blood and an irritated bun. If that happens, remember, NEVER panic. Your rabbit will be just fine. Dip the nail into styptic powder or corn flour and press a tissue to it till the bleeding stops. It can happen to anyone and it might seem quite scary but as long as you stay calm, your rabbit will be fine. If in any doubt, ring up your vet.
Once you are sure you can identify the quick, you can follow these procedures:
1. Choose a room that is brightly lit and prepare yourself before you bring your rabbit into the room. If you are using a table, place the towel on the table and put the clippers, powder and tissue close by. If you are using your assistant’s lap, place the towel on their lap and once again, put your tools nearby.
2. Bring your rabbit into the room and place the bun on the table/assistant’s lap. Offer your rabbit a healthy treat to help calm the rabbit down.
3· Have your assistant put his or her hands around the rabbit’s front. You should be able to firmly (but do not apply so much pressure that you risk hurting your pet) grasp a hand and lift it up slightly. If you find this difficult, ask your assistant to lightly lift the bunny up. Your rabbit’s feet should still be firmly touching the table or lap.
4· Use one hand to hold onto your rabbit’s hand and use the other hand to wield the clippers. You should be able to use the hand holding the rabbits hand to brush aside the fur so you can clearly see the nail. This can be a bit tricky at first. Rabbit hands are covered in fur, making it a tough to find a whole nail. A bit of practice makes perfect. Do not worry if you cut some fur off.
5· Slip your rabbit’s nail into the clipper. You want to leave several millimetres between the clipper and the quick. If you are worried, leave more space. When you are confident about the position of the clipper, press down hard. You will need to press hard to clip a nail as rabbits have quite strong nails. Your rabbit might try and snatch his paw back, just tried to hold the paw firmly.
6· Continue this for the rest of hand. There is one nail hidden on the inner side of their hands, a few centimetres up the hand, rather like a thumb nail. This will need clipping too. It might be hard to manoeuvre the clippers into a position to cut but it isn’t impossible. There are a total of 5 nails. Change hands. You may find yourself physically moving to find a good clipping position. This is normal. Offer your rabbit a healthy treat if that helps and have a break if you feel you both need it.
7· When doing the feet, there is only 4 nails and none are hidden away. Your assistant can keep their hands around the front of the rabbit. You should be able to manoeuvre the clipper in without lifting the feet up. If you do need to lift the feet up, hold the feet firmly as you do not want your rabbit to kick as you clip. Try to only lift the front part of the feet up by a bit, if you lift it too high, your rabbit may become frightened. Once again, only cut a bit; make sure you are not cutting into the quick.
8· If you do cut into the quick, dip the nail into the powder and press a tissue to it till the bleeding stops
9· Once you’ve done both feet, give yourself and your assistant a pat on the back and praise your bunny for being a good girl/boy!
Incorporate this routine into your monthly rabbit health check and you will only need to cut 1-2mm each time. By cutting nails, you reduce the chances of your rabbit breaking one and hurting themselves.