Guinea pigs are exceedingly easy to care for. They enjoy a big cage and won’t show signs of stress being confined, unless they’re left alone all day every day. But they still require some hair and nail grooming in order to remain in top health. Fortunately, taking care of those tasks is simplicity itself.
For short-haired breeds, like the American or Teddy, little in the way of hair care is needed. Long-haired breeds like the Peruvian or Silkie benefit from occasional gentle brushing. Bathing is generally not required unless they’ve gotten into something they shouldn’t. Sometimes, a bath is essential to treat a fungal-caused skin condition, but that falls under the category of medical treatment, not grooming. Texels, with their long, curling ringlets will definitely require regular hair grooming.
Regardless of breed, though, all cavies will do best if they receive a nail clipping from time to time. On average, about once per month will do for your guinea pig. Waiting longer encourages the quick (the blood vessel supplying blood to the area) to grow too long. That will make clipping much more dicey.
Not so easy as dogs, but not so difficult as cats, trimming a guinea pig’s nails still takes a little bit of patience and some practice. The task is made easier if your pig has become accustomed over time to being handled. Guinea pigs enjoy physical contact with their human companions, but like any animal it has to be introduced early and often.
Once you’ve developed a method for keeping your cavy still during the procedure the rest is straightforward. Which method you employ will vary.
Some pigs enjoy being put on their back and cradled like a baby, or in your lap. Others will do better being constrained by a gentle but firm hand from above. That will often require a helper. Another technique is to place the cavy upright with its back against your stomach, holding the pig in place by its stomach. The key is to ensure they don’t jerk a foot at the moment you’re trying to clip a nail.
It’s important to use a nail clipper designed for the purpose. Some guinea pig owners are skilled enough to use a regular human nail clipper, but usually a specialized tool is needed. Dog nail clippers are an option, but can be unwieldy on such small animals. Cat nail clippers will sometimes do the trick, but make sure they’re for smaller cats.
Just as with dogs or cats, it’s essential to cut the nail without slicing the quick. Nicking it will cause pain and copious blood flow. That’s bad for you and bad for the cavy. On many breeds it’s relatively easy to spot the quick as a light pink cylinder just back from the tip of the nail. In darker nailed breeds, it can be helpful to wet the nail area to help get the vessel to show more clearly.
Proceed cautiously, but clip about 1/8th inch down at a time. Work your way from toe to toe, then foot to foot, until all are done. For those chance slips, be sure to have a little styptic powder, such as Kwik-Stop, handy to daub on the nail. Hold onto the cavy for a moment after applying it to let the blood coagulate and stop flowing. Try again the next day.