Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Question from the Audience: Nail Trimming

A question from Sarah L. in Boston, MA:
Q: I've been trying to cut Winnie's nails for the past week but she just hates being picked up. When I do try to pick her up, she gets pretty angry. She really needs to get her nails trimmed. What should I do?

A: It's possible that Winnie had some negative experiences with being picked up improperly before you adopted her-- perhaps she was dropped, or hurt herself when she was allowed to flail around; or maybe it's just extra scary for her. An extreme aversion to getting picked up is definitely hard to break and the only thing you can do is continue holding her extra firmly and making sure her legs are secured.

When you are ready to cut her nails, sit down in a chair and tightly wrap Winnie in a towel, like a burrito, with just one leg sticking out. If you can get a partner to hold her while you do the cutting, even better. Or, if think your rabbit is mostly opposed to having her paws touched, as quite a few are, try placing her in your lap so that her bottom is resting in your lap and her hands and feet are sticking out (see below). With one hand securing her chest, you can use the other one to cut the nails without actually touching her paws.

Graysie demonstrating how to properly stick out one's paws.

In rabbits with clear nails, the quick is easily identifiable. This pink area contains blood vessels and is very sensitive; you never want to cut through it. Leave some room between the end of the quick and the cutting line.
In rabbits with black nails, this process is harder, so you'll have to be more careful and just cut the tips off. The squeeze and release technique is especially helpful with dark nails, but should be practiced always: Carefully place the scissor around the nail, a few millimeters away from the quick, and squeeze down and release before actually cutting. If you are too close to the quick, the rabbit will jerk away when you squeeze down. So squeeze, release, and cut. Don't try to rush through the process. Cutting the quick can result in pain and a lot of blood loss. If you do accidentally cut too close, use a product like Kwik Stop to stop the bleeding. If you find that the nail cutting process is really stressful on your rabbit out, try doing the front paws one day and the back feet a few days later.

Some online sources suggest putting your rabbit in a trance (on her back) to cut the nails. I would discourage this as it could be dangerous if your rabbit suddenly jerks awake, as she could break her spine or otherwise injure herself. If you are having a tough time with it, you can always get your veterinarian to do the job and they can even demonstrate the best way to do it.

1 comment:

lutherallie said...

I have a bunny that HATES being handled at all, but he really needs his nails trimmed. When I try to even just pick him up to move him he bites me. How can I get his nails trimmed without being shredded by both his teeth and his nails...he gets pretty aggressive?