Posted: April 24, 2014, 4 a.m. EDT
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Trimming a guinea pig's nails regularly prevents them from growing too long and catching on things; it also gives you a chance to check the nails for any problems.
Q: Why does my guinea pig have one nail that looks like it has a scab on the end? Did I cut into the quick? If so, what should I do? I trimmed her nails a few weeks ago. The scab just seems to be getting larger.
A: The end of the nail that you can see consists of the same material that is in our nails — keratin. This is dead material in the sense that there should be no blood supply and no new cells are being added to the end of the nail.
If you see a "scab” at the end of your guinea pig's nail, then it may be that the "quick” or blood supply is too close to the end of the nail. This is usually the result of the nail either being cut too short or it may be breaking or cracking just at the quick.
Another possibility is trauma to the nail causing it to break too close to the quick. This can happen on an exercise wheel or a sharp cage edge. If this is happening, the first thing to do is to examine the living quarters of your guinea pig to be sure there are no sharp edges that would lead to broken nails.
A totally different reason for what looks like a scab appearing on the end of the nail is actually an accumulation of dirt or fecal matter at the nail’s end. If this type of material is caking at the end of the nail, it should easily be removed with gentle washing, whereas a scab will remain on the nail’s end.
Guinea pigs can be prone to overgrown nails that can "darken” as they get longer and older. Finally, it is important to make sure that this is not a fungal infection that has taken hold at the end of the nail causing the color to darken. Your veterinarian can usually look at the nail, possibly look at the cells at the end of the nail and during your visit be able to help you find an answer to this problem.
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