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Pet Guinea Pig Pulls Out His Toenail

Will a guinea pig’s toenail grow back, and how do you prevent a guinea pig from pulling out a toenail?

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: November 14, 2013, 8 a.m. EST

guinea pig portrait
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Keeping a guinea pig's nail trimmed helps prevent injuries like having the toenail pulled out.

Q: Somehow my guinea pig pulled one of his nails off his front paw. It bled a lot, but we were able to stop the bleeding by using glue and flour. I'm scared it may happen again. He has black nails, and it is difficult to know where his skin begins. Because of this, we often cut just the tip of his nails. Unfortunately, in the past when we trimmed more than the tip, we once cut too far. His nails are usually long. Will he recover from his pulled nail? What do you recommend?

A: You have two problems here. First, the immediate problem of the damaged nail and second, the long-term problem of "dark” nails.

If the bleedings has stopped, that is great and probably will not be an issue. You need to watch the nail bed area (place on the foot where the nail originates from) and make sure no infection has started due to the loss of the nail. If there is an infection, there will be pus, swelling and redness near the nail bed.

Only time will tell if the nail will grow back. That will be determined by how much damage was done to the "germinal tissue” when the nail was pulled out. If the germinal tissue is intact, the nail should grow back. If the nail does not grow back, there is nothing you can do to get it to grow, but it is likely your guinea pig will never miss that nail.

Your idea of just removing the tips of the black nails is a good one. To prevent your guinea pig from losing another nail, remove any carpet or cloth that your guinea pig can get his nail caught on in his environment. Make sure there are no areas in the cage that a long nail can get caught in.

Some people try to encourage their guinea pig to walk frequently over a roughened surface to wear down the nails. If you have such a thing, put it in front of your guinea pig’s cage. The first thing he has to do when leaving the cage is walk over this roughened surface. Small blocks of concrete can work well for this, as long as they are not too high off the ground. Anything that is high off the ground might cause your guinea pig to take a tumble!

See all veterinary Q&A about guinea pigs, click here>>
See veterinary Q&A for all small animal pets, click here>>

Posted: November 14, 2013, 8 a.m. EST


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