Each nail has a blood supply, called the quick, just like human nails. On white nails, you can see the blood supply, which grows with the nail, so the longer the nails are left to grow, the longer the quick grows. When nail clipping, try to avoid cutting through the quick as it will be painful and will bleed.
Guinea pigs can develop spurs or calluses on the feet. This is a horny growth which can be clipped off, making sure you do not clip too close to the skin to avoid bleeding.
Check the underside of their feet on a regular basis, watchin for signs of a condition called Pododermatitis/Bumblefoot. The front paws or the hind paws may show signs of cracking, bleeding, swelling and/or ulceration. It is a very painful infection, normally caused by the staph bacteria. The causes of this condition can be wire flooring, poor sanitation, wet bedding, inactivity and/or obesity. Pododermatitis can also be a secondary problem to a heart condition.
Babies need to be handled from day one with lots of handling around the leg and foot area. However, you will not need to clip off the very end of those sharp nails until they are 8 weeks old.
How to make the quick recede (move back)
It might be tempting to just clip off your guinea pig’s long nails to a short, manageable length but the chances of cutting through the quick is high, especially if the nails are black. A start-up clip on an unwanted older pig would be to clip the nail tips twice a week for two weeks. The quick should automatically recede. After this, a monthly clip should be adequate without cutting through the quick.
Have your guinea pig in a comfortable position. We use a cushion for our guinea pigs, stand and clip at waist-height. Hold each foot individually to clip the nails. Get a move on, if possible. He will get a bit annoyed standing on three legs for any length of time.
If you do clip through the quick, don’t panic. We have yet to see a guinea pig die from an over-clipped nail. However, it is a useful method if you need a blood test done in which case it must be over clipped by the vet so he/she can get the blood into a sterile container. If the nail is “bleeding” a stypic pencil can be used, available from most chemists. This will help to stop the bleeding.