Clippers: nail clippers, either human, cat, bird, or dog style will work
Kwikstop: a styptic powder designed to clot the blood if you cut into flesh.
Quick: the living tissue in a nail, or the nail bed in humans. Shows up as a pink tinge under the nail.
How many toes does your guinea pig have?
The answer is four on each front foot and three on each of the back feet, for a total of 14! Piggies can occasionally be born with an extra toe, or sometimes an exuberant first time mom might accidentally clean off more than just the amniotic sac and fluid from a baby pig, and might take off a toe.
Now since piggy nails are constantly growing (like their teeth) throughout their lives, they'll need to have them trimmed, unless you can keep them worn down like they do in nature. Some people choose to put a brick in the cage or a cement stepping stone. These work quite well, but are often difficult to keep clean or to sterilize if you need to. Also, the bricks work well under water bottles, to catch the drips, but again, are difficult to clean.
Single person clipping!
What will you need?
The best method I have found for a single person to use for nail clipping is to take a hand sized towel (bigger than a wash cloth and smaller than a bath towel, and wrap the piggy in the towel, leaving free and unwrapped the head and the hind feet. Be certain that the towel is not too tight as to constrict breathing, yet not too loose that the cavy can wiggle out. Be forewarned!! Some pigs who haven't had this done to them will almost be assured you are trying to rip out their nails mercilessly one by one and are prepared to put up a fight! They will tell you (and the neighbors) how horribly terrifying this is. Mostly this reaction is typical of a frightened and unsure piggy being placed with it's feet not under them, a very worrisome thing for somebody so low on the food chain, and who is dependant upon their feet for safety. These piggies will calm down after having their nails done a couple of times, and will somehow, be convinced that you aren't after all, out to kill them.
First, sit down so you are comfortable and in good light. I am right handed, so I gently lean the towel wrapped cavy back against the inside of my left arm and lightly pin his body against my chest, using my left hand to hold his hind feet as I use my right hand to clip the nails. (Photos will be included to show what I mean!) I hold the clippers in my right hand and holding the cavy's toe still, extend the nail from the other toes, and bring the clipper up to the nail. If the nail is light, you can quite easily determine where the quick is by seeing what part of the nail is clear or opaque white and what part is pink. You do NOT want to cut into the pink part of the nail, this will cause the nail to bleed, and will hurt the cavy. Locate the quick on your piggy's nail, and pick a spot just below the end of the quick, where the nail begins to form a point. The back nails are generally thicker and more consistently shaped than the front nails, the front nails are generally more pointed unless the piggy has not had their nails done in a very very long time.
If you have a piggy that has dark nails, it is nearly impossible to locate the quick by a visual inspection. What I do is to look at the underside of the nail, and by this method, you can actually see the 'pithy' part of the quick and the tissue, and the nail grows beyond that. Often times, you can see a difference in 'shape' of the nail, please look at the photo below to determine a safe place to cut.
If you do accidentally cut into the quick it's not a horrible health issue to the pig. Take a pinch of the Kwikstop and press it onto the cut section of the nail, holding pressure for a full minute. Do NOT allow the cavy to put pressure on it for a couple of minutes, you want to make sure the wound is clotted before the piggy uses that foot. Just make sure that you put him back into a clean cage, and watch it for any sign of infection for the next two days.
Two person clipping!
This is sometimes easier, sometimes harder! One person holds the pig against their chest, feet outward, while the other person uses one hand to hold and operate the clippers and the other hand to hold the piggy's foot still. It's a bit easier for pigs with darker feet, as you can get a better angle to see under the nails to determine where the quick is.
No matter what method you use to clip those nails, be sure to give your piggy a scritch and a treat afterwards to reward him or her for a job well done!
Some links for more information:
Eva Johansson's advice on nail clipping
Jeff's advice on nail clipping
Article on Grooming
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.