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How To Cut Iguana Nails

Do you own a pet iguana?

If so, you’ve probably already found out iguanas have sharp claws.

And while it’s no fun to handle an iguana with long, sharp nails (ouch!), it’s not just uncomfortable for you; it’s also unsafe for the iguana.

Iguanas use their claws to remove shedding skin, and if their claws are extra sharp, they can easily hurt themselves by scratching.

So you need to know how to cut iguana nails to protect you and your iguana’s skin!

Today we’re showing you how to cut iguana nails in an easy, step-by-step tutorial.

We’ll also share with you a list of the specific supplies you’ll need to get the job done.

So let’s jump right in!

how to cut iguana nails

Here’s What You’ll Need

How to Cut Iguana Nails

You’ve discovered why you need to trim your iguana’s nails, and you’ve purchased the necessary supplies, now let’s learn how to trim those sharp nails!

#1: Gather Your Supplies

First things first, you’ll want to make sure all the supplies are within reach before you start to clip your iguana’s nails.

It’s important to use the right tool to trim your iguana’s nails with so we recommend purchasing a sharp set of cat or dog nail trimmers or clippers like these or the ones linked above.

H&H Pets Nail Clippers Series - for Cats and Dogs - Razor Sharp Blades Sturdy Non Slip Handles - Dog Accessories Professional at Home Grooming - Stainless Steel - Dog Nail Trimmers - XS (Cats &...
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Make sure your trimmers are sharp, as dull ones can break or shatter the nail, instead of cleanly clipping it.

You don’t want this to happen.

Now you may be wondering what the Kwik Stop or cornstarch powder is for.

Glad you asked! If you’re a beginner, it’s wise to have this around just in case you clip a nail too short.

If this happens (don’t worry, we’ll show you how to make sure it doesn’t, but just in case), you’ll dip the moistened Q-tip into the powder and dab it onto your iguana’s bleeding nail.

Or you could alternatively dip the nail in a little pile of cornstarch.

This ensures the bleeding stops quickly. 

Once you have your clippers, a moistened Q-tip, Kwik Stop or cornstarch, and a towel on hand, you’re ready to go. 

#2: Give Your Iguana a Quick Bath

This is an optional step, but if you and your iguana are newbies to nail clipping, we recommend including the bath.

Giving your iguana a 15-20 minute warm bath before clipping its nails gives him/her time to relax and calm down before the clipping starts.

Soaking in a bath also makes your iguana’s nails softer and easier to cut. 

#3: How to Hold Your Iguana for Nail-Clipping

If this is your first time to clip your iguana’s nails or if he is a bit on the wild side, you might want to wrap your iguana in a towel lightly.

Place the bundled iguana in your lap, on the counter, or have someone hold the iguana while you do the clipping.

If you do have someone else hold your iguana while you’re clipping, it’s best to have the person stand up instead of sitting as this is more calming, and the iguana is less likely to try to escape.

If your iguana is calm and used to nail clipping, let him sit on a comfortable spot like in his enclosure or a counter while you clip.

If he needs to be held, but you don’t like the lap method, place your non-dominant hand under his belly to properly support him, then clip with your dominant hand.

#4: Identify How Much Nail You Need to Clip

This may come as a surprise, but when trimming your iguana’s claws, you’re ONLY clipping the tiny, needle-like tip at the very end of its claw, not the entire claw!

If you clip past a certain point known as “the quick,” you will cause painful injury and bleeding.

So please pay attention to this step and always closely examine the claw first to identify how much needs to be trimmed before you start clipping.

There are two parts to an iguana’s nail: a thicker section with a pink vessel inside of it and a curved, thinner section.

You’re only trimming a small bit off the thinner, curved section.

Do NOT clip into the thicker section with pink in it. If you do, your iguana will start bleeding. 

It’s important here to note how much your iguana relies on his claws for climbing.

If you clip too much nail off the tip (even if you’re still in the “safe zone” away from the thicker, pinky section), your iguana will struggle with climbing, so again, only clip off the pointy tip of his nail.

Less is best when it comes to clipping your iguana’s nails!

And if you’re worried about over-clipping, you may want to check out these pet nail clippers (they feature a safety guard to ensure you don’t over-clip). 

Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmer By Boshel - with Safety Guards to Avoid Over-cutting Nails & Free Nail File - Razor Sharp Blades - Sturdy Non Slip Handles - For Safe, Professional at home Grooming
  • ★ RECOMMENDED BY PROFESSIONALS: The Boshel small animal pet nail clipper is an ergonomically designed Powerful and easy-to-use pet grooming tool, the nail trimmer is recommended by animal trainers, veterinarians, professional pet groomers and thousands of satisfied customers as the best pet nail clippers on amazon to use for medium and large dogs and cats.
  • ★ CLEAN CUTS EVERY TIME: The pet nail clippers are made out of high quality 3.5 mm thick stainless steel sharp blades, it is powerful enough to trim your dogs or cats nails with just one cut, it will stay sharp for years to come for stress-free, smooth, quick and sharp cuts.
  • ★ USER FRIENDLY DESIGN: The professional dog nail clipper is designed to keep you comfortable while grooming your pet at home, it features comfortable, easy grip, non-slip, ergonomic handles which stay safely in place in your hands to ensure ease of use and prevent accidental nicks and cuts.
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#5: Clip the Nails

The final step is to clip your iguana’s nails.

At this point, you may feel a little nervous, but it’s really important to relax, move slowly, and talk gently to your iguana while you clip.

The whole process will be a lot easier if both of you are relaxed!

Gently lift one of your iguana’s nails up and away from the rest of his toes.

Hold the claw gently between your fingers and carefully clip the pointy tip of the nail off.

Since iguanas rely on their claws for climbing, you’ll need to clip the nail at an angle, as opposed to straight across, so he/she still has an adequate grip for climbing. 

If your iguana jerks back a toe or finger while you’re clipping, let go of the nail.

If he jerks and you keep holding on with the clippers, you may cause injury, so don’t force anything.

Wait a few minutes for him to calm down then try again.

Once your first nail is done, take a breath.

You did it! Now repeat the clipping process on all your iguana’s nails.

Keep in mind, the back claws may not be as long as the front ones and may require less clipping. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Now we’ll be answering a few frequently asked questions pet owners often have about clipping their iguana’s nails.  

Q: How often should you clip an iguana’s nails? 

A: Trim your iguana’s nails every two to three weeks or as needed.

When the tip of their nails are sharp and pointy, they probably need to be trimmed.

Younger iguanas typically need their nails trimmed much more often than older iguanas. 

Q: Can you use human clippers to trim iguana’s nails?

A: While it’s alright to use human clippers on baby iguana’s nails, adult iguana’s nails are way too thick for human nail clippers.

If you attempt to use human nail clippers on an adult iguana’s nails, the nail could split or crack, so we strongly recommend staying away from human clippers.

Q: What happens if I cut too much nail off?

A: As we mentioned above, if you cut into “the quick” of your iguana’s nail (the pinkish section), it may start bleeding.

You will need to dab some Kwik Stop powder or cornstarch onto the nail to quickly stop the bleeding.

Expect the finger or toe to be sore and tender for a day or so after this happens.

Q: Isn’t it better to let my iguana’s nails grow like they would in the wild?

A: No, captive iguana’s nails need to be trimmed regularly (once every two to three weeks or as needed), not only to keep them from scratching and hurting you but also to ensure they don’t scratch themselves and cause injury to sensitive areas like around their eyes and face.

Remember, in the wild, iguanas move around much more often and climb rough trees and move across rocky areas, meaning their nails are naturally getting worn down.

This natural process is something you can’t replicate in a captive enclosure, so nail trimming is necessary.

Q: Should I cut my baby iguana’s nails?

A: Yes, you should trim your baby iguana’s nails just like you would an adult iguana’s nails, and actually, juvenile iguana’s nails may need to be trimmed more often than adult iguana’s nails.  

The one difference between clipping adult and baby iguana’s nails is baby Ig’s nails are smaller and thinner, meaning you don’t necessarily need heavy-duty pet clippers.

It is typically okay to trim the pointy tips off baby iguana’s nails with just a human nail clipper.


Did you find this tutorial helpful?

We hope so! And we hope you feel prepared to better care for your iguana after learning how to cut iguana nails.

People are often intimidated when it comes to cutting their iguana’s nails, but now, armed with the right tools and knowledge, you will clip your iguana’s nails with confidence!

Check out our other post on creating an iguana leash.

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