iguana claws
Lizard Claw Trimming

Lizards are generally regarded as low-maintenance pets, much lower than dogs or cats, which need constant attention, walks, and interaction. Lizards, though, are perfectly content to bask under their heat lamps and eat when they’re fed. They aren’t always the most social creatures, so you can leave them be very often. However, some types of maintenance are still required, such as claw trimming. Lizard claw trimming doesn’t have to be done at a herpetology vet – it can be done at home with a little bit of practice and patience. Here’s all the key information you need to know about lizard claw trimming!

Should you trim your lizard’s claws?

Docile lizards need their claws trimmed, too. Photo by John Hanusek on Unsplash.

This is a common question, and the answer is really dependent on how your lizard lives. Lizards in nature spend a lot of time on coarse ground, and their claws are naturally worn down from all the friction. Lizards that climb trees and branches need to have sharp, strong claws so they can grip and ascend. In captivity, lizards usually do not have access to the same environment they would outdoors. Therefore, much of the material that helps keep claws ground down is not present.

To counteract this, you should populate the terrarium with material that helps keep claws a little worn. The substrate or sand that you put in the tank can keep your lizard’s claws worn down to an appropriate length. Make sure there are enough coarse rocks and tough bark so your lizard can get the same benefits in the tank that they would get in nature. You can even place rough stone or slab in the tank and designate it as the feeding area. When your lizard eats any bugs, it’ll be slowly wearing down its claws.

If you often interact with your lizard, it’s a good idea to regularly trim its claws. You don’t want to suffer any scratches when you handle your lizard. Another good reason to trim the claws is to ensure that they don’t get too long and cause accidental injuries. The lizard may not be careful and could actually end up snagging its claw on something in the tank. It may twist and panic to get loose and end up breaking a toe, falling, or else getting hurt in some manner.

When you decide to trim your lizard’s claws, schedule a visit with a vet first. They will give you a visual guide and teach you how to clip the claws without causing any pain to your lizard, as well as best handling practices.

How do I trim my lizard’s claws?

To trim your lizard’s claws, you’ll need the proper tool. For small lizards, like juvenile bearded dragons, a simple set of human nail clippers can get the job done. Lizards that are a bit bigger, like skinks and water dragons, will need cat nail clippers – which you may have if you already own a cat, too.

For large lizards like Iguanas, you can use dog nail clippers (which, again, you may already have if you’re a dog owner). It’s also possible to use a Dremel tool and a sanding bit. It may sound intimidating, but a Dremel tool will let you sand down the nails instead of clipping them. You’ll be less likely to cause damage.

All lizards have blood vessels that travel into their claws, as well as nerve endings. Hitting these nerve endings or catching the blood vessel can cause a lot of pain, as well as a lot of bleeding. You might need to uee blood-clotting gel or iodine to prevent an infection from forming.

Only trim the edges of your lizard’s claws, and don’t go too far down – don’t trim past where the claw begins to curl or you risk hitting the nerve.

To most effectively calm your lizard down enough to trim their claws, you can put a towel or blanket over them to try and coax them to sleep. This also helps reduce stress.

Hold your lizard in place as best as you can (or enlist the help of a friend) when you trim the claws. They may squirm, but with a good handle, they’ll be calm. The more you make claw trimming a regular occurrence, the more likely it is that the lizard will not panic when the time comes.

Does it hurt the lizard to trim its claws?

Claw trimming has a lot of benefits. Photo by Selin Şahin on Unsplash.

It doesn’t hurt to trim your lizard’s claws so long as you only trim the edges. If you trim too far down, you’ll catch the nerve and blood vessels, which will cause a fair amount of pain and bleeding.

If you want to be absolutely certain that you do not make a mistake when trimming, you can simply choose to file your lizard’s claws. This is an easier option than clipping, for a few reasons. You do not need a special clipper or a Dremel tool to get it done, and you won’t have to worry about causing any damage. Filing is easy and simple, and you can make sure your lizard’s claws are still intact but not sharp enough to scratch.

More often than not, your lizard will make you aware if you caused it any pain. It may try to quickly pull its arm or leg away, or it may try to thrash about. Be aware of how your lizard responds and take the necessary steps to calm it down to prevent further injuries.

Reptile Advice and Help at Allan’s Pet Center

Allan’s Pet Center is the premier exotic pet store in Los Angeles. Our expert handlers have been directly involved with all of the animals that pass through our shop for years. We routinely answer questions about pets and proper treatment, and if you need advice about trimming your lizard’s claws, don’t hesitate to contact us.

You can pay us a visit in West Los Angeles or East Los Angeles to get the help you need. Learn more about lizard claw trimming and other practices by having a chat with one of our representatives!

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