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Why iguanas need their claws trimmed. If an iguana is to be kept as a pet, it's a good idea to do regular claw trimmings. An iguana owner can usually be spotted by the large number of scratches and claw marks on his or her forarms and hands. An iguana's claws can be very dangerous, especially with a large iguana. Regular trimming minimizes this danger. Sharp, untrimmed claws can also do serious damage to household objects as well. A sharp claw also has more of a chance of getting caught on something, which can lead to several different injuries including claws being pulled out, broken toes and possibly even broken legs. Here is a fine example of what well-trimmed claws should look like...

Drawbacks with well-trimmed claws. Although regular claw trimming makes life better for the iguana owner, having dull claws can be very difficult for the iguana. Adjustments may be needed with its habitat so that it won't struggle to climb with dull claws.

How often should the claws be trimmed? The claws will usually grow as fast as the iguana is growing. During the first few years when the iguana is experiencing its fastest growth, the claws should be trimmed every two or three weeks. Later, when it's older and its growth rate has reduced, claw trimmings about once a month is normal. However often the claws are trimmed, it's a very good idea to get into a habit of regularly trimming the the claws. The trimming process can become very stressful, for both the iguana and the owner, if both are not accustomed to the task.

Trimming tools. Claw trimming can be done in a number of different ways. Using a quality trimming device and using extreme caution are the keys to properly trimming the claws. There are many different ways the claws can be trimmed and most have drawbacks and dangers of some kind. Such trimming tools include commercial reptile claw trimmers, human toenail clippers, dog nail trimmers, commercial nail "melters", rotary tools (Dremel tool or Black & Decker Wizard tool), and others. The Green Iguana Society recommends using commercial reptile claw trimmers (found at most quality pet stores), commercial nail "melters" or a quality rotary tool (used with extreme caution). The most popular nail "melting" tool available is the Electric Nail Melt-it Tool. This tool can be purchased at and has become a very popular, effective and safe way to trim claws.

Along with using a tool to trim the nail, some owners use a small nail file to smooth the claw. This can be a very good idea for someone who handles their iguana a lot, but the process of filing all the claws can also cause more stress and discomfort for the iguana. If the iguana and the owner don't mind filing the claws, this can be a very good practice. Once again, if the claws are dull, adjustments may be needed in the iguana's habitat to make sure there it isn't a struggle when climbing.

The quick and what to do when it's cut. Inside each claw is a blood vessel and nerve that is called the quick. If the quick is cut, the iguana will usually bleed and it will most definitely be in pain. In smaller iguanas, under good lighting, the quick can be easily seen. Usually, the older the iguana gets, the harder the quick will able to be seen. Accidents will happen occasionally, and the quick may be cut. When the quick is cut, and it starts to bleed, it may not be easy to stop. Styptic powder (Kwik-Stop) should be on-hand before trimming the claws. If no styptic powder is on-hand, corn starch can be effective in an emergency. Being cautious and aware of the quick and the dangers of cutting it should always be a priority when trimming the claws. If the quick is nipped and bleeding occurs, the iguana should be calmed down (it will usually be very upset) and then a wetted cotton swab dipped in the styptic powder should be applied to the claw with as much pressure as the swab will allow. Holding it there for a few minutes will usually stop the bleeding. More styptic powder, additional swabs, and more time may be needed to get the bleeding to stop. Make sure the nipped claw has completely stopped bleeding before moving onto the next claw. It may be necessary to let the iguana rest a while before continuing. After the trimming is complete and the iguana has been given a chance to calm down, it's important to rinse the nipped claw with water or Betadine and apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment. For more on dealing with, cleaning and treating cuts, see our Health & Safety page.

Getting ready for trimming. Before trimming, it's a very good idea to be prepared for accidents and other incidents that may occur. Giving the iguana a bath or soak before the trimming can help soften the claw for easier cutting. A few things should be on-hand before trimming the claws. Make sure there is a supply of styptic powder, along with some wetted cotton swabs in case of an accident with the quick. Also, it's a very good idea to have a towel on-hand to wrap around the iguana during the trimming. Sometimes, it is much easier to trim the claws with the assistance of another person, so if there is someone available, it can only be a good thing to have help.

Trimming the claws. This will be a very stressful event for the iguana until it gets accustomed to regular trimmings. As always, it's a good idea to be aware of any signs of stress. Wrapping the iguana in a towel is a good way of reducing stress and movement during the trimming. Wrapping the towel around it and exposing one leg at a time is very effective (especially with larger iguanas), but once again, all iguanas are different, so wrapping it in a towel may even cause stress. The owner should try and trim the claws in a way that he or she and the iguana is comfortable with. Trimming off as little as possible is always the best and safest option. After a few trimmings, the owner will begin to learn how much is too much and what ways are most comfortable for both the owner and the iguana.

Steve Woodward's page on Claw Trimming has some excellent information on iguana claws, trimming, and a fantastic close-up drawing of an iguana claw.
Iguana Claw Trimming by Melissa Kaplan is a good basic page of information on claw trimming.

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