Trimming your rabbit’s nails can be a trial. Rabbits are akin to small dogs in that they tend to be fairly high strung. As prey for so many larger species, they evolved to be on a constant look out for danger. Even though they’re safe and well protected in your home, those instincts are still there. Proper technique can help overcome those instincts when they kick in (sometimes literally) to make nail trimming difficult.
First, pick yourself a nice open area, such as the bathroom or living room floor. Lay down a couple of towels, one of which will be used to wrap the rabbit, in order to restrain him or her. The other towel makes it easy to pick up the nail clippings and discard them. Arrange your materials so everything you may need is close at hand. That way you can stay seated near your rabbit for the whole procedure.
You’ll need nail trimmers, obviously. Human nail clippers are far less than ideal for the purpose, though they might serve in an emergency. If you needed to trim off a split nail, for example, and couldn’t get to the vet quickly. Guillotine style nail trimmers are generally better for larger animals. Small, scissor-like trimmers are better.
Have close at hand some styptic powder in case of accidents.
Sit on the floor and cradle the rabbit in your lap, or better still have an assistant hold onto it wrapped in a towel with the foot exposed. Give the rabbit a few seconds to calm down. It’s vital that it will not kick while you’re clipping a nail. Rabbits can be nervous even around people they know well.
Hold the foot firmly and take a moment to judge where the quick starts inside the nail. The quick is the vessel that feeds blood to the area. You want to avoid nicking it, since it will bleed copiously and clipping it causes the rabbit pain.
If you have trouble spotting it, say because your breed has black nails, sometimes wetting the nail can produce a distinct difference between the nail and quick. Look for a small indentation as the nail curves slightly around. Better to trim too little than too much.
Take a firm hold of the foot and clip quickly and firmly. Usually, the procedure is a little cleaner if you clip from the underside. That way you can see if you’re close to the quick.
If you do accidentally nick one, set the trimmer down at once and dab a little styptic powder (usually a sulfur compound) onto the tip of your index finger. Touch the quick lightly and repeat a couple of times, if needed. The blood flow should stop almost at once. Move onto another foot and come back to that one later.
It’s helpful, but not essential to do all feet in one sitting. Some nails may not need it and can be skipped. Be sure that if you do clip a quick, the area has stopped bleeding for several minutes before you let the rabbit go. They close quickly, but can open up again if the rabbit runs around.