Do Tortoise Nails Need Clipping?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

I have seen too much confusion when it comes to tortoise nail clipping. While one group claims nail trimming is mandatory, another refuses to accept this statement. So, who is right? Do tortoise nails really need clipping?

Tortoise nails have a natural growth and get worn out as the pet does walking, digging, climbing, etc. So, no nail clipping is necessary. Yet, sometimes the lack of opportunities in the pen promotes overgrown nails. Long nails can cause the pet much trouble and require immediate trimming.

Catch more details below.

Key Takeaways

  • Overgrown nails can cause infection, injury, walking trouble, and joint pain in tortoises.
  • Both clippers and Dremel tools are used for trimming tortoise fingernails.
  • Clip off your tortoise’s overgrown nails twice a year.
  • Providing rough surfaces and rocks in the enclosure wears off tortoise fingernails naturally.

Should You Trim Your Tortoise Nails?

Do you know our fingernails and tortoise nails are made of the same element? Yes, I am talking about keratin. Therefore, just like us, the tortoise’s fingernails grow over time.

Usually, we do not notice the nail growth of these creatures. It is because their fingernails wear off during their daily activities. Lack of a rough surface or entertainment source in the enclosure will cause the overgrown fingernails of tortoises.

Overgrown nails can trouble the tortoises in walking or performing everyday tasks. Also, the pets may end up injuring each other with sharp claws. In such cases, you must step in and trim their fingernails.

4 Reasons Why You Should Cut Tortoise Fingernails

Overgrown fingernails in tortoises are definitely unappealing. But that is not the only reason why you should trim them off. Well, long fingernails can trouble tortoises in many ways. Such as,

1. A Risk Of Injury

Tortoise overgrown fingernails are a risk to themselves and their tankmates if they have any. The sharp claws may scratch the skin or shell and even the eyes. A minor cut on the cornea can blind the tortoises.

2. Infection Is A Possibility

An untreated wound due to a scratch or cut can cause infectious diseases in tortoises. Besides, the long nails can trap substrates carrying salmonella bacteria. It makes the pets exposed to the disease.

3. Trouble Walking

Overgrown nails will definitely hamper the walking pace of the tortoises. As the fingernails grow downward, the pets will fail to secure a grip. So, they may bring a change in their gaits to ease the struggle.

4. Joint Pain

Well, tortoises may suffer from arthritis, which is treatable to an extent. Wounds caused by overgrown nails are responsible for arthritis and bone joint pain in these pets.

When To Trim Your Tortoise’s Nails?

There is no need to cut tortoise fingernails every week. In fact, not all tortoises need this trimming service, but only those who can not wear off their nails. Remember, cutting a short nail can actually hurt the pets.

So, when do you trim off tortoise nails? Well, look for the following signs,

  • Fingernails are long enough to interrupt the pet’s movement.
  • The tortoise is constantly digging or scratching its nails against a rough surface.
  • The nails are protruding outward or downward.
  • Tortoises walk without limping.
  • Nails are broken or infected.
  • Tortoises are in discomfort because of the nails.

How To Clip Tortoise Nails?

A trip to the vet’s office will save you from trimming off the tortoise’s nails on your own. Though it is the easiest solution, consider the fee. Not to mention how much the tortoises hate to travel from one place to another.

Well, you can clip tortoise nails at home with patience and solid guidelines. Do as I mentioned below,

1. Make The Tortoise Comfortable

Tortoises get stressed due to the frequent handling and activate their defense. So, when you try to secure a grip on the pets, you will feel their resentment. The creatures will kick you and even attempt to retract themselves into the shell.

To avoid such hassles, use a towel to wrap the tortoises and hold them gently. It will make the pets feel relaxed and secure. Place the towel on the lower body when clipping off the front nails. Likewise, wrap the pets by the upper portion when trimming off the rear nails.

2. Trimming Off

Once the tortoise is calm, use a clipper to cut the nails. Do not cut the fingernails too short, as it may hurt the blood vessels, making the pets bleed. Hence, cut the nails 3mm away from the root.

Some keepers do not prefer clippers because they can cause injury and seem dangerous. Well, yes. There is a risk of trauma in case of rough handling. But remember, clippers do the trimming quickly without stressing the tortoise.

Dremel tools are a recent invention used to trim off overgrown nails. Though the device files away the nails smoothly, it takes a long time. Furthermore, the constant vibration and noise of the Dremel tool may make the pets anxious.

Weigh the pros and cons of each tool before applying it to your tortoise.

3. The Final Step

File the clipped nails to give a smooth finish. Apply 5% hydrogen peroxide if the pets get any cut by accident. Corn starch, along with anti-septic ointment, also works in healing wounds.

Can You Stop The Tortoise’s Nail Growth?

It is impossible to stop the fingernail growth of any animal. But yes, you can adopt tricks to wear off the nails regularly to prevent trimming. Some effective techniques are,

1. Allow The Tortoise To Dig

Tortoises are born burrowers. They love digging in the soil and getting into the cave. In this process, their long fingernails get polished.

But what if there is no suitable substrate for the tortoises? Of course, the pets will miss digging, and the fingernails will overgrow.

Therefore, select a suitable substrate for the tortoises and lay the bottom of the enclosure. A mixture of sand and loam soil, at least 3 – 4 inches deep, is recommended. You can also get a coconut peat or sphagnum moss as the bedding.

No matter which substrate you get, just make sure it is safe for the tortoise. Also, provide a bedding layer thick enough for the pets to burrow.

2. Rough Surface & Accessories

Besides a burrowing substrate, rough surfaces like rocks and walls can also wear off tortoise nails. Place smooth-edged medium and flat stones in the enclosure. Moreover, feed the pets in a rough textured box to allow them to rub their claws against the surface.

3. Make The Tortoise Workout

Working out not only helps the tortoises burn down fat but also allows them to trim their nails naturally. Exercises like climbing rocks or walls, walking on obstacles, and grazing in fields, are enough to clip away their nails.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Do Tortoises Require Nail Clipping?

Tortoises need no nail trimming as it wears off naturally during their daily activities. But if the fingernails are not worn off, clip them off twice a year.

Does Nail Clipping Hurt Tortoises?

Fingernails are made of a keratin layer, and tortoises can hardly feel any pain in those areas. But the nail roots are connected to nerves and vessels. Hence, cutting the nails too short or making a mistake in trimming can hurt the pets.

Before You Go…

Tortoise beaks are also made of keratin layers and grow with time. Pets feel discomfort if their beaks grow longer than usual. In such cases, beak trimming can ease the pain and relieve the tortoises. The below guide includes everything on tortoise beak clipping.

Tortoise Beaks Too Long? 6 Things You Can Do

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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