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Anatomy Of Bearded Dragon Nails / Claws
We often get asked how to trim bearded dragon nails and although it’s not difficult there are some particular things you need to look out for. It’s helpful to understand the anatomy of the bearded dragon nails before setting about bearded dragon nail care. The anatomy is similar to that of dogs and cats.
Bearded Dragons have sharp sturdy claws made from a protein substance called beta keratin. Beta keratin is a durable, relatively inflexible protein that gives rigidity to the claw. Within the claw there is a nerve and a blood supply this area is referred to as the “quick” of the claw or nail. Other reptiles such as monitors and iguanas possess similar anatomy as do many mammals including cats and dogs.
The distal end or tip of the claw is essentially “dead” tissue and has no sensation or feeling, the quick however does. Damage to the quick can cause bleeding and / or pain due to the nerve and blood vessel housed within it. The quick is often lighter in colour to the claw/ nail. It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate the quick and the end of the claw, especially when the nail is overgrown.
When Should You Trim A Bearded Dragons Nails?
You may be fortunate enough not to need trim your bearded dragons nails. But for the most of us it is required from time to time. For example you may notice their claws may becoming too long or they are not climbing (gripping on) as well as they once did. Their claws may scratch more or may be becoming snagged more frequently.
Overgrown nails can occur for a number of reasons, there may be times where the nails simply grow faster than before. Or if they have no way of naturally wearing their nails down. This can lead to extreme nail overgrowth
Extreme nail growth is where the nail begins to curl in on itself making the claw useless for climbing and even walking. If left the nail will eventually push in the tissues and puncture the underside of their foot. This extreme overgrowth is often seen in neglected and rescued dragons.
The photo shows both outside nails curling over. The quick is also very long making it difficult to see where it ends.
How Do I Trim My Bearded Dragon’s Nails / Claws
Firstly try and make sure their environment is big enough so they can move around. Use a variety of textured and rough (not sharp) surfaces. These can be things like stone, slate and branches enabling the nails to naturally wear down like they would in the wild. Also taking your bearded dragon outside for a run around will also help. If you are worried about going outside see our article on taking your beardie outside.
These measure’s will help but you may find you still need to trim their nails down from time to time. Fortunately this is relatively easy to do yourself. And becomes easier with practice.
What Equipment Will I Need?
You will also need either a emery board or a small metal file; Files are often found in sets alongside the nail clippers.
Nail / claw trimming equipment should only be for individual use. Do not share with yourself or other animals. This will minimise the risk of infection.
Techniques To Trim a Bearded Dragons Nails.
Depending on how long your bearded dragons nails are trimming them may take several attempts. It can be useful to give your bearded dragon a bath (if they will let you) prior to trimming the nails. This can help to make the nails slightly softer and easier to cut.
You must be firm but gentle when handling their toes. It may be easier to do this with two people. One to securely hold the bearded dragon while the other person trim / file the nails.
Using the nail clippers trim the tips of the nail avoiding the quick. Then if required gentle file the nail down try to avoid making the nail blunt. Blunt nails will not grip very well. Remember to only do what your beardie allows you to do.
The picture on the right clearly shows the nails and the quick. The quick is as long as the nail. The nail is also blunted off allowing nothing to grip with.
Take care when doing this, over filing can make the quick sensitive and sore.
What Should I Do If I Cut The Quick?
Try to avoid cutting into the quick of the claw. This can be done by trimming only the tips of the claw. If you are unable to distinguish the claw and the quick you should avoid cutting. Try some gentle filing do this little and often to avoid irritation.
If you are unfortunate enough to cut into the quick your beardie will soon let you know by pulling away and retracting his foot. The quick has a nerve running through it making it painful for the little guy. It also has a blood supply which if cut into will subsequently bleed. The bleeding usually stop fairly quickly. If you are concerned about bleeding and infection you can apply stypic powder.
Stypic powder is a hemostatic agent that works by contracting the tissue to seal the blood vessel and stop bleeding. Nail Safe and Trimmex Powder are couple of options available on amazon. Only buy the smallest option available a little goes a long way.
For claws that have extreme overgrowth and nail curling you might prefer to take them to the vet who can trim them for you and show you the best technique for your bearded dragon. Some vets offer nail trimming services for free – Always worth asking!
If you find your bearded dragon has a long quick regular nail / claw care will help the quick to recede.
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