Overgrown Toenails


Overgrown toenails can occur for several reasons, obesity and aging. What both of these factors have in common are that they result in inactivity in a hamster. When hamsters stop being active, they stop using their feet as much for climbing, digging and running, yet their toenails still continue to grow. See, it’s the wear and tear brought on by activities like these that help wear down a hamster’s toenails. Old and Obese hamsters will likely need to have their toenails trimmed.

Signs and Symptoms

Toenails that are long and overgrown. they can start to curl inwards. Some hamster breeds like the Campbell’s dwarf hamster, naturally have longer toenails and might not require any trimming at all. The nails of these breeds only need to be clipped if the nails curl inwards and has a chance they will dig into the skin of a hamster’s feet.

Trim Overgrown Toenails

There are two methods that pet hamster owners can do to help an overweight or old hamster keep their nails in check. The first option on caring for a hamster and its toenails is the least invasive and easiest to do; that being, placing a very fine grit sandpaper in an are of the hamster cage. This doesn’t mean covering the entire floor or your hamster’s cage with sandpaper. This would become very uncomfortable and probably lead to sore feet and an unhappy hamster. Instead, use the sand paper in a small section of the cage, in a hamster wheel or on a ramp. Even better, place the hamster in a maze with sandpaper lined on the floor. This way you regulate how long the hamster has to file down its toenails.

The other option and the more difficult one is to trim the toenails with nail clippers. This can be difficult because you can’t be sure the little patient will sit still making it tough not to accidentally cut the quick. The quick is the part of the nail that contain the blood and nerves of the nail. Cutting this can be painful to the hamster and cause bleeding. If you can trim the nails yourself, use a small nail trimmer meant for kittens and carefully trim right above the quick. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and trim less than you think you should. This way you will avoid cutting the quick. Some hamster’s toenails are light in color and you can visible see the quick; in these cases you can trim more without wondering if you are about to trim the quick or not.

Reviewed By: Tim Winter

Tim Winter has a strong affection for pets and wildlife. His years of experience caring for various types of pets has led him to share his knowledge with others on the best practices in pet care. Tim holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications.

8 thoughts on “Overgrown Toenails”

  1. I put fine sandpaper on one ramp, however his claws are long! Literally grew over night. He uses his wheel and ball every night along with a climbing frame and a few other accessories!! What should i do??

  2. I have a 1 year and ten month old Serian hamster and he can get very nervous, he rarely uses his wheel but does go in his tubes to lie down quite a lot. Where should I put the sand paper?

  3. What kind of sandpaper do I use? I have 2 female winter whites and I can’t even touch them or they’ll run, I think I will put it on the wheel so I don’t want it to be too ruff or their feet will hurt.


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