Trimming Nails

Ferrets have non-retractable claws. They do not sharpen them like cats. They should NEVER be declawed. They do use their claws to dig holes in anything they want moved, such as bedding, litter, carpets, furniture stuffing, or soil in potted plants. An unsupervised ferret excluded from a desirable room by a closed door can tear a hole in quality broadloom in less than an hour. Placing a carpet remnant in front of the door will usually prevent damage to the good carpet underneath.

Trimming a ferret's nails

When the nails get very long, they will scratch people who play with the animal, or catch in fabrics and cause the ferret to injure himself. Nails need to be trimmed about once a month, depending on the surface the ferret usually walks and plays on and how much digging he does in substances that will wear the nails down. Human nail clippers work well for ferrets, and there are small, scissor-like trimmers made especially for ferrets.

The nails are transparent when viewed from the side. They should be trimmed only enough to blunt them, avoiding the pink area at the base. If a nail is clipped too short, it will hurt and may bleed. This will not do any serious harm and will not need any special treatment, but the ferret will protest more the next time nails need to be trimmed.

Restraint for nail trimming

It is difficult to restrain a ferret long enough to do all the nails at one sitting unless an attractive diversion is provided. Linoleic acid products such as Ferretone are very palatable to ferrets. Put a few drops on the ferret's belly, or on the hand that is holding the paw being trimmed. The ferret will lick enthusiastically, barely noticing the procedure taking place. Alternatively, if there is an extra set of hands available, the ferret can be scruffed by one person and the second person can do the trimming. The advantage of the Ferretone method is that the ferret learns to enjoy the procedure because of the treat and becomes easier to manage.

Article by: Judith A. Bell, DVM, PhD