Alpacas are interesting animals for many reasons. One of the most surprising thing about them is that where you might expect them to have hooves, they actually have two-toed paws with toenails that need to be trimmed from time-to-time. In this article, we outline the steps you’ll need to take to keep your alpacas‘ toenails properly trimmed. Read on to learn more on how to trim an alpaca nails.
What You'll Learn Today
- How Often Do You Need To Trim Alpacas Toenails?
- How To Trim An Alpaca’s Nails
- Follow These Precise Steps With Each Nail
- Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Do You Need To Trim Alpacas Toenails?
Alpacas’ nails should be trimmed every 2 to 4 months. Anecdotal information indicates that light-colored alpacas need their nails trimmed more often than dark-colored ones. They have two toenails on each foot, so you’ll need to be ready to cut eight toenails.
Knowing that you’ll need to do this periodically should motivate you to work with your alpacas and handle them on a regular basis. Your animals should be easy to catch and thoroughly halter trained.
Pick up and handle your animals’ feet every day, even if you are not trimming toenails. Doing so can help you avoid the problems experienced by the handler in this video.
Alpaca Training, First Nail Trim
How To Trim An Alpaca’s Nails
1. Gather your materials
- Sturdy, flexible gloves to protect your hands
- Toenail trimmers specially made for alpacas
- Mite treatment oil
- Iodine spray
2. Secure your alpaca
Never try to trim the toenails of a loose alpaca. Catch the animal, halter him or her and secure the lead rope to a sturdy post or tree using a safety slipknot that you can undo quickly and easily in case of emergency.
3. Don’t surprise your alpaca!
Before you begin trimming, approach the animal from the front and stroke him all over for little desensitization. Run your hands down the animal’s legs to the feet all the way around beginning with a front leg.
4. Trim the toenails of a front foot first
If you are right-handed, you may naturally gravitate toward the animal’s front left foot. You’ll face toward the alpaca’s rear, bend down and lean in toward the alpaca so that you are supporting some of the animal’s weight with your left side and/or shoulder.
Lift the right front foot with your left hand and quickly trim the toenails with your right hand.
5. Use mite oil
Treat the toe pads and between the toes with mite oil.
6. Use iodine spray if needed
If you have accidentally nicked the animal’s skin, treat with iodine spray.
7. Repeat the process on all legs
Repeat the process on the left hind leg, right hind leg and right front leg. Note that you’ll need to change your active or dominant hand when you change sides. This may take a little bit of practice.
Follow These Precise Steps With Each Nail
Don’t cut too close. Trim the nail in line with the toe pad to avoid accidentally nicking the alpaca’s toes. It should take you three clean cuts to trim each toenail. They are as follows:
- Attain the desired length by trimming off the point of the nail.
- Shape the nail by trimming the right side and the left side. Use the toe pad as a guide.
- Trim or file any sharp or rough edges from the nail so that the animal does not accidentally injure itself when scratching.
- Always face toward the rear of the animal.
- Lift the foot just slightly off the ground so that the alpaca does not feel too badly off balance.
- Always use the same procedures when trimming toenails. In this way, your alpaca will know what to expect, and the job will become quicker and easier every time.
- Never release a panicked or upset alpaca. When you’re done, if your animal is pulling back or attempting to escape, be sure to calm him or her first before releasing. Stroke and talk to the animal and lead him or her around a bit to calm down. Only give the reward of release after your alpaca is calm, collected and cooperating with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally speaking, it seems as if alpacas who have white or light colored toenails need more frequent trims. This may be because dark and black toenails are harder and tend to wear more smoothly than the lighter colors.
You should not try to make your alpaca do anything. If you want to train it to do something, use patience and positive reinforcement. If the animal tends to lie down when you want to handle its feet, don’t fight it. Just go with it. Roll the alpaca onto its side, position yourself behind its back and reach over to grasp the foot and trim the toenails.
If you position yourself in front of the hooves, you are very likely to get kicked. Stay safe by using the animal’s body as a shield. Being positioned behind the back of a reclining alpaca also allows you to hold the animal in position and reduces struggling.
It’s always better to have a helper when you are handling a large animal. Be sure your alpaca is wearing a well-fitted halter with lead rope and have a confident, capable person controlling the head while you concentrate on trimming the toenails.
You’ll get cleaner, safer results with smooth blades. Serrated blades may leave a ragged edge and may tend to cut through flesh accidentally and rapidly.