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Alpaca Toenail Trimming


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Alpaca toenails grow continuously throughout their lives.  Alpacas that live on hard, rocky ground, or who have rough concrete to walk across wear their nails down naturally.  Alpacas on soft ground or lush grass tend to grow long nails. Long toenails can curve, cause the toe to twist, pinch the pad of the foot and / or break off painfully.  Toenail problems like this can cause lameness.  For alpacas with nail problems, toenail trimming should be part of routine care.  We clip our alpacas’ toenails about every 3-4 months.

Most alpacas require some sort of restraint for nail trimming.  While some breeders utilize a restraint chute, we simply have one person hold the head and straddle the alpaca’s chest with their knees while the other person trims the toes on the opposite side.  Or, haltering and tying them to a post works if only one person is available.


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Nails are easier to trim if the feet are wet and soft (after a rain).  If the alpaca has been on wet or muddy ground you will need to use the nail clipper ends to clean the mud and mature so that you can see the pad, quick and the nail as well as see where to trim.

Using small pruning shearers, start at the back edges of each nail, and work forwards toward the point.  Don’t cut any closer to the edge of the pad or quick (the soft tissue just behind the point of the nail) more than 1/8 inch, since cuts here will bleed, be painful and expose the alpaca to potential infection.  A beginner should be conservative at first and leave margin for error.  With experience it is easier to trim nails shorter without hurting the alpaca.  Once both sides have been trimmed, it is time to remove the point with one final cut perpendicular to the line of the nail.  Don’t cut too close to the quick, and avoid pinching the alpaca’s pad between the two sides of the nail.


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Extremely long or curved nails will require frequent trimmings, removing small amounts each trimming (perhaps once per month), until the nails and toes remain straight.

If you do accidently cut into the quick, go ahead and finish the trimming.  When done, if bleeding has not stopped, apply direct pressure until it does.  Apply 7% iodine to disinfect and help stop the bleeding.  Watch the alpaca for a few days for signs of infection.


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