Closeup image of a bearded dragon's sharp claws or nails

How to Clip Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails in 5 Easy Steps

When you think about pet grooming, what comes to mind? Maybe a lap dog in a special chair getting a haircut? 

Grooming might not be the first thing on your mind when you have a bearded dragon. But guess what—bearded dragons have nails (aka claws), and those nails can get long and sharp! So here’s everything you need to know about clipping your bearded dragon’s nails—how to trim them, how long they should be, what clippers to use, and more. 

Clipping Bearded Dragon Nails: Is It Really Necessary?  

Yes, you do need to trim your bearded dragon’s nails! Maybe this sounds a little crazy, especially if you’ve never really thought about cutting a lizard’s nails before. You probably don’t have to cut your bearded dragon’s nails all that often, but it is necessary to do it on occasion to prevent broken or lost toes, and to protect yourself from cuts and scratches when handling your dragon. 

Fun Fact: Bearded dragons’ claws are made of keratin, just like human nails and other animal claws. 

Why It’s Important to Cut Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails  

There are two important reasons why you should cut your dragon’s nails on occasion.

  • Your protection. When your dragon’s nails get long and sharp, they can cause itchy, painful scratches. If you have a larger dragon, their scratches can even draw blood.
  • Your dragon’s protection. Long claws can cause your dragon’s toes to twist when they try to walk or climb. Additionally, their long nails can get caught on something in the terrarium. If it’s a bad enough tug, the entire nail could come off, and it won’t grow back. 

How Often Should You Trim Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails?

The frequency you’ll need to cut your dragon’s nails will vary a little depending on the type of flooring or substrate you use in the enclosure. The more abrasive substrates, like rough tile, will do a natural job of keeping your dragon’s claws at bay. If you’re using a smoother flooring like newspaper or reptile carpet, you’ll probably need to cut your dragon’s nails about once a month, possibly more frequently. 

How to Know If It’s Time to Cut Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails 

So, now that you know it’s important to cut your bearded dragon’s nails on occasion, how do you know when it’s time?

Here are two telltale signs:

  • Your dragon’s nails are scratching you, or they look or feel sharp.
  • Your dragon’s feet aren’t flat on the ground because their nails have begun to curve, propping their feet up.

If you notice either of these two things, it’s definitely time to get out the clippers. 

Closeup of a bearded dragon's claws against its owner's jeans

    The photo above depicts bearded dragon claws that have been appropriately cut.

    How Long Should Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails Be? 

    When you cut your bearded dragon’s claws, you won’t be removing much of the nail—just the sharp point. If you cut any further, you may draw blood.

    If you're used to cutting your dog's or cat's claws, this can be a bit of a mental adjustment. It can help to remember that bearded dragons' nails are different from cats' and dogs' nails in this regard. They just need the little spike taken off and that's it.

    Do You Need Special Bearded Dragon Nail Clippers?

    You can use human toenail clippers for your bearded dragon’s nails, but if your dragon is over 24 inches long and has very thick claws, you’ll need to get a specific pair of pet nail clippers, like the kind made for cats or birds. If you’re still feeling unsure, you can ask your vet what they recommend.

    For the sake of hygiene and health, sanitize the clippers after each use, and never share a pair of clippers with your bearded dragon or between pets. For example, if you have a cat, you should have one pair of clippers for her, and one for your bearded dragon.

    Pro Tip: Keep styptic powder and iodine on hand in case you accidentally cut a little too far.

    How to Clip Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails, Step by Step 

    Luckily, it’s not too complicated to cut your bearded dragon’s nails. Here’s how to do it in 5 easy steps:

    1. Wait until your dragon is calm or asleep, or wrapped up in a ‘beardie burrito.’ Make sure you are calm, too. Watch for any signs of stress in your dragon and take a break if necessary.
    2. Hold your dragon firmly without squeezing too tight. If your dragon is large or easily agitated, you may want to make this a two-person job. One person can hold your dragon while the other trims.
    3. Make sure you don’t hold your dragon too high in the air while cutting his nails. Do it over a table or on the floor so he won’t fall if he squirms.
    4. When you cut the nail, just remove the sharp point at the tip. You don’t need to remove much.
    5. When you’re done, offer your beardie a treat, like a hornworm, wax worm, or some berries. 

    That’s all there is to it!

    Is There an Alternative to Clipping Your Bearded Dragon’s Nails?

    There isn’t a great long-term alternative to clipping your beardie’s claws, but if you’re in a pinch, you can try filing. This tends to be a bit more time consuming and may irritate your dragon more than clipping.  

    Be sure to use a sturdy file for this task, since a flimsy one will just end up breaking.

    If you are just too nervous to clip your dragon’s nails, you can always ask your vet if they would be willing to do it or at least show you how.

    Takeaway: Trimming your bearded dragon's nails on occasion is a necessary part of their care. Use toenail clippers or cat/bird clippers and only remove the sharp tip. Keep your dragon calm and offer a treat afterwards.

    If you have questions or would like to give feedback, please email us at [email protected] 

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