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What to Do If You Cut Your Parakeet's Nail Too Short

Updated on March 18, 2014
What to do if you cut your parakeet's nail too short
What to do if you cut your parakeet's nail too short

So you've set out to clip your parakeet's nails and it's going well so far. You managed to get him in your grasp and into a secured position so you can snip at those little talons.

SNIP! There's one down! Armed with just a little bit more confidence, you prepare to clip the next one. With the clippers positioned just perfectly on that second nail, you begin to squeeze on the handles... And WHACK. He kicks just as you clip. It immediately becomes clear to you, as a little drop of blood emerges from the tip of his little nail, that you cut it too short and clipped the vein.

Hopefully, you're reading this before this happens to you. This article will help prepare you in case it ever does happen. But if you haven't been so lucky, and you are currently experiencing the crisis in need of instruction and guidance, just breathe. It's going to be okay!


Need instructions on how to properly cut your parakeet's nails?

Read: How to Clip Your Parakeet's Nails

How Short is Too Short?

First of all, let me explain just what it means to cut your parakeet's nail too short.

Every parakeet has a little vein in their nail, called a "quick." It runs through the upper part of the nail, and usually ends at about the halfway point. Since most parakeets have lightly colored nails, the quick can be seen if you look very closely. It looks like a tiny red line.

If you clip the nail too short, the quick gets clipped too, leaving that vein open and exposed.

Please keep in mind that that if you clip your parakeet's nails yourself, this is bound to happen to you once or twice. No matter how careful you are, accidents do happen.

Here's what you should do if you accidentally cut your parakeet's nail too short.

The "quick" is the red line that is visible in the upper half of the nail.
The "quick" is the red line that is visible in the upper half of the nail.
A closer look. Can you see it?
A closer look. Can you see it?

Consider This:

What happens to birds who break their nails off too short in the wild? Do they suffer incessantly? No. Do they bleed out and die? Absolutely not. Do they develop a debilitating infection? Not likely. This happens to birds, wild or domesticated. There's no reason for panic in either environment.

What Do I Do?

Believe me, I know this is scary. You are holding a little bird whose nail you've just hacked off, and he is now bleeding at what seems like a very rapid pace. But no matter how scary you may find this situation, it's important that you stay calm.

This has happened to me twice in my seven years of clipping my parakeet's nails. The first time, I absolutely panicked. My first instinct was to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, so I used the cloth I was holding my parakeet with to pinch the nail for a little while. But when I removed the cloth, little drops of blood kept emerging from his nail. Putting pressure on it hadn't helped at all! My panic at this point made things much worse. I managed to stress myself and my parakeet out much more than was necessary.

So here's the moral of the story: I know you're worried, but your parakeet is going to be just fine. Despite what it looks like, he will not bleed out, and he will not die.

This situation will go much more smoothly if you just take a few deep breaths before you continue, and keep your cool from here on out.

This can all be done while you're still holding your parakeet. I strongly advise you not to let him go, at least not until the bleeding has stopped. He's stressed, and if you let him go, he probably won't let you catch him again anytime soon.

Clean the Broken Nail

When I cut my parakeet's nails, I always clean them off first just in case. This way, if one gets cut too short and there is an open wound, the area has already been disinfected so there is very little chance of bacteria entering the wound. I do this by dipping a clean cotton ball in a little bit of diluted rubbing alcohol (I dilute it with warm water, so that it's not so harsh and smelly), and wiping the nails off. Then, I run his little feet under lukewarm water so that all traces of the rubbing alcohol are washed away.

If you haven't done this beforehand, though, just rinse the nail with lukewarm water. Do not try to use rubbing alcohol on an open wound! It will burn and it will make a terrible time for your poor parakeet! Warm water will do just fine at this point.

Do whatever you can to keep your parakeet as calm as possible. If he is stressed out, his heart rate will be elevated, which pumps blood through his veins more quickly. Calming him down will help slow the flow of blood to the nail.

Cornstarch (baby powder) to stifle the bleeding. Put some in your hand and dip the bleeding nail in it.
Cornstarch (baby powder) to stifle the bleeding. Put some in your hand and dip the bleeding nail in it.

Stop the Bleeding

Don't bother trying to put pressure on the area like I did. It won't work. The vein is inside of a solid nail and any pressure put on the area won't even affect the vein that's bleeding.

Instead, use a little bit of cornstarch, which is essentially what baby powder is. Just make sure it's not scented or medicated. You can also use flour, but it may not work as well as cornstarch will.

Pour some into the palm of your hand or a small cup or bowl, and dip the bird's nail in it. It will act as a caking agent and it will clot the area up, blocking the flow of blood. You may need to dip the nail more than once before it effectively stops the bleeding.

It is very important that you dip the nail into the cornstarch, instead of pouring it onto the nail. Powdery substances are messy, and if poured it may end up on the parakeet's face. If it gets in his eyes or if he inhales any of it, this could be very dangerous.

If you absolutely must pour it, do it very slowly so it doesn't cloud up in the air your parakeet is using to breathe. And be very careful not to let it get in his face.


Keep An Eye on Him

Once the bleeding has stopped, you can return the parakeet to his cage. Try to keep a close eye on him for a while, and don't let him bite at the nail. As soon as possible, thoroughly wash his perches and any toys or other gadgets he's likely to be climbing over. Keeping his cage clean will help reduce the chances that the nail will get infected before it's had a chance to heal.

Don't Be Afraid to Call a Vet

If you still have any concerns about your parakeet's nail, contact a veterinarian. It never hurts just to have your parakeet's nail checked out by a professional, just in case. Your vet can answer any further questions you might have, or provide advice and guidance. Never hesitate to turn to a vet if you're in doubt.

Also, feel free to ask any additional questions you may have in the comments. And if this has happened to you before, please share your advice with the rest of us!

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© 2013 Kristen Haynie

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    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      At the moment I have no birds but remember this task from years ago. Very interesting and useful.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • Kristen Haynie profile image
      Author

      Kristen Haynie 3 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Eddy,

      Thanks for your comment! I know many bird owners end up having to deal with this at some point, and I hope it comes in handy for them. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day as well!

    • profile image

      Lisa Jones 20 months ago

      Thanks you very much this was very helpful

    • profile image

      Ayy lmao 9 months ago

      Thanks so much! My parakeet is saved! I accidentally cut his nail to short, and I got horrified! You are a life saver!

    • profile image

      Javed S 6 months ago

      Thanks for the calming advice and tip. it worked on our Parrot as well.

    • profile image

      Great article 4 months ago

      Was cutting my birds nails and nipped one have used steptic pencils in the past but couldn't find mine as we had just moved read your.Article has some flour and it worked stopped the bleeding in a few minutes. THank You for the great idea!!

    • profile image

      Cake and sprinkles 7 weeks ago

      My parakeet is great thanks to you!

    • Kristen Haynie profile image
      Author

      Kristen Haynie 6 weeks ago from Modesto, CA

      Glad to hear it! Thanks for reading :)

    • profile image

      KellyRC 4 weeks ago

      Thanks for your post! I used baby powder, but it is made of talc. Is that bad? The bleeding stopped and I am keeping an eye on my budgie now.

    • Kristen Haynie profile image
      Author

      Kristen Haynie 12 days ago from Modesto, CA

      KellyRC,

      Baby powder works fine! As long as it's just plain baby powder, it gets the job done and isn't harmful to your bird. If you're using this method though, be careful that your bird doesn't inhale any of the powder.

      Thanks for reading!

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