Do My Tortoise’s Nails Need to be Trimmed

Do My Tortoise’s Nails Need to be Trimmed?

Tortoises are notoriously slow animals. They move slowly, they eat slowly, and they grow slowly. Does that mean that their nails also grow slowly? In fact, if a tortoise’s nails do grow too long, do they need to be trimmed? Most animals have nails, and they are significant parts of the anatomy. For tortoises, their nails are extremely important to burrowing and digging, which are critical parts of a tortoise’s behavior. Keeping a tortoise’s nails the proper length is important for their daily life. 

Tortoises that are kept in captivity will do much less work with their nails than wild tortoises. So it’s likely that your tortoise’s nails will need to be trimmed as they will not wear down naturally. Solid climbing objects will keep your tortoise nails short, and any trimming will only be required once yearly. 

Whether or not your tortoise needs a nail trim depends on a few various factors, including how fast they’re growing, what kind of environment they are in, and if their nails are causing your pet problems or not. 

How do I Prevent The Need For Trimming?

If your tortoise is in the correct situation and living conditions, they will never need to have their nails trimmed by people. If you do not want to cut your tortoise’s nails, there are a few things you can do to help them keep their nails worn down naturally so that you never have to worry about it.

You should only consider trimming your tortoise’s nails if they are impeding their ability to follow out their daily tasks.

Burrowing keeps your tortoise’s rear nails short, so supplying substrate that allows them to dig should work a treat. If you don’t offer an adequate substrate for burrowing, you may find it is their rear nails you have problems with access growth. 

Tortoises love to climb and have some rocks in their enclosure that will wear down their front nails. Having a few flat stones that your tortoise needs to walk across can keep nails sort also.

How do I keep my tortoise’s nails short?

First, make sure that your tortoise has a substrate that is deep enough for burrowing. A happy tortoise likes to burrow, and burrowing is the easiest way for a tortoise to wear down its nails naturally. 

Having a deep and loamy substrate will give the tortoise enough traction to keep its paws at a healthy growth level. Try to get a substrate that is not wholly dirt or sand but something with a change in density and material. 

Another way to facilitate natural nail trimming is to put some rocks or logs in the enclosure that the tortoise can climb on. 

Putting these around a place they frequent, like a soaking pool, will cause the tortoise to have to climb over a challenging obstacle that will, in turn, wear down the nails and will keep them at a healthy length. If a tortoise has to walk over these things regularly, it will keep its nails down naturally.

Lastly, if all else fails, you can trim your tortoise’s nails or have your veterinarian trim the tortoise’s nails. That is a surefire way to keep the nails short, but it is not the easiest or most desirable way. 

Do tortoise nails grow back?

Yes. Like most animals, a tortoise’s nails will grow back over time. Whether or not you notice your tortoise’s nails growing depends on how fast the animal is wearing them down. 

With how much digging and walking a tortoise does, their nails have to grow back, or else they would wear them down to nothing when they were very young. 

A healthy tortoise with a lot of room to burrow and dig will have a healthy nail growth level that keeps its feet happy and protected without growing too long. 

If all of these things are in order, a tortoise’s nails will continuously grow, but you will not notice the growth and natural trimming taking place, and they should look roughly the same length all the time. 

When Do I Need to Trim My Tortoise’s Nails?

You only need to worry about trimming your tortoise’s nails if the nails get long enough to impede your tortoise’s normal movement and behavior. 

You will be able to tell if this is happening by looking at its feet and seeing if the nails are protruding downwards or outwards in a visible manner. If you look at your tortoise’s feet and do not see anything amiss, then you probably do not need to trim its nails.

Another way to tell if you need to trim your tortoise’s nails is to see if they are usually walking and digging. If you watch your tortoise and they are moving just fine, without any weird hitches or limps or odd steps, then your tortoise’s nails are not impeding it, and therefore you do not need to trim them.

Be sure to keep an eye out on the nails if you are worried about it, but you only need to trim the nails if they are impeding natural movement, causing discomfort, or have gotten broken or infected. Otherwise, you do not need to trim the nails at all.

Trimming Your Tortoises Nails

If it comes down to the point where you definitely do need to trim your tortoise’s nails, there are a few different ways to do it to make sure that your tortoise remains happy and healthy.

First, you can always try and take your tortoise to the veterinarian. Vets are pros are trimming animal’s nails, and if you bring them in for an appointment, you can ask them to look at your tortoise’s nails and trim them. 

The downside to this method is that it will cost money, depending on your vet, and it also takes a trip to the veterinarian. If you are already going for another appointment, you can ask them to add in a nail trim for cheap or free. 

The second thing you can do is trim the nails yourself. This can either be done with a pet nail trimmer or a Dremel. You will have to pick your tortoise up and cut or Dremel down the nails to a more regular length. 

You do have to be careful when trimming your tortoise’s nails yourself because if you trim them too short or catch the quick, you can cause your tortoise to bleed. This does not only cause pain but can open your pet up to a potential infection. 

It can also make it harder to trim their nails next time if they associate the nail trimmers with pain. 

You can utilize any of those three methods to trim your tortoise’s nails when it is required. If you do not think a nail trim is needed, it is best to leave them to behave naturally. 

If you have any questions about your tortoise’s nails or general health, consult your veterinarian.


Tortoises are fascinating creatures; their nails are enchanting when they grow, but as responsible owners, we need to make sure they are not impeding in their everyday life. 

Suppose you offer your tortoise an enclosure that is set up to keep their nails flat with rocks and substrate to burrow. There will be two benefits no need to trim their nails and a much happier tortoise. Your tortoise will be much more comfortable with an enclosure that is enriching with climbing objects and places to dig.

Our aim should be to recreate their natural environment and offering them all these things will keep them happy. Also, it will be unlikely you will ever need to cut their nails.

If you ever need to cut your tortoise’s nails and don’t feel confident doing it, seek veterinarian help. A vet will be more than happy to carry out this quick and painless job.