The Guide to Broken Nails in Dogs

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dog nail trimdog nail trim

Frequent nail trimming should be a routine part of your dog’s grooming. By keeping nails short, your dog is less likely to get injured by snagging a nail on fabric or carpeting. Unfortunately sometimes these grooming sessions can lead to nail injuries! 

Even with the most careful and skilled groomers, there may come a day when your furry friend does break a nail while going about daily business. It’s not a major emergency but one that requires first aid or a trip to the vet in some cases. 

In this article we summarise what to expect if your dog has broken a nail, first aid at home and the situations where your dog may need to be seen by a vet. 

Nail injuries can be quite painful for dogs 

The nail itself consists of a hard outer surface that is made up of non-living tissue called keratin. In the center of the nail is a sliver of pink tissue called the quick that is made up of blood vessels and nerves.

 The keratin part of the nail cannot feel pain when it cracks or is cut, but an injury to the quick can be very painful. The quick may bleed for a little bit if the injury is mild, but bleeding can occur for longer than five minutes if the broad base is injured or if your pup has a bleeding disorder. 

nail injury dog

nail injury dog

How do nail injuries happen in dogs? 

Routine nail trim 

Some nail injuries happen during a routine nail trim. This can happen at home or even at your vet’s office or grooming facility, especially if your dog does not want to hold still! 

Playful dogs 

Other nail injuries can occur while running, jumping, or playing. 

Long nails or older dogs 

Nail injuries are more likely to occur if the nails themselves are very long or if the dog is older because seniors are more likely to have dry, brittle nails. 

Prevent nail injuries by trimming 

When attempting to trim your dog’s nails, it helps to have someone assist you. One of you can restrain the dog while the other uses the nail trimmers or Dremel tool. 

The restrainer should support the dog in a mild “hug” around the body while the nail trimming person supports the paw that is being trimmed. You may also keep a blanket or towel on standby to help your dog feel safe. 

trimming dog nails

trimming dog nails

At home first aid for a bleeding nail 

If a nail quick is accidentally cut and starts to bleed, your pup might yelp or cry out. Styptic powder is sold at most pet stores and can be used to help stop the bleeding by taking a pinch of powder and then pushing it into the bleeding quick site. If you don’t have any styptic powder handy, a pinch of flour or cornstarch or baking powder can help to stop the bleeding. 

When to head to the vet for a broken nail 

If the bleeding nail persists for more than five to ten minutes and the powder application doesn’t help, be sure to head to your veterinarian right away. 

You can wrap the paw in some loose bandaging so that your pup doesn’t track blood in the house or in your car. If the broken nail is still attached to the bleeding quick, your vet will need to remove the nail. This is typically easiest if the broken nail is loosely attached, but one that is very snugly attached may require sedation for its removal. 

The healing process for a dog’s broken nail

Some injured nails may heal without any problems. Other injured nails may become infected due to frequent licking because of pain or because the quick is exposed to the elements. Remember that the quick is made up of blood vessels and are attached to bone, so if infection results, your dog may develop a swollen, painful paw or may develop a bone infection which is difficult to treat. 

If your dog has a swollen paw or is constantly licking his injured nail, your vet may prescribe an oral antibiotic and an oral anti-inflammatory medication to help with pain. Some vets may also prescribe a topical antibiotic ointment, and if the nail is bleeding a lot, your vet may wrap the paw and tell you to keep the bandage on for a few days. It also helps to use an Elizabethan collar or e-collar to prevent any licking or chewing.

bandage paw

bandage paw

If bleeding persists see a vet, otherwise treat your pets nail at home and monitor 

Toenail injuries can occur during routine nail trims or in cases where nails are long or brittle. Frequent trimmings and taking certain precautions during trimmings can help prevent injury. If an accidental injury occurs, you may be able to help your pup from home. If the bleeding persists or if signs of an infection result, it is important to get to your vet as soon as you can. 

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