Pet Care Resources What to Do if Your Dog Breaks or Tears a Nail

Emergency Medicine, Urgent Care

What to Do if Your Dog Breaks or Tears a Nail

A bleeding or broken toenail is a common injury in dogs. Dogs break their nails for a variety of reasons – getting them caught on something like a carpet, landing on their paws in a way that bends or breaks the nail, age (nails can become dry and brittle), and more. It may be a minor injury, or it could be cause for concern with bleeding, pain, and potential for infection. Your pet may need to see your family veterinarian or a veterinary urgent care.    


What Can Happen if My Dog Breaks a Nail?

Dog nails have a collection of blood vessels in them that are called the quick. The quick is a living tissue that is covered by a hard layer, called keratin, that protects it. If a dog’s nail is trimmed too short or becomes cracked or broken, that quick may get exposed and can become painful. The quick is also attached to the bone, so any damage to it can lead to infection. In addition to infection, a broken toenail left untreated can cause blood loss and pain for your pet.   


What Should I Do if My Dog Breaks a Nail?

Safely restrain your dog and then control the bleeding by wrapping the foot in gauze or a towel. If the bleeding does not stop within 10 minutes, apply a cauterizing powder or styptic pencil to the nail (you can use flour or cornstarch also). If there is a loose piece of nail that may snag and cause further damage, gently remove it with sharp trimmers. Once the bleeding has stopped, gently clean the nail with warm water and apply a clean gauze bandage to your pet’s foot. Contact your family veterinarian who may want to see your pet within 12 to 24 hours. Your dog may be given antibiotics to help prevent nail bed infection or pain meds to make them more comfortable.  

If the bleeding does not stop, take your pet immediately to your family veterinarian. If they are unavailable, take your pet to the MedVet location nearest you or veterinary urgent care.   


How Can I Help My Dog Prevent Nail Tears?

Regular maintenance of your dog’s nails can minimize the likelihood of torn nails. The most effective way to help your dog avoid nail tears is to keep their nails trimmed. Short nails are less likely to become broken than long ones. Your family veterinarian can show you the proper way to trim your dog’s nails at home. If you’re not comfortable trimming them yourself, your family veterinarian can do it for you.  

Using the proper tools is essential – always use sharp nail trimmers to avoid shredding the nail which can increase the likelihood of a break. Trim the nail as short as possible while avoiding the quick. Dark nails can be more challenging than white nails where the pinkish quick can be more easily seen.   

By MedVet |
December 3, 2016