What To Do When Your Dog Breaks Their Nail

Posted by Jackie Ly on

Dogs break their nails? Horrible to think of, right? It happens. Your pup is up and running, and you’re happy to see them enjoying their lives–  until you see them whimper in pain and start limping. The culprit? A broken nail. 

Dogs have very sensitive nails. They are connected to their blood vessels and tissues, called the “quick.” The quick is also connected to the bone, so if a nail break causes damage to the quick, it can lead to a bone infection, which is serious.

Dogs aren’t supposed to have long nails as nail breaks can cause pain and discomfort. As a fur parent, you can’t stand seeing them limp, or cry in pain. Here’s a quick run-through of how you can treat your dog’s broken nails.

What causes nail breaks?

There are many causes of nail breaks, but to rule out health conditions that cause nails to weaken, make sure you schedule a checkup with your vet to monitor your dog’s well-being. These are the common causes why your dog’s nails breaks:

  • Injured nail from playing around
  • Nail get caught in carpet or other materials
  • Bad landing from jumping off of an elevated area
  • Cutting too much when trimming their nails
  • Older dogs’ nails tend to dry easily, causing them to break.

What To Do When Your Dog Breaks Their Nail

Assess the damage 

Take a good look at your dog’s paw and look closely at the nail bed. The nail break may be hiding underneath the fur line, where the base of the nail goes into the toe. Once you’ve confirmed that it’s indeed a nail injury, assess what type it is.

  • Broken-off nail: the nail has completely fallen off and is bleeding
  • Loosely attached broken nail: the nail is split or broken but is still loosely attached
  • Firmly attached broken nail: the nail is broken to the quick but is firmly attached

If the nail is firm and broken to the quick: Go to your vet

This type of nail break is treated by a veterinarian. They will administer sedation and cut the damaged part of the nail just above the crack. Sedation is needed because the cut is done through the very thick part of the nail with live blood vessels and nerves, and it’s very painful. 

If the nail is broken off, or loosely dangling: Treat the injury

  • Safely hold back your dog - Your dog is well-trained and disciplined, but if they’re in pain, they could bite. Have someone hold your dog while you treat his injury. A muzzle helps. Preferably, the restrainer can hug your pet to immobilize them while still making them feel safe.
  • Remove the injured part of the nail - If the nail’s cracked but loosely attached, you can try to remove that sliver of nail that’s dangling. Though if the nail is short, it’s almost impossible to trim the nail without cutting the quick– this is where you go to your vet. But if the crack is nowhere near the quick, or if it’s in the tip of a long nail, then you can trim it with a nail trimmer. Make sure to trim it above the break to give a good foundation for regrowth.
  • Control the bleeding - If the nail has completely fallen off, then it’s bleeding aggressively. Apply pressure to the damaged toe while wrapping the foot in gauze or a towel. Apply a styptic pencil, silver nitrate stick, or cauterizing powder to the nail if the bleeding does not stop in 5–10 minutes. 
    • Both the pet store and the first aid department of your local drugstore for humans have these supplies. If you don't have any of these items at home, try covering the nail with flour or baking powder. To stop the bleeding, you can also stick the tip of the nail into a bar of soap.

These are first aid. To avoid infection, going to the vet is still the best option. 

Use bandage and change them regularly

Since the nail bed is attached to the quick, that is attached to the bone, avoiding infection is crucial. Your vet may apply antibiotic ointment or powder to the exposed nail bed and bandage the foot to prevent infection and keep down further bleeding. You can schedule follow-up visits to change the bandage, though you can do it too. Change the bandage regularly and keep the wound clean. Monitor the paw to avoid infection. Some signs are:

  • Swelling of the toe
  • Pus formation or discharge
  • Bleeding with or without pus

Give your dog prescribed meds

Your dog’s quick– live blood vessels and nerves– are exposed, and it’s both painful and uncomfortable for them. Aside from bandaging, follow the medications your vet prescribed to your dog. This lessens the pain they’re feeling.

How to prevent Dog Nails From Breaking

Trim their nails once a month

Keep your dog’s nails trimmed every 3-4 weeks to help minimize the risk of getting caught with objects. Use a good dog nail trimmer that will not hurt your dog. You can start this routine as early as when they’re still a puppy– you can trim the nails of a newborn puppy a week after they’re in your care.

This helps them get used to the routine and more comfortable doing it regularly.

Take long walks on concrete surfaces

Frequent walks on hard surfaces naturally wears out your dog’s nails, though it won’t work if the nails are very long already. Trim their nails first, then take them for walks. 

Also, prevent them from digging or provide a safe area they can dig to protect their nails.

Maintain a healthy diet for them

Unhealthy food intake is another major reason why your dogs’ nails break. When they’re not getting the nutrients they need, it affects their health, as well as their teeth, bones, and nails. Make sure you feed your dog high-quality dog food and to include essential fatty acids and oils. The prevention of split nails will be greatly improved by doing this.

Regular checkups

The best thing you can do to prevent your dog's nails from splitting is to maintain proper grooming and schedule routine checkups with your veterinarian.

Taking care of your dog’s nails is just as important as taking care of other parts of their body, if not more. Remember to trim their nails regularly, and watch over them while they’re playing. During the holidays and you start to invite guests over, you don’t want them sulking in a corner with an injured nail– you want a fun time with your furry friend and human friends. 

Dog Gear offers grooming products to keep your dog clean, and training equipment to help you manage your dog’s energy while they play, keeping them and their nails safe.

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