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Vet-Approved Tips for Dealing with a Dog Broken Nail

Broken nails can bleed profusely
Broken nails can bleed profusely | Source

The Importance of Pet First Aid

Before discussing how to treat a dog's broken nail, I want to emphasize how helpful it would be if pet owners would enroll in a pet first aid class. As a former vet assistant and now as a dog trainer/behavior consultant and pet sitter, I find it helpful to attend pet first aid classes and get certified just in case of an emergency. I don't recommend this for professionals only, but pet owners as well. The examples of how this can turn helpful are many, as you never know what life may throw at you. Most first aid programs require you to re-certify after 2 years, because the pet care field is always advancing and improving. The way you do doggie CPR today, may change tomorrow. Among the many things taught in my pet first aid courses and other courses taken, was a section on how to deal with broken nails. I will share with you some tips from the vets on what to do in such a case.

Causes and Symptoms of Broken Nails in Dogs

Scruffy's toenails may look quite tough, but they are prone to snagging, tearing, fracturing and breaking apart. The reasons for these problems are several, let's take a look at some. A common cliche' is the dog whose nail ends up cut too short by the owner and bleeds or is getting snagged on the carpet, woven rug, boards of the deck or floor grate while the dog is running. Often, the length of the nail may play a role. Long nails are more likely to get snagged and break than neatly trimmed nails. Normally, dogs wear down as dogs walk on hard surfaces and exercise. Dogs leading a sedentary life and walking on carpets all day may develop long nails. Some dogs are also more predisposed than others to develop brittle nails. The most common nails involved in this type of injuries are those found in the front paws and the dewclaws.

Symptoms of Broken Nails

You'll likely know when your dog's toenail is injured; this type of injury is quite painful. Your pup may yelp, limp and consistently lick at the wound. If a part of the nail is hanging, your dog may chew it off. Of course, you will notice extensive bleeding. The stains may be over the carpet or on the tile floors. The quick (the pink flesh part normally covered by the nail) will be often exposed and bleeding. Often the pain persists, until the damaged nail is removed. Because injured nails are painful, bleed and are prone to infection, you must intervene and provide first aid. If you see lots of blood, don't panic; this blood comes from blood vessels and can be stopped quite easily unlike life threatening bleeding from an artery. Yet, if the bleeding doesn't stop seek your vet immediately, as some dogs may be prone to clotting abnormalities (think dobies withVon Willebrand's disease) and may require cauterization. Please be careful on handling your dog's paw as your dog may be in great pain and bite. I highly recommend a muzzle for safety sake.

Vet Tips on How to Deal with Dog Broken Nail

How to Treat Your Dog's Broken Nail

The treatment of broken dog nails takes 4 distinct steps: inspecting the area, removing any damaged portions of the nails, stopping the bleeding and disinfecting. Afterward,or even before, depending on the case, it's best to see the vet just to be on the safe side. Let's take a look at each step and see what the vets recommend..

1) Inspecting the Area

After muzzling your dog, inspect the area carefully. It will obviously be red, bleeding and even swollen. Try to look at the paw without handling the quick area directly and unnecessarily. Your assessment should determine if you need to remove any portions of the nail or if you can skip this step and directly stop the bleeding. If the nail is split in two and one end is hanging, you will obviously need to remove that hanging portion.

2) Removing a Portion of the Nail

This is where it gets tricky. If a nail is split in half and is hanging you'll need to snip it off with your nail clippers. This must be done to allow the toenail to heal and the new nail to grow. Note: this will hurt, but it should be just a split second as you remove it quickly. Often. once that portion is removed, your dog feels better. If your dog appears to be in excessive pain or you feel squeamish about the whole thing, cover the area with a bandage and go directly to the vet so your poor dog can get some relief through local anesthesia or tranquilizers. Also, see your vet if the hanging area is not easy to pull. The last bone of the toe is close to the beginning of the nail and if you don't know you're doing you can end up hurting your dog recommend Pet Place veterinarians. Your vet can trim the portion of protruding/hanging nail safely so your dog's nail gets to heal cleanly. This is the preferred approach.

3) Stopping the Bleeding

At this point, the next step is to stop the bleeding. Ideally, you should keep a styptic pencil such as Kwik Stop in your first aid kit for such emergencies. If not, don't despair, there's a simple remedy and most likely it's in your house. Corn starch and flour packed (or soap bar as noted in the video by Michigan Veterinary Specialist Charitable-see video below ) firmly in the area using a paper towel will do the job. Just make sure you don't fall into the trap of wanting to repeatedly see if the bleeding has stopped. This may cause the bleeding to start again. Just keep the pressure for 5 to 10 minutes as recommended by veterinarian John A. Bukowski. To keep your dog distracted for the first few minutes afterwards and prevent him from licking the area, you can keep your dog on his tummy and give some tummy doggie massages or let him lick a wood spoon with peanut butter on it..

4) Disinfecting the Area

The bleeding should have done a good job in cleaning the wound but you want to add a few extra precautions just in case. Warm water will help remove debris from the wound according to veterinarian Janet Tobiassen Crosby. Don't use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect the wound as this tends to make things worse. Plain neosporin or dilute betadine solution are a better choice. You can then bandage the area following the Expert Village's veterinarian advice as shown in the video below, make sure not to make it too tight!.

Now, it's time to see the vet. Your vet may bandage the area nicely and prescribe antibiotics and/or pain killers depending on the extent of the wound. This will help prevent the chances for a nail bed and toe infection. As your dog recovers, try to avoid walking him on rocks, sand, snow or mud for about two weeks. *Note: because dogs tend to lick and chew the area over and over an elizabethan collar may turn helpful.

Generally, dogs start feeling better within 48 hours. Total recovery takes some time, as the nail needs to re-grow so to completely cover the vulnerable quick. Generally, this takes 2 weeks according to Dr. Fiona. My dog's nail accident happened 5 days ago, and she's already recovering greatly. I did the first aid part and then my vet took a look at it. He complimented me for doing the right things and then bandaged the area with vet wrap. He then said if more and more people attended first aid classes there would be less chances for complications and is thinking about holding some in his clinic. What a wonderful idea!

Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog's nail is broken please see your vet. By reading this article you accept this disclaimer.

Alexadry © All rights reserved, do not copy.


On Broken Toenails by Michigan Veterinary Specialist Charitable Foundation,

The nail packed with flour

Bleeding stopped after 5 minutes with constant pressure.
Bleeding stopped after 5 minutes with constant pressure.

Lots of belly rubs and affection to keep distracted

Feeling squeamish about it? Vet tips on how to bandage for a trip to the vet..

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Comments 7 comments

GiblinGirl profile image

GiblinGirl 3 years ago from New Jersey

I never though about doggie first aid but it definitely makes sense to know. Thanks for sharing these tips.


Preston59 3 years ago

Thanks for the info.


Jon 8 months ago

My dog broke her nail and I've cleaned it and wrapped it up but the vet isn't open until Monday, what else can I do. She's a German shepard pup and I want to make sure I'm giving her the best care that I can under these circumstances.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 8 months ago from USA Author

If the bleeding has stopped, you would need to make sure your dog doesn't lick/chew the area. You may need to have her wear an Elizabethan collar for the night when you cannot watch her. Limit walking over hard surfaces such as rocks/gravel. Usually, improvement is seen in about 48 hours.


Olly 6 months ago

Hi my name is Olly and I'm 14 years old. I'm round my fathers house and having a late night because it's his birthday, anyway he is asleep now but I can't and ive noticed that my dog Lilly's nail has a whole half off and I can see the bone I will do anything but when I get near her she yelps any idea what to do shall I wake my dad or wait till morning


Andrea Gelsomina Anderson 7 weeks ago

why does hydrogen pyroxzide make it worst?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 5 weeks ago from USA Author

Hydrogen peroxide kills healthy cells which are needed to help with healing.

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