Vet-Approved Tips for Dealing With a Dog's Broken Nail
The following recommendations are not in any way a substitute for proper veterinary care.
How to Treat Your Dog's Broken Nail
The treatment involves four distinct steps: inspecting the area, removing any damaged portions of the nails, stopping the bleeding, and disinfecting. After you have performed these steps (or even before, depending on the case), it's best to see the vet just to be on the safe side. Because injured nails are painful, bloody, and prone to infection, you must intervene and provide first aid. This is what the vets recommend:
1. Inspect 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 stop the bleeding. If the nail is split in two and one end is hanging, you will obviously need to remove that hanging portion.
Important Note: Dogs are often reactive to pain. Even the most serene and loving dogs can react and potentially bite an owner when stressed. Before applying a muzzle, make sure your dog is not in any kind of respiratory distress. In the event of labored breathing, hyperventilation, hypoventilation, changes in gum color, indications of vomiting, gagging, or hacking, a muzzle should not be applied as this could lead to aspiration or asphyxiation.
2. Remove 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. Often, the pain persists until the damaged nail is removed, and this must be done to allow the toenail to heal and the new nail to grow. Note: this will hurt your dog, but it should only take a split second to remove it. 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 what you're doing, you can end up hurting your dog. 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.
Note: Use caution when removing the nail. Familiarize yourself with the anatomy of the nail before clipping as you could worsen the injury.
3. Stop the Bleeding
If you see lots of blood, don't panic; this blood comes from blood vessels and can be stopped quite easily (unlike the life-threatening bleeding of an artery). The next step is to stop the bleeding, but if it won't stop, go to your vet immediately, as some dogs may be prone to clotting abnormalities (think dobies with Von Willebrand's disease) and may require cauterization.
Ideally, you should keep a or styptic pencil such as Kwik Stop in your first aid kit for such emergencies. Make sure you don't succumb to the urge of checking repeatedly to see if the bleeding has stopped, as 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 and prevent him from licking the area, you can keep him on his tummy and give some tummy massages or let him lick a wood spoon with peanut butter on it. styptic powder
4. Disinfect the Area
The bleeding should have done a good job in cleaning the wound, but you want to take a few extra precautionary measures just in case. Warm water will help remove debris from the wound, according to veterinarian Janet Tobiassen Crosby. Don't use hydrogen peroxide, as this tends to make things worse. Plain neosporin or a diluted betadine solution are better choices. You can then bandage the area (follow the Expert Village's veterinarian advice as shown in the video below) and make sure not to make it too tight!
Disclaimer: Only a licensed veterinary professional should apply a permanent bandage to an animal. In the event of administering first aid in transit to the veterinary clinic, make sure any application is not occluding blood flow to the area. Applied pressure works wonders for stopping quicked nail beds.
5. 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 or toe infection.
Take care handling your dog's paw as he may be in great pain and bite. I highly recommend a muzzle, for safety's sake.
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 are several, let's take a look at some.
- Often, the length of the nail plays a role. Long nails are more likely to get snagged and break than neatly trimmed ones.
- On the other hand, often, a dog's nail gets cut too short by the owner.
- A nail might get snagged on the carpet, woven rug, deck boards, or a floor grate while the dog is running.
- The most vulnerable nails are those on the front paws and the dewclaws.
- Normally, dogs' nails wear down as they walk on hard surfaces and exercise. The nails of a pet leading a sedentary life and walking on carpets all day may grow quite long.
- Some dogs are more predisposed to developing brittle nails than others.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dog's Toe Nail Injuries
How do I get the blood to stop?
Apply pressure for 5 minutes, then wrap with gauze. Styptic powder helps.
What is the styptic powder for?
It helps stop the bleeding. It's a great thing to have in your first aid kit.
What if I cut my dog's nail too short?
This happens all the time. Follow the same steps described above.
Symptoms of Broken Nails
You'll likely know when your dog's toenail is broken, as 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.
- 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.
Recovery Tips: How to Help Your Dog Heal
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.
- As your dog recovers, try to avoid walking him on rocks, sand, snow, or mud for about two weeks.
- Because dogs tend to lick and chew the area over and over, an Elizabethan collar may be helpful.
The Importance of Pet First Aid
I want to emphasize how helpful it would be if all 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 two years because the pet care field is always advancing and improving. The way you do doggie CPR today, may change tomorrow.
How to Trim Your Dog's Nails Without Making Her Bleed
My dog's nail accident happened 5 days ago, and she's already recovering greatly. The bleeding stopped after 5 minutes packed in flour, with constant pressure. 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 people attended first aid classes, there would be less chances for complications. He 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.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Adrienne Janet Farricelli