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Vet-Approved Tips for Dealing With a Dog's Broken Nail

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Did your dog break a nail? Here's what you can do about it.

Did your dog break a nail? Here's what you can do about it.

How to Treat Your Dog's Broken Nail

The treatment involves four steps:

  • inspecting the area
  • removing any damaged portions of the nails
  • stopping the bleeding
  • disinfecting the wound

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, it will likely need to be snipped off. 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. Have your vet do this for you to play it safe. Dogs may bite when in pain, and you want to have the area cleaned up to prevent infections. Often, once that portion is removed, your dog feels better.

So your best bet is to 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, consider that 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.

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 styptic powder or styptic pencil such as Kwik Stop in your first aid kit for such emergencies. Make sure you don't succumb to the urge to check 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.

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!

Remember that 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 of a nail bed or toe infection.

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 five 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.

Lots of belly rubs and affection help keep your dog distracted.

Lots of belly rubs and affection help keep your dog distracted.

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 two 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 be 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.

My Story

  • Five days after my dog got injured, things were already getting significantly better.
  • The bleeding stopped after five 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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: My dog's quick is exposed, as his nail was crooked. I took him to the vet and they trimmed the nail down and gave him a cone. That was last Wednesday. I took the cone off Sunday. How long will my dog's nail quick be exposed after removing the cone? His nail is still attached, but I worry it will get infected with it exposed.

Answer: You will need to wait for some time for the nail to grow and cover again that quick. I know that it feels like it takes forever to grow over, but usually, in a couple of weeks, you should see some growth. In the meanwhile, you can ask your vet about using perhaps some plain Neosporin (not the one with added pain control ingredients) to put on to protect it from a potential infection. Preventing your dog from licking the area and keeping the area is clean is also important to prevent infection.

Question: My pitbull has a swollen nail bed and she's in a lot of pain. What can I put on it to lower the swelling and her pain?

Answer: There are chances you are dealing with an infection. A nail bed infection can be quite painful and antibiotics and pain relief are often necessary.These are obtained by prescription by the vet. It's also important to rule out soft tissue tumors of the nail bed which are always concerning.

Question: My mini Schnauzer just had her hangnail removed and is bandaged up. She’s excellent, and isn’t chewing on the bandage, so I took her cone off, so she’s more comfortable.

Normally before bed, we go make “final wee” outside in the garden, but she won’t go? I’ve placed her in all her spots, and she’s just won’t wee. Is this something to worry about?

Answer: Was your dog sedated for the procedure? Dogs who are sedated are often groggy for some time and they may not drink as they normally do to trigger a need to pee.

It can be that your dog is painful (torn nails can be very painful) and therefore walking around in the yard triggers some pain that is interfering with her need to go potty.

On the other hand, it could just be that walking around with a bandage is keeping her focus off her need to potty.

Maybe you can try again a little later, and hopefully by then, her need to potty will supersede the sensation of pain. You may also want to phone the vet if she seems to be in pain or discomfort for some pain medication.

© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli


Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 13, 2020:

Hi Dalal, you should contact your veterinarian before giving any supplements to find out why your dog's bones are thin and hurt him in the first place. If your dog is on a good dog food that is AAFCO approved, he should not be lacking vitamin D. Dogs are built different than humans so it would be wrong giving vitamin D just because it's suggested in humans. Giving a Vitamin D supplement over several months could have negative health effects

Dalal alduwaisan on August 12, 2020:

Hi i would aske you from where do I get vitamin D because my dog's bones is too

thine and it hert him.

HIS name is:chubby

Daniel on August 01, 2020:

Two weeks ago my dog had his nail/qwik cut to the base because of an injury. We just took off the bandage because he started to limp. Nail is still bleeding and has not formed a clot. Is this normal? I put styptic powder on it but it is not keeping dry, looks like mud. I would call my vet but I have completely lost trust with them over how my last experience went. Thanks for any advice.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 25, 2020:

When nails are torn, whether a bit or a whole lot, dogs may need to be put on an appropriate pain medication since it can be very painful. On top of this, another concern is the possibility of infection. Some plain neosprorin can help, but systemic antibiotics prescribed by the vet may be needed when the tear is deep. Also important is to prevent the dog from licking the area, so seeing the vet is important as well to have the area bandaged and the dog fit with an Elizabethan collar.

Alicia on April 14, 2020:

Hi, my 7lb toy poodle’s nail got caught in my daughters bike basket, totally ripped the entire nail off, super clean cut, straight across, but it was the entire nail, so the entire quick is exposed, it barely was bleeding so that was easy to control but I’m so worried about it. Is there a spray or something I should be putting on it. The dog doesent seemed bothered by it, unless you touch it. Any advice would be helpful

Britt. on February 20, 2020:

Hi there I’m worried about my dogs nail. He bites his nail and tonight he start limping and I noticed on is almost hollowed out and the quick( I’m assume) is exposed. I trimmed it, but should I be concerned, It’s not bleeding or swollen but discoloured from him licking and biting.

Celan on February 09, 2020:

In need of emergent help. I dont have money to take my dog lyric to the vet, my Fiancée and I thought we could trim her nails without much hassle. This was not the case. When i went to trim and one of her dew claws she pulled away as I went to cut it. Now the bottom half of her nail is cracked and the kwik is showing. I feel like i could clip the bottom half or pull it to help with her pain. But ive never done this before. Im scared and she is in alot of pain. Please help

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 08, 2020:

Hi Amber, since you saw the vet recently he/she should be better able to respond to this. You can give a quick call and they should answer this simple question since you have a doctor/patient relationship. The vet may call you back directly or he will leave a message to the receptionist who will let you know.

Amber Laha on December 31, 2019:

My dog broke her dew claw and the quick shows. Ive taken her to the vet and is wearing the cone but I was wondering how long should i wait to take her on walks?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 30, 2019:

Felicia, please don't feel dumb! Most of us are not prepared on how to face human injuries, let alone face the ones of our beloved animals which may need a different approach. Only recently it has been spread the fact that hydrogen peroxide is not the best product to reach for, the reason being that its fizz destroys healthy cells and therefore affects wound healing. Betadine solution (diluted with water until color of tea) or just plain Neosporin may be a better option. I don't think a bit of Neosporin with pain reliever should be a major issue, make sure she doesn't lick it and use only the plain type (with no pain reliever-pramoxine hcl) from now on. I hope your dog's nail gets better soon!

Felicia on November 27, 2019:

My dog was running and she has good length nails. Her pinky toes nail on the right paw ripped off. Almost the whole quick is exposed. I don't have money to take her to the Vet right now. Today is the third day. She seems a little better but after reading this I made two mistakes. I've been wrapping it up. Not to tight. But today I poured a little peroxide on it and put Neosporin with the pain reliever. Will it be okay? What else can I go. I just wanted to make sure we weren't trapping anything inside and that was also the only Neosporin I had. I read the VCA page yesterday and didn't see anything about either one until i read your page. I feel so dumb

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 09, 2019:

Astro, if your dog's nail looks fragile there are chances it may get snagged somewhere and that can cause problems. You can keep an eye on it or decide to take your dog to the vet. That's ultimately your call.

Astro on June 24, 2019:

I just noticed that my dogs thumb nail is a little cracked. It doesn’t seem to bother him, and upon inspection there’s no bleeding. The nail just seems a little fragile compared to the others. Don’t know if I should take him to the vet or try treating it at home.

Leslie Bryant on June 08, 2018:

My dog ripped off her toe nail and it's not bleeding any more but it's still red and she's limping on it what can I do

Darlene on February 10, 2018:

Nail split bit not bleeding. Is it OK to nip off the overhsng

Julia Hayes on November 30, 2017:

What if my dogs nail is bent to the side and ripped that way? I'm afraid if I try to cut the quick and I will cause her more pain. Do you have any suggestions?

needlecrest on November 07, 2017:

Don't be fooled by a broken nail!! Mine had one and yes she had longer nails at the time and I just assumed that's what it was(I'm even a medical professional). My vet stated cancer in the toe is very common and a broken or split nail is a first sign. We even bet on it(I just knew he was wrong). He said he had been burned by broken toe nails before which is why he doesn't play around. He did surgery on the toe removing the nail and surrounding tissue. YES, to my surprise squamous cell cancer. It's more common than you think and treatment is removing the digit before it spreads to the body. It just looked like a normal split nail, but when he went in it was between the toe joint. Not that I'm glad my vet was right, I'm glad he pushed the issue and it wasn't given the chance to spread. The extra money I didn't want to spend doing the surgery was worth her life ten fold. Keep an eye on the split nail and don't wait. You'll never forgive yourself now that you're informed.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 06, 2017:

Kat Matues, glad this info on tips for a dog's broken nail helped you out. It's all info from reputable sources.

Kat Mateus on July 24, 2017:

This is the best advice I've found! Thank you so much

Tara on May 20, 2017:

Great article!!!! My dog has a fractured nail and because he was limping I thought it was his leg as I couldn't see anything wrong with his paw! Rushed him to vet after watching him limp around for about an hour and I'm happy I did. Especially because an infection can happen.

I love the advice you give as well! I'm a firm believer in, if it doesn't seem right take them in! Lots of people think I'm crazy but if I have a feeling they should go to the vet (whether I'm right or wrong) they go... I'd rather take them and it be nothing then be rushing them to the ER in the middle of night cause I didn't take them when I should have!

Sharon my Tracey on May 01, 2017:

Very helpful, my dog has long nails but also very long qicks, I took him to the vet to get them trimmed, but when the young girl cut them they all bled so I try to file them and he does not like anyone touching his paws because of what happened. ...right now he still has his nail on but I am keeping an eye on it because this is not the first time, and only one nail ...

Dennis on April 08, 2017:

My dogs nail is cracked. Then bleeding has stopped and she can walk on it fine. Is there any need to go to the vet?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 02, 2017:

The nail should be quickly removed, but it can quite painful (even though just a split second). Most dog owners decide to have the vet do this.

Slim on March 26, 2017:

I need helpbmy poor dog bbroke a back pawn nail how do i fix it nail it just hangin there i feel so bad any advice

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 15, 2017:

Haya, a broken nail does hurt a bit for the first few days, but it's always best to see your vet if your dog seems in pain. I would restrict her activity until it heals.

Haya on January 07, 2017:

My dog broke her nail and she cries and sleep but yesterday she runs and plays with the ball shall i worry?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 23, 2016:

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

Andrea Gelsomina Anderson on October 14, 2016:

why does hydrogen pyroxzide make it worst?

Olly on June 03, 2016:

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

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 19, 2016:

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.

Jon on March 19, 2016:

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.

Preston59 on January 03, 2013:

Thanks for the info.

GiblinGirl from New Jersey on January 01, 2013:

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