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When dogs injure their toenails, it can be excruciating, and there is a high risk of infection.
It is, therefore, imperative that you know how to treat a damaged nail and how you can keep your furry friend safe and free from pain.
Symptoms of a Damaged Nail
There are a few key signs to look out for so you can tell if your dog has a broken nail.
Firstly, when you touch your dog’s paw, they might shy away and not let you touch it.
This suggests that it is sore and that they may have had some sort of nail injury.
They may also favor one paw when walking or appear to have a slight limp.
If this does seem to be the case, you may need to take them to the vet for further examinations.
Causes of Broken Dog’s Nails
Dog’s nails often snag on things, such as on rugs or furniture, which can cause them to break.
Some things increase the risk of this happening, such as:
- The longer your dog’s nail, the more likely they are to snag and break. If your pet leads a non-active, sedentary life, their nails won’t get filed down naturally from walking and running, meaning they will likely grow longer
- If your dog has brittle nails, this will make them weaker and more likely to get damaged
- Broken nails can occur if pet owners cut their pet’s nails too short
- Torn nails usually happen due to snagging on the carpet, woven rugs, floor grates, and deck boards
Dogs have something called dew claws1 on their front paws, which are the most vulnerable nails, and therefore the most likely to break.
When a dog has a broken dew claw, this poses a greater risk of infection due to the connection of the nail to the bone.
Therefore, when a dew nail is completely broken or torn, you should not attempt to cut these yourself and should instead go straight to the vet so they can use the correct treatment.
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How to Treat a Dog’s Broken Nail
There are four main steps in the treatment of a broken toenail.
You should inspect the area, remove any loose portions of the damaged nail, stop the bleeding, and disinfect the area.
At some stage in this process, you might find the issue to be severe and decide a trip to the vet is necessary.
Inspect the Area
Firstly, gently inspect the area, be careful with the paw, and be quick not to cause your dog any pain.
A good idea might be to put a muzzle on your dog or enlist a helper, so your dog is kept distracted and won’t bite you.
Even the friendliest dogs can accidentally do this when they are in pain; it’s nothing personal!
However, before putting a muzzle on, you need to ensure your dog isn’t experiencing any respiratory issues.
If they appear to have labored breathing, are hyperventilating, or look like they might vomit, then you should not put a muzzle on your dog.
When you inspect the area, you might spot a cracked or broken nail, and the area will likely be very red, swollen, and bleeding.
You need to assess whether you should remove any portion of the injured nail or if, instead, you should go straight to stopping the bleeding.
Remove Dangling Portions of Toe Nail
There may be some occasions where your dog’s nail breaks, but it doesn’t rip off.
There may be damaged portions of the nail that are dangling off, and you should carefully remove these.
This is something that is best left for veterinary care because if the nail is long or dangling and you try to remove it, there is the chance you might cut the flesh inside.
The only time you can realistically and safely attempt to remove a dangling nail is if the injury is at the very tip of a long nail or only very loosely attached.
While it is important to remove the nail to allow a fresh nail to grow in its place, removing even small portions of the nail will be very painful for your pooch, especially where the nail is being removed near the nail bed.
This is why the best option is to go to the vet, as they can provide pain medication to give your dog some pain relief.
Stop the Bleeding
You might see a substantial amount of bleeding, but do not panic!
This blood just comes from the blood vessels in dogs’ nails quickly, and it is very easy to stop it.
Go to your first aid kit and find some clean cloth.
Put this on the affected area and apply pressure until the bleeding stops.
Sometimes holding ice on the cut is an excellent way to help stop bleeding.
To help keep your dog calm, a nice idea is to give them lots of tummy massages while you are dealing with their wound.
If you find that the wound won’t stop bleeding, you should get an alum or styptic pencil or a styptic solution like Kwik Stop.
Use this on the affected area and then continue applying pressure.
If the bleeding continues and you are starting to worry, you should go to the vet immediately, as some pets may require cauterization.
Disinfect The Area
To ensure the area is spotless and to help prevent infection, you should then apply some disinfectant ointment to the area.
Then, wrap some bandages around it, securing it with first-aid tape, changing it regularly until the wound heals.
For most dogs, recovery should only take a few days, although a couple of weeks will be needed to allow the nail to regrow fully2.
A vet will often prescribe antibiotics for the first couple of days following treatment to help your dog deal with the pain and to make them as comfortable as possible.
You should try to prevent your dog from walking over any rough, uneven surfaces while they are healing, as this can be very painful for them.
While it is okay for your dog to lick the area, as this is a natural cleaning method, doing this excessively can irritate the area.
In this case, you should consider putting an Elizabethan collar on them.
They may look funny for a little bit, but they will thank you for it when they are all healed up with a shiny new nail growing back!
Still Have Questions?
Ask a Vet!