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What To Do If Your Dog Breaks a Nail



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Breaking a nail can be a painful and distressing experience for your furry friend.

It’s a common occurrence, but one that requires careful attention and prompt action to prevent further damage or infection.

In this guide, we will walk you through the steps you need to take if your dog breaks a nail.

Key Takeaway

StepWhat To Do If Your Dog Breaks a Nail
Assess the Severity of the InjuryDetermine how serious the break is. If it’s a minor crack with no bleeding, you might handle it at home. However, if the nail is hanging off or bleeding heavily, seek immediate veterinary care.
Calm Your Dog DownSoothe your pet before starting any treatment to prevent further injury. Use a soft, calm voice, and try to keep your dog still.
Stop the BleedingUse styptic powder or a similar product to stop the bleeding. If these aren’t available, cornstarch or a clean cloth can be used to apply pressure to the wound.
Clean the AreaClean the affected area with warm water and mild soap to remove dirt or debris. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol as these can cause additional pain.
Bandage the PawBandage the paw to protect the wound from bacteria and stop your dog from licking or chewing at it. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly.
Monitor for Signs of InfectionWatch out for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, pus, or increased pain over the next few days. Contact your vet immediately if you observe any of these symptoms.
Seek Veterinary CareEven with successful initial home treatment, it’s prudent to have your dog examined by a vet to ensure proper healing and get antibiotics if necessary.

What Are Broken Nails in Dogs?

What To Do If Your Dog Breaks a Nail

Broken nails in dogs are a common injury that typically occurs due to accidental trauma. This can happen when your dog snags their toenail on a rug, a heating vent, or during their outdoor activities.

It’s usually a painful experience for the dog and needs immediate attention.

A broken nail can present in various ways – it could be misshapen, deformed, or increased in brittleness.

You might also notice discharge or crustiness around the base of the nail, redness, swelling, or even an ingrown toenail.

In some cases, the nail break is minor and only causes slight discomfort for your pet. However, in more severe cases, it can lead to significant bleeding and intense pain.

What To Do If Your Dog Breaks a Nail

Dealing with a broken nail in your dog can be a stressful experience, but knowing the right steps to take can make a significant difference in your pet’s recovery. Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide on how to handle this situation.

Step 1: Assess the Severity of the Injury

The first step is to determine how serious the break is. If the nail is merely chipped or cracked with no bleeding, it might be something you can handle at home. However, if the nail is hanging off, bleeding profusely, or if your dog appears to be in severe pain, it’s best to seek immediate veterinary attention.

Step 2: Calm Your Dog Down

A broken nail can be quite painful and scary for your dog. Before you proceed with any form of treatment, it’s essential to calm your pet down. Speak in a soft, soothing voice, and try to keep your dog still to prevent further injury.

Step 3: Stop the Bleeding

If the broken nail is bleeding, your immediate goal should be to stop the bleeding. Apply styptic powder or a styptic pencil to the nail, which helps coagulate the blood. If you don’t have these on hand, you can use cornstarch or a clean cloth to apply pressure to the wound.

Step 4: Clean the Area

Once the bleeding has stopped, gently clean the area with warm water and mild soap to remove any dirt or debris. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, as these can cause additional pain.

Step 5: Bandage the Paw

After cleaning, bandage the paw to protect the wound from bacteria and prevent your dog from licking or chewing at it. Make sure not to wrap the bandage too tightly, as this could cut off circulation.

Step 6: Monitor for Signs of Infection

Over the next few days, keep a close eye on the affected paw for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, pus, or increased pain. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.

Step 7: Seek Veterinary Care

Even if you’re able to manage the initial treatment at home, it’s always a good idea to have your dog examined by a vet after a nail break. The vet can ensure that the nail is healing correctly and prescribe antibiotics if necessary.

Remember, while minor breaks can often be handled at home, more severe injuries require professional veterinary care. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to your pet’s health and well-being.

Why Are Dog’s Broken Nails A Problem?

Broken nails in dogs can cause significant problems, including intense pain, uncontrolled bleeding, potential infection, and behavioral changes, all of which necessitate prompt and appropriate treatment to ensure the dog’s well-being.

A dog’s broken nails can be a significant problem due to several reasons. Firstly, they can cause intense pain and discomfort for your pet. The nail bed is a sensitive area that contains nerve endings and blood vessels, so a break or tear can lead to immediate pain.

Secondly, broken nails can lead to uncontrolled bleeding if the quick (vein that runs into the nail) is exposed or damaged. This can be particularly distressing for both the dog and the owner.

Additionally, if left untreated, broken nails can become infected. An open wound can allow bacteria to enter and cause an infection, leading to further complications such as abscesses or spreading of the infection into the bone.

Lastly, a broken nail can affect a dog’s movement and behavior. They may limp, refuse to walk, or constantly lick or chew at the affected paw due to discomfort. This can disrupt their normal routine and quality of life.

Therefore, it’s essential to address a broken nail promptly and appropriately to prevent these potential issues and ensure your dog’s well-being.

What Are the Symptoms of Broken or Split Dog Nails?

There are certain signs and symptoms you can look out for to identify this issue early and seek appropriate treatment. Here’s what to watch out for.

Limping or Favoring One Leg

One of the most noticeable signs is if your dog starts limping or favoring one leg over the others. They may avoid putting weight on the affected paw to minimize pain.

Excessive Licking or Biting at a Paw

Dogs often lick or bite at an area that’s causing them discomfort. If you notice your dog excessively licking or biting at a paw, it could indicate a broken nail.

Visible Deformity or Blood

A visibly deformed or twisted nail, or dried or fresh blood on the paw, are clear signs of a broken nail. In some cases, the broken nail might still be attached to the paw.

Swelling or Redness Around the Nail

Swelling or redness around the nail bed can also indicate a broken or split nail. This could be accompanied by warmth or tenderness to touch.

Behavioral Changes

Your dog may display behavioral changes like restlessness, loss of appetite, or aggression due to the pain and discomfort caused by a broken nail.

If you observe any of these symptoms, it’s important to act quickly to alleviate your pet’s discomfort and prevent further complications. Always consult with a vet if you’re unsure about the severity of the situation or how to handle it.

What Causes My Dog’s Toenails to Break?

Several factors, ranging from their lifestyle to underlying health conditions, can contribute to broken nails. Here’s a closer look at some of the common causes.

Rough Play or Accidents

Dogs that are active and play hard are prone to broken nails, especially if they run on rough surfaces or dig in the ground. Additionally, accidents like getting their nail caught in a carpet or door can also lead to breaks.

Long Nails

Long nails are more likely to snag and break. Regular trimming can help maintain healthy nail length and prevent breakage.

Poor Nutrition

A diet lacking essential nutrients can result in brittle nails that easily break. Make sure your dog’s diet includes the necessary vitamins and minerals for strong nails.

Breed Predisposition

Some breeds, like Dachshunds and Greyhounds, are genetically predisposed to nail disorders that can cause frequent breaks.

Underlying Health Conditions

Chronic nail breaking can be a sign of underlying health issues like fungal infections, autoimmune diseases, or hormonal imbalances. If your dog frequently suffers from broken nails, it’s best to consult with a vet.

Remember, while you can’t prevent all broken nails, understanding these causes can help you minimize the risk and keep your furry friend comfortable and healthy.

How Do You Fix a Broken Nail on a Dog?

Knowing the right steps to follow can help ensure your pet gets the proper care and recovers swiftly.

Assess the Situation

First, try to understand how severe the break is. If the nail is hanging off or bleeding profusely, it’s best to seek immediate veterinary care. If the break seems minor with no bleeding, you might be able to handle it at home.

Calm Your Dog

Your dog will likely be stressed and in pain. Start by calming them down. Speak to them in a soothing voice and offer treats if possible. This will make the subsequent steps easier for both of you.

Control the Bleeding

If the nail is bleeding, apply a styptic powder or pencil, which helps coagulate the blood and stop the bleeding. If you don’t have one, you can use cornstarch or flour as an alternative.

Clean and Bandage the Paw

Once the bleeding stops, clean the area with warm water and mild soap. Then, apply a pet-safe antiseptic and bandage the paw to protect it from dirt and bacteria.

Monitor the Area

Keep an eye on the bandaged paw for any signs of infection, like swelling, redness, or discharge. Change the bandage daily and keep the area clean.

Seek Veterinary Care

If at any point you feel uncomfortable handling the situation, or if there’s persistent bleeding or signs of infection, take your dog to the vet immediately. In some cases, the broken nail might need to be removed under anesthesia. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your pet’s health.


Q: How can I prevent my dog’s nails from breaking?

A: Regular nail trimming is essential to prevent your dog’s nails from becoming too long and prone to breaking. It is also important to avoid activities that could cause excessive trauma to the nails, such as running on rough surfaces or jumping from heights.

Q: What can I do to stop the bleeding if my dog breaks a nail?

A: If your dog’s nail is bleeding, you can try to stop the bleeding by applying gentle pressure to the injured area with a clean cloth or tissue. You can also use styptic powder, which helps in clotting the blood. However, if the bleeding doesn’t stop or if you are unsure of what to do, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian.

Q: Should I take my dog to the vet if their nail is broken?

A: If your dog’s nail is broken to the extent that it is causing severe pain or significant bleeding, or the nail is completely torn off, it is best to take your dog to the vet for proper evaluation and treatment. A veterinarian will be able to assess the extent of the injury and provide appropriate care.

Q: How can I provide first aid for my dog’s broken nail?

A: If your dog’s nail is broken, you can start by gently cleaning the injured area and applying an antiseptic solution to prevent infection. You can then apply a bandage or wrap the paw with a clean cloth to keep the area protected. However, it is important to remember that these measures are only temporary and it is crucial to seek veterinary care for proper treatment.

Q: Is it normal for my dog to limp if they have a broken nail?

A: Yes, it is common for dogs to limp if they have a broken nail. The pain and discomfort caused by the injury often result in limping or favoring the affected paw. It is a natural response to protect the injured area. Seeking veterinary care is important to address the underlying issue and provide appropriate pain management.

Q: How can I prevent my dog from licking their injured nail?

A: To prevent your dog from licking their injured nail, you can try using an Elizabethan collar (also known as a cone) to prevent access to the affected area. You can also distract your dog with toys or treats to redirect their attention. If the licking persists or the injury worsens, it is best to consult a veterinarian for further guidance.

Q: What is the “quick” in a dog’s nail and why is it important?

A: The “quick” in a dog’s nail refers to the sensitive part of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves. It is important to avoid cutting into the quick while trimming a dog’s nails as it can cause pain, bleeding, and discomfort. Accidentally cutting into the quick can also make your dog apprehensive during future nail trims.

Q: How can a veterinarian help if my dog has a broken nail?

A: A veterinarian can help by properly assessing the extent of the nail injury and providing appropriate treatment. They can trim the broken nail, clean the wound, and apply necessary bandages or dressings. Depending on the severity of the injury, a veterinarian may also prescribe pain medication or antibiotics to prevent infection.

Q: What should I do if my dog’s nail is still bleeding after applying first aid?

A: If your dog’s nail continues to bleed even after applying first aid measures, it is essential to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Bleeding that doesn’t stop or is excessive may indicate a more severe injury that needs immediate attention from a professional.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, dealing with a broken dog nail can be an intimidating situation, but with the right knowledge and preparation, it’s something you can handle.

Remember to stay calm, act promptly, and ensure your pet’s comfort throughout the process.

It’s also crucial to seek professional veterinary assistance when necessary, as they have the expertise to properly treat such injuries.

By following these guidelines, you can help your furry friend recover quickly from a broken nail and prevent potential complications.

Always remember, your dog relies on you for their well-being, so staying informed about such emergencies is part of being a responsible pet owner.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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