Can You Fix A Dog’S Broken Nail?

Broken nails are a common injury for dogs that can range from a minor crack to a painful tear that exposes the quick. While broken nails sometimes happen by accident during play or exercise, they can also result from trauma, getting caught on something, or overly long nails. Addressing a broken nail quickly is important to stop bleeding, prevent infection, and manage pain. Leaving a broken nail untreated could lead to continued damage of the nail bed,Cause pain, inflammation, and infection. This article provides an overview of broken dog nails, from signs and causes to first aid, treatment, aftercare, prevention, and when professional veterinary attention is required.

Signs of a Broken Nail

There are some clear visual and behavioral indicators that your dog may have a broken nail. According to PetMD, visual signs include a nail that is cracked open or split without any bleeding if the quick is intact. However, if the quick is exposed, there may be bleeding and noticeable redness in the nail bed. The nail may also appear shortened, distorted, or crooked if it is partially cracked or torn.

Behavioral signs your dog has a broken nail include limping, reluctance to walk, licking excessively at the paw, whining when the paw is touched, appetite loss from pain, and general signs of discomfort like restlessness. If the nail is cracked but the quick is not exposed, these behavioral changes may be more subtle. But if the nail is fully split and bleeding, your dog will likely show clearer signs of pain and distress requiring immediate first aid.

Causes of Broken Nails

There are several potential causes of broken nails in dogs:

Overly long nails are a major cause. When nails grow too long, they become brittle and prone to cracking and breaking, especially during activity. Regular nail trims can help prevent breakage.

Trauma from activity can also lead to broken nails. Actions like running, jumping, and digging can cause nails to catch on surfaces and split or tear. This is most common in active, high-energy dogs.

Certain health conditions are associated with weakened nails that are prone to breaking. These include bacterial or fungal infections of the nail bed, allergies, endocrine disorders like Cushing’s disease, and nutritional deficiencies affecting nail strength.

According to Dog Split Nail: First Aid and 9 Causes, “The majority of the time, dog nails break because they aren’t being trimmed regularly. Long nails are much more prone to splitting and cracking than nails kept at the proper length.”

Per WebMD, “Many conditions can cause bacterial infections in your dog’s nail beds, including environmental allergies and food sensitivities.” Proper treatment of any underlying condition is important.

First Aid for a Broken Nail

If your dog’s nail is broken and bleeding, the first step is to stop the bleeding. Apply direct pressure to the nail with a clean cloth, cotton ball, or piece of sterile gauze. Hold gentle but firm pressure for 5-10 minutes until bleeding stops. You can also use a styptic powder or pencil to help constrict the blood vessels and promote clotting if available (VCA Animal Hospitals).

After the bleeding is under control, you can wrap and bandage the paw and foot. Use a self-adherent stretchy bandage to gently wrap the foot, being careful not to make it too tight. Leave the bandage on for 24 hours before removing. Keep the foot protected and clean until you can see the veterinarian (PetMD).

To manage pain, over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given based on your dog’s weight. Consult with your veterinarian on proper dosage. You can also apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the paw for 10-15 minutes at a time to reduce inflammation.

When to See the Vet

Some cases of broken nails in dogs require veterinary attention. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, you should take your dog to the vet if the nail is severely broken, continues to bleed, or shows signs of infection.

Severe breaks where the nail is partially or fully torn off should be evaluated by a vet. The vet can properly trim and smooth the nail to prevent further tearing or catching on objects. They may apply medication to prevent infection.

Persistent bleeding that cannot be controlled through 10-15 minutes of direct pressure indicates a damaged quick. The vet can cauterize the wound and provide other treatment to stop bleeding and prevent blood loss.

Signs of infection include redness, swelling, discharge, foul odor, and extreme pain around the nail. The vet can prescribe oral or topical antibiotics to treat infection before it spreads. In severe cases, the nail may need to be surgically removed to prevent systemic infection.

While not all broken nails require emergency vet care, it’s important to monitor the nail and visit the vet if severe damage, ongoing bleeding, or infection develops. Proper treatment can prevent complications and discomfort in pets with damaged nails.

Vet Treatment Options

If the nail is partially broken but still attached, the vet will likely trim the damaged part of the nail. Using clippers designed for trimming dog nails, the vet will carefully remove any cracked or splintered sections of nail, creating a clean edge. This helps prevent further cracking or catching on things that could worsen the break. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, “Your veterinarian may apply antibiotic ointment or powder to the exposed nail bed and bandage the foot to prevent contamination and to minimize further bleeding.”

For nails that have broken off completely, leaving an exposed nail bed, the vet may apply a splint for protection and stability while the nail regrows. Splinting prevents the sensitive nail bed from getting bumped or infected. Splints usually need to stay on for 1-2 weeks until some nail growth occurs and the nail bed toughens up again.

In severe cases where the nail has ripped off entirely or the break extends into the nail bed, surgery may be required. Surgical repair of deep nail bed lacerations involves anesthesia, cleaning the wound, and suturing the nail bed. This helps ensure proper regrowth of the nail. Antibiotics will likely be prescribed to prevent infection. Strict rest is required following surgery to allow proper healing. According to PetMD, “Your veterinarian will likely sedate your dog, remove any broken portion of nail, clean the area thoroughly (many dogs can tolerate this without sedation), and close the wound with sutures.”

At-Home Care

If your dog’s nail break occurs at home, there are some initial steps you can take to care for it before seeing a vet. Keeping the area clean and allowing rest are important.[1]

Gently wash the foot with a mild antiseptic solution or warm water and pet-friendly soap. Be sure to thoroughly but gently clean the area around the broken nail. Pat dry with a clean towel or cotton ball. This helps prevent infection from setting in.

Allow your dog adequate rest and limit their activity. Restrict them from running, jumping, or playing to avoid further injury and give the nail time to start healing. You may need to confine them to a crate or small room when you can’t directly supervise.

Modify your dog’s normal routines to limit pressure on the injured foot. For example, use a harness instead of a collar for walks. Carry small dogs up and down stairs. These measures help protect the tender nail area.

Check the bandage regularly and change it if it gets dirty or wet. This will keep the area clean while it begins healing. Monitor for signs of infection like redness, swelling or discharge.

Preventing Broken Nails

Regular nail trimming and maintenance is one of the best ways to prevent broken nails in dogs. Keeping your dog’s nails at a proper length reduces the chance of nails splitting or breaking. It’s recommended to trim your dog’s nails every 1-2 weeks for short haired dogs and every 3-4 weeks for long haired dogs. Use high quality nail trimmers designed specifically for dogs to avoid splintering or cracking the nail.

Providing appropriate scratching surfaces can also help wear down nails naturally between trimmings. Vertical scratching posts, cardboard scratchers, or textured scratch mats engage your dog’s natural scratching instinct. Direct your dog to these designated scratching areas whenever you notice them scratching furniture or carpets. This reduces wear and tear on the nails.

You can also help prevent broken nails by avoiding trauma to the paws and nails. Try to minimize activities that put a lot of pressure on the nails, like jumping on and off furniture. Use ramps or pet stairs to reduce impact on the nails from high surfaces. Protect their paws from sharp objects outdoors that could catch or tear the nails. Keeping the nails short and avoiding trauma will go a long way in preventing painful broken nails.

Long-Term Outlook

The long-term outlook for a dog with a broken nail is generally very good. With proper care and treatment, most broken nails will heal completely within 1-2 weeks ( During this recovery time, the broken nail may be sensitive and cause some discomfort when walking or running. However, this discomfort is usually manageable with rest, restricted activity, and medication if prescribed.

Once the nail has fully regrown and covered the exposed quick, there should be minimal long-term impact on the dog’s quality of life. Provided the new nail grows in normally without infection, the dog can resume all regular activities. To prevent future broken nails, it is recommended to maintain healthy nail length through regular trimming ( Overall, dogs recover well from broken nails, and most do not experience any lingering effects if proper treatment is administered.

When to Be Concerned

In most cases, a broken nail will heal on its own with proper at-home care. However, there are certain situations where you may need to follow up with your veterinarian:

Persistent Issues: If your dog continues to exhibit signs of pain, inflammation, or infection beyond the initial healing period, contact your vet. Recurring breaks in the same nail could indicate an underlying issue that needs medical attention.

Recurring breaks: Frequent broken nails may be a sign that your dog’s nails are too long or brittle and prone to cracking. Your vet can recommend nail trimming techniques and supplements to strengthen nails.

Abnormal healing: If the nail does not re-grow properly or heal well after 4-6 weeks, take your dog to the vet to assess for potential complications or improper healing.

According to PetMD, other reasons to see a vet for a broken nail include: the nail being partially ripped off, severe bleeding, or if the fracture exposes the quick. Leaving these injuries unattended can lead to infection, permanent damage, and considerable pain.

Scroll to Top