Is My Dog’S Broken Nail Infected?

Signs of an infected broken nail

A broken nail that becomes infected will show certain signs. The most common signs of infection include:

  • Redness and swelling around the nail and toe – This indicates inflammation and infection.
  • Yellow or green discharge coming from the nail – This is pus which forms due to infection.
  • Foul odor coming from the nail – Bacteria growth causes a bad smell.
  • Tenderness and pain around the toe and nail – Infection causes sensitivity and pain.
  • Loss of the nail – The nail may start to detach as the infection progresses.
  • Excessive licking and chewing of the paw and nail – Your dog trying to soothe discomfort.

According to PetMD, these signs mean bacteria has entered the nail bed and surrounding tissue, causing an infection. Immediate veterinary care is required to treat the infection before it spreads further. Left untreated, the infection can enter the bloodstream and become life-threatening.

Causes of broken nails in dogs

There are several potential causes of broken nails in dogs:

Trauma – Dogs can break their nails by getting them caught on surfaces while running or playing. Accidentally catching the nail on furniture, carpeting, or cracked pavement can cause the nail to tear or split.

Chewing/licking – Some dogs compulsively chew or lick their paws, which can weaken nails over time and lead to fractures. Anxiety, allergies, skin infections or joint pain can trigger obsessive licking and chewing.

Overgrown nails – Allowing a dog’s nails to grow too long increases the risk of breaks. The extra length causes more leverage pressure on the nail.

Nail disorders – Certain disorders like onychodystrophy, onychomycosis or onychogryphosis lead to brittle, thickened or discolored nails more prone to cracking and splitting. These are often signs of an underlying illness.

How to check for infection

Here are the main signs to look out for when checking if your dog’s broken nail is infected:

  • Redness around the nail or toe – This could indicate inflammation or infection setting in.
  • Swelling of the toe or foot – An abnormal amount of swelling likely means infection.
  • Pus-like discharge – Any yellow or green discharge coming from the nail is a telltale sign of infection.
  • Foul odor – An infected nail may give off a distinctly bad or rotten smell.
  • Tenderness and pain – If the toe seems sensitive or painful when touched, an infection may be to blame.
  • Loss of the nail – In severe cases, the nail may loosen or fall off entirely. This requires veterinary care.

Gently touching the toe and nail to check for discomfort, while looking for any redness, swelling, discharge, or odor near the nail, will help reveal if an infection is developing. Contact your vet promptly if multiple signs of infection are present.


First aid for a broken nail

If your dog has a broken nail that is bleeding, the first priority is to stop the bleeding. Apply direct pressure with a clean towel or cloth to the nail for 5-10 minutes to stop the bleeding (VCA Animal Hospitals). If the nail is still bleeding after applying pressure, you may need to use a styptic powder or gel to help coagulate the blood.

Once the bleeding has stopped, clean the area gently with warm water and a mild antiseptic soap. Pat dry and apply an antibiotic ointment and wrap the paw in a light bandage (PetMD). Make sure the bandage is not too tight as to cut off circulation.

Limit your dog’s activity to prevent further injury and keep the paw elevated on a pillow to help reduce swelling and throbbing. It’s best to carry your dog outside to go potty to avoid having them walk on the injured paw.

When to see the vet

If your dog’s broken nail is bleeding severely and cannot be stopped with simple first aid, you should take them to see the vet immediately. Prolonged bleeding can lead to blood loss and other complications. According to the American Kennel Club, you should go to the emergency vet if the nail is bleeding for more than 5-10 minutes and cannot be controlled.

Signs of a nail infection like redness, swelling, pus, and foul odor also warrant a vet visit, especially if the infection seems to be spreading. Infections need to be diagnosed and treated promptly before they worsen. See the vet if the nail bed appears red, inflamed, or is oozing pus or any discharge (source: VCA Animal Hospitals).

If the nail is partially detached or the quick is exposed, you should take your dog to the vet. Trying to treat these injuries at home could make matters worse. The vet can properly trim and bandage a partially detached nail to protect it while it heals. An exposed quick also needs to be treated and wrapped by a professional to prevent further injury.

In general, if the nail breakage is severe and you cannot treat it effectively at home, don’t hesitate to have your vet examine your dog and provide appropriate medical care. It’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with serious paw injuries.

Vet treatments for infected broken nail

If your dog has an infected broken nail, the vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Some common antibiotics used are amoxicillin, cephalexin, or clindamycin. The antibiotic course is usually 10-14 days. Antibiotics help clear up infection and prevent it from spreading.

The vet may also prescribe antiseptic solutions to keep the nail clean while it heals. These contain active ingredients like chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine and help kill bacteria on the nail bed. You’ll need to soak your dog’s paw in the solution as directed.

In severe cases where the nail is severely damaged or infected, the vet may decide to completely remove the nail. This is done under anesthesia and prevents further infection from occurring. It allows the nail bed to fully heal.

Your vet may want to take x-rays to check for bone infection or damage. They can also run bloodwork to assess your dog’s overall health if the infection seems severe.

Be sure to give all medications as directed and follow up with your vet to ensure the infection clears with treatment. Seek prompt veterinary care if you notice spreading redness, pus, foul odor, or your dog seems in pain or lethargic.

At-home care for infected broken nail

If your dog has a mild infection in a broken nail, you may be able to provide care at home before seeing a vet. Some key aspects of at-home care include:

Cleansing the nail and paw frequently with a mild antiseptic like diluted betadine or chlorhexidine to prevent bacteria from worsening the infection. Gently cleanse around the broken nail and paw 3-4 times per day.

Applying a topical antibiotic ointment to the end of the nail and quick can help fight infection. Pet-safe options include triple antibiotic ointment or silver sulfadiazine cream. Avoid over-the-counter anti-itch creams.

Bandaging the paw lightly after applying ointment can protect the nail bed. Use a soft self-stick bandage and wrap gently without restricting blood flow. Change bandages daily.

Check for signs of worsening infection like increased swelling, redness, pain, or discharge. Seek prompt veterinary care if the infection seems to be spreading or not improving within 2 days of home treatment.

With diligent at-home cleansing and care, mild broken nail infections can often be treated at home. But severe or rapidly spreading infections require veterinary attention. Monitor closely and follow up with your vet if the infection persists or worsens.

Preventing broken nails

One of the best ways to prevent your dog’s nails from breaking is by trimming them regularly. The ASPCA recommends trimming your dog’s nails at least once every 2-4 weeks. Keeping the nails short reduces the chance of them catching on surfaces and splitting or tearing off (source).

Providing scratching posts and rough surfaces for your dog to rub its nails on can also help wear them down naturally between trims. You can place scratching posts around your home and yard or add textured mats to high traffic areas.

Ensuring your dog is getting proper nutrition can also promote strong, healthy nail growth. Some dogs are prone to brittle, cracking nails. Discussing supplements or diet changes with your vet can help strengthen nails from the inside out (source).

Recovery time

The recovery time for a broken nail depends on the severity of the injury. For less severe breaks that don’t involve trauma to the nail bed or detached nails, they can typically heal within 1-2 weeks ( The nail bed contains a rich network of blood vessels and nerves, so more severe breaks that expose the nail bed will take longer to heal, around 2-4 weeks. If the nail is partially or fully detached, the exposed nail bed is at high risk of infection which can delay healing. With proper first aid and veterinary care, most broken nails will heal completely although the nail may look a bit misshapen or differ in color.

When to be concerned

If your dog’s broken nail does not show signs of improvement within 1 week or gets worse, it’s time to be concerned. Look for the following indications that the broken nail may be infected and require veterinary attention:

Worsening redness, swelling, or discharge around the nail or nail bed – This signals continued irritation or infection that is not getting better with at-home care. Pus, blood, or other abnormal drainage indicates infection.

No decrease in lameness after 1 week – If your dog is still limping or licking at the paw after a week, the nail is likely still painful. This prolonged discomfort warrants a vet visit.

Loss of nail or nail bed – If the nail begins detaching from the nail bed or falls off completely, take your dog to the vet. The exposed quick is prone to infection.

Fever – An elevated body temperature can indicate systemic infection setting in, requiring antibiotics.

Loss of appetite or lethargy – Refusing food or decreased energy levels may signal illness from a spreading infection.

According to MedVet, if the bleeding does not stop or other signs of infection appear, veterinary assistance should be sought immediately to prevent complications.

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