What To Do When Your Dog’S Whole Nail Comes Off?

What Causes a Dog’s Nail to Fall Off?

There are several potential causes for a dog’s nail to fall off completely. Some of the most common include:

Trauma or injury, such as getting the nail caught in a fence, crate, or carpeting, can rip the nail off or damage it enough that it falls off later. This is often the cause if the nail falls off suddenly with some bleeding. According to veterinary experts, trauma accounts for a large percentage of complete nail loss cases in dogs (1).

Overgrown nails that are not trimmed regularly can crack, split, and eventually fall off. This often happens gradually, as the overgrown nail weakens over time. Keeping nails trimmed to an appropriate length helps prevent nails from becoming damaged and detached (2).

Tumors or cancer affecting the nail or nail bed may also lead to complete nail loss. Tumors usually appear as growths on the nail and cause it to separate and fall off. Cancer is a less common cause but should be evaluated by a vet (3).

Certain skin or nail conditions, like autoimmune disorders, nail infections, or inflammation can sometimes severely impact the nail integrity and lead to shedding. Bacterial or fungal infections are often the cause when the nail falls off along with discharge or a foul odor (1).


(1) https://www.vetdermclinic.com/dog-nail-problems-you-should-know-about/

(2) https://luckytail.com/blogs/pet/unhealthy-dog-nails

(3) https://www.vravet.com/site/blog/2022/12/06/dog-nail-problems-you-should-know-about

Signs Your Dog’s Nail May Fall Off

There are several signs that indicate your dog’s nail may be at risk of falling off. These include:

Cracked or brittle nails. Nails that are cracked or brittle are weaker and more prone to breaking or tearing off completely. This brittleness is often caused by nutritional deficiencies.

Swelling around the nail. Inflammation around the nail bed could signal an infection or abscess that can undermine nail health.

Bleeding from the nail. Any bleeding from around the nail is abnormal and requires veterinary attention. It may signal trauma, infection or cancer.

Limping or licking at the paw. If your dog is hesitant to bear weight on their paw or keeps licking at their nails, the nail may be damaged or detached. This requires prompt veterinary care. [1]

Catching these signs early and taking your dog to the vet can help prevent full nail loss and allow for proper treatment of any underlying issues.

First Aid When a Nail Falls Off

If your dog’s nail falls off completely, the first priority is to stop any bleeding right away. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, you can use styptic powder or cornstarch to help stop the bleeding. Hold pressure with a clean towel or gauze wrap directly on the nail bed for 5-10 minutes until bleeding stops. It’s important not to wipe off the clotted blood so that the bleeding doesn’t start again.

Once bleeding is under control, you’ll want to bandage the paw to keep it clean and protected. Wrap some sterile gauze or a clean towel around the paw, being careful not to wrap it too tightly. You can secure it in place with some medical tape or masking tape. The bandage should cover the nail bed to keep debris out. Limit your dog’s activity to prevent any further injury and keep the bandage intact.

According to Toegrips, it’s best to consult your veterinarian after providing first aid for a lost nail. The vet can properly assess the injury, check for any remaining nail fragments, and prescribe any necessary medication or follow-up care.

When to See the Vet

If your dog’s nail won’t stop bleeding after applying direct pressure for 10-15 minutes, it’s important to take them to the vet. Persistent bleeding indicates a damaged nail bed or vein that requires medical treatment. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, signs of a nail bed infection like redness, swelling, discharge or a foul odor also warrant a vet visit. These symptoms suggest the presence of bacteria that could enter the bloodstream.

You should also bring your dog to the vet if the nail was completely detached or your dog seems to be in a great deal of pain. The vet can properly clean and bandage the injury to prevent infection. They may also prescribe antibiotics or pain medication to help with healing. An underlying condition like an autoimmune disease, cancer or nutritional deficiency could be causing nails to fall out frequently. Your vet can run tests to determine if there’s an underlying cause that needs treatment.




Caring for the Nail Bed

After a nail falls off, it’s important to properly care for the nail bed to allow for natural regrowth and prevent infection. The exposed nail bed is prone to trauma, irritation, and bacteria. To care for the nail bed:

– Keep the nail bed clean and dry. Avoid getting it wet for at least the first 24 hours. After that, gently clean with soap and water when soiled and pat dry.

– Apply an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin twice a day to prevent infection. The ointment creates a protective barrier.

– Pad the nail bed for protection when your dog is active. Self-adhesive bandages or moleskin with a hole cut for the nail bed can cushion the area.

– Allow the nail to regrow naturally. Don’t trim or interfere with the new nail. The new nail will likely regrow to the original shape and length within several weeks or months.

– Monitor for signs of infection like redness, swelling, discharge, or odor and contact your vet if they develop.

Properly caring for the exposed nail bed helps stimulate healthy regrowth and prevents complications. With time and care, your dog’s nail should grow back normally.[1]

Preventing Nail Loss

Regular nail trimming and maintenance are key to preventing nail loss in dogs. Dogs’ nails should be trimmed every 2-4 weeks to avoid overgrowth. Using trimmers designed specifically for dogs and taking care not to trim too far back can prevent trauma to the quick, according to the ASPCA1. Providing scratching posts or pads around the home allows dogs to naturally wear down their nails.

Keeping nails smooth by using a nail file helps prevent cracking and catching on things. Underlying medical conditions like infections, tumors, or autoimmune diseases that can weaken nails should also be properly diagnosed and treated.

For active dogs, using dog booties or paw balm can protect nails from excessive wear and tear. With some simple preventative measures, pet owners can help keep their dogs’ nails healthy and avoid traumatic nail loss.

Nutrition for Healthy Nails

A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients is essential for keeping your dog’s nails strong and healthy. Certain dietary components play a particularly important role:

  • Protein – High-quality protein sources like chicken, beef, fish, and eggs provide amino acids that promote nail growth.
  • Fatty Acids – Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids support skin and nail health. Fatty fish like salmon and vegetable oils are good sources.
  • Biotin – This B vitamin is involved in producing keratin, a key protein in nails. Beef liver, eggs, salmon, and chicken breast have high levels of biotin.[1]
  • Vitamin E – An antioxidant that protects against damage. Feed your dog nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and other plant foods rich in vitamin E.
  • Zinc and Copper – Trace minerals that strengthen nails. Meat, shellfish, beans, nuts, and whole grains provide zinc and copper.

Supplements like biotin and keratin can provide an extra boost if your dog already eats a nutritious diet but still has weak, brittle nails. Always consult your veterinarian before starting any new supplement.

Home Remedies for Nail Regrowth

There are some natural home remedies that may help strengthen nails and promote regrowth when a nail falls off. Using natural oils can provide nutrients to the nail bed and soften the nail. Some options to try include:

Coconut oil contains lauric acid which has antimicrobial properties to keep the nail bed clean. It also provides nutrients like vitamin E to promote healing. Gently rub a small amount of extra virgin coconut oil into the nail bed 2-3 times per day.

Vitamin E oil is an antioxidant that can improve nail strength and health. The moisture also helps soften the nail. Apply a few drops of vitamin E oil onto the nail bed and cuticle 1-2 times a day.

Lavender essential oil stimulates circulation to bring more nutrients to the nail bed area. It also has calming properties to reduce stress for your dog. Add 2-3 drops of lavender oil to coconut or vitamin E oil and massage into the paw 2-3 times per day.

Always monitor your dog closely when using home remedies and stop use if any negative reaction occurs. Check with your vet before using any essential oils. Home care can support nail regrowth, but veterinary treatment may be needed for underlying issues.Source

When to Try Nail Glues

If your dog’s nail is cracked or broken but still partially attached, a nail glue can help bond it back together. Nail glues are an alternative to bandaging or taping a cracked nail. When applied correctly, the glued nail can last several weeks until the nail grows out.

Some pros of using a nail glue are that it can quickly seal and protect an exposed nail bed, it allows your dog to still walk normally, and it avoids the hassle of constantly changing bandages. However, gluing the nail also seals in any existing infection or debris, so cleaning it well first is essential. It’s challenging to get an exact alignment when gluing, and if the bond fails, the nail may crack more. The glue can also irritate sensitive nail beds.

There are a few types of glues that may work:

  • Veterinary-grade cyanoacrylate glue is often recommended, as it bonds well and dries quickly. However, it can be difficult to find and expensive (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Qqfs2EcWNM).
  • Clear nail polishes or super glues are cheaper alternatives but may take longer to set and do not bond as strongly.
  • Two-part epoxy mixes are very thick and strong but also take several minutes to set.

To apply the glue:

  • Clean the nail and trim any jagged edges. Stop any bleeding.
  • Dry the nail thoroughly so the glue bonds.
  • Apply glue directly along the crack or breakline and hold firmly for 30-60 seconds as it sets.
  • Try not to get glue on the surrounding fur or skin as it can be difficult to remove once dried.
  • Let the nail fully cure for several hours before letting your dog walk on it.

While gluing a cracked nail at home can be attempted, it’s always best to have a veterinarian examine any nail injury that exposes the quick. They can properly clean and align the nail before gluing for the strongest bond. Seek help immediately if the nail is split and bleeding profusely or seems extremely painful to your dog.

Knowing When to Seek Help

If your dog’s nail does not start to regrow within a few weeks or the nail bed seems to get infected or inflamed, it’s time to seek veterinary help. An infection in the nail bed can spread to the bone, leading to serious complications. Getting prompt treatment is key.

You should also see the vet if other nails start falling off. Repeated nail loss may signal an underlying illness or condition such as an infection, autoimmune disease, or nutritional deficiency that needs diagnosis and treatment.

Some examples of conditions that can cause nail problems include:

  • Fungal infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Allergies
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Your vet can run tests to determine if your dog has one of these conditions. With proper treatment of the underlying cause, your dog’s nails should be able to regrow and heal.

Don’t delay if you notice ongoing nail problems or loss – seek veterinary advice right away. With prompt diagnosis and care, your dog’s nails have the best chance of returning to full health.

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