Will Dogs Missing Toenail Grow Back?

Dog’s toenails serve important functions like protecting the toes, assisting with traction, and aiding balance. However, toenails can sometimes be damaged or fall off due to injury or disease. When this happens, dog owners often wonder if the nail will grow back. This article explores the anatomy of dog toenails, what causes them to go missing, factors affecting regrowth, the stages of new nail development, caring for missing nails, potential complications, and when to seek veterinary assistance. The goal is to provide dog owners with a comprehensive understanding of whether and how a dog’s missing toenail can regrow after loss.

Anatomy of Dog Toenails

A dog’s toenails are made up of several distinct parts that enable the nail to grow and attach to the paw (Source):

  • The nail bed is the portion of soft tissue from which the nail grows. It contains blood vessels and nerves.
  • The matrix is the part of the nail bed from which keratin is produced to make the nail grow. It’s the growth center of the nail.
  • The nail plate is the visible hard portion made up of keratin that overlies the nail bed and matrix.
  • The quick is the portion of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves. It’s the pinkish area within the nail.

As the nail grows, new keratin is produced by the matrix at the base of the nail bed. The keratin pushes older nail material outward, causing the nail to grow longer from its base. The quick recedes back into the nail bed as the nail grows longer from the nail bed. Understanding this anatomy helps explain how nails can regrow if damaged or lost.

Common Causes of Missing Toenails in Dogs

There are several common causes for dogs losing toenails, including:


Physical trauma from injuries or accidents is one of the most common reasons dogs may lose a toenail. For example, a nail may get caught on furniture and ripped off, the dog’s paw may get stepped on, or the nail may get injured during play with other pets or activities like digging holes or running on rough terrain (source). Trauma can cause the nail to partly or fully detach.


Bacterial or fungal infections can also lead to nail loss in dogs. Infections may start in the nail bed and spread to the nail itself. This can cause the nail to become brittle and eventually fall off. Signs of an infection include nail discoloration, foul odor, and discharge (source).


Dogs with environmental or food allergies may develop inflamed skin and nails. The inflammation can cause the nails to detach and fall off. Typically several nails are affected at the same time.

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases like lupoid onychodystrophy and symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy can also lead to nail loss. With these conditions, the dog’s immune system attacks the nail beds, causing the nails to become brittle and eventually shed off.

Factors Affecting Toenail Regrowth

Several factors can influence the speed and quality of a dog’s nail regrowth. These include:

Location and Extent of Damage

The location and severity of the nail damage impact regrowth. Damage to the quick, which contains the blood vessels and nerves, is slower to heal than damage to the outer nail. Partial nail loss may regrow faster than full nail loss. According to PawSafe, partial nail loss can regrow in 2-3 weeks, while full nail loss may take 2-8 weeks.

Dog’s Age and Health

A dog’s age affects the rate of nail regrowth. Young, healthy dogs may regrow nails faster than older dogs. Underlying health conditions like poor circulation or nutritional deficiencies can slow nail regrowth. Older or sick dogs may take longer for full regrowth. Providing excellent nutrition supports faster healing.

Will a Dog’s Toenail Grow Back if Lost?

Whether a dog’s toenail will grow back after being lost depends primarily on how much of the nail bed remains intact. The nail bed is the fleshy part under the nail from which the nail grows. If some of the nail bed is left after the nail is lost, there is a good chance it will regrow. However, if the entire nail bed is damaged or removed, it is unlikely the nail will grow back.

If just the nail itself breaks off but the nail bed remains undamaged, the nail should regrow normally within a few months. The regrowth may take longer if a large portion of the nail breaks off. As long as part of the nail bed remains, new nail tissue will form to eventually replace what was lost. The new nail will usually regrow to its original length and shape over time.

Veterinarians say that if the entire nail bed is irreparably damaged, either from trauma or surgery, a nail will likely not regrow at all. There will be no nail bed tissue left to produce new nail growth. The toe may simply heal over with scar tissue and remain without a nail indefinitely.

To summarize, a dog’s ability to regrow a lost toenail depends on the condition of the nail bed. With even a partially intact nail bed, regrowth is likely, though it may take several months. But if the nail bed is completely damaged, regrowth is unfortunately not possible.

Stages of Toenail Regrowth

The regrowth of a dog’s missing toenail occurs in several distinct stages:

Initial Scab Formation: Right after the nail is lost, a protective scab will form over the nail bed within 24 hours. This scab contains special cells that help regenerate the nail and protects the sensitive new nail growth underneath (source).

Early Regrowth: Within a few days, early nail regrowth will become visible under the scab. This new nail tissue is very sensitive. The new nail will initially be soft, pale and flexible (source).

Maturation: Over the next few weeks, the new nail will thicken, harden and darken as it matures. Full regrowth usually takes 4-6 weeks in most dogs. The regrown nail will firmly attach to the nail bed during this stage (source).

Full Regrowth: Within 1-2 months, the nail should be completely regrown and fully hardened. It will look like a normal healthy nail. The nail may initially be a bit misshapen or curved as it regrows (source).

Caring for a Dog’s Missing Toenail

Caring for a dog’s missing toenail is important to prevent infection and manage pain. According to VCA Hospitals, the first step is to take your dog to the veterinarian for an exam. The vet will check for any remaining damage to the nail bed, toe bone or skin, and treat any wounds. They can also provide antibiotics and recommend bandaging to prevent infection.

To bandage the paw, the vet may trim hair around the wound and apply a light wrap. It’s important to keep the bandage clean and dry to prevent infection. The vet can prescribe oral antibiotics and pain medication as needed. Limiting activity helps allow the nail bed to heal. Signs of infection like discharge or swelling require prompt veterinary care.

At home, keep the nail wrap dry by placing a plastic bag over it before going outside. Monitor for signs of chewing or licking which can disturb healing. Use an Elizabethan collar if needed to prevent licking. With vet guidance, keep the nail bed clean and change bandages regularly. Follow up exams will check healing progress until the nail regrows fully.

Impact on Dog if Toenail Doesn’t Regrow

A dog’s toenails serve an important purpose in providing traction and allowing for normal gait and movement. If a nail is lost and does not regrow, it can have several impacts on the dog.

One major impact is pain. The nail bed contains many nerve endings, so damage to this area is very painful for dogs. According to https://www.quora.com/What-happens-when-a-dog-loses-a-toenail, loss of a toenail can lead to severe pain. This pain may persist if the nail does not regrow properly.

Additionally, loss of a toenail can disrupt the normal balance and distribution of pressure across the dog’s paw. According to https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/waterbowl/article/broken-toenails, missing toenails cause dogs to adopt awkward and inefficient gaits. The dog may limp or avoid bearing weight on the affected paw. This impacts the dog’s ability to walk, run, jump, and play normally.

In the long-term, abnormal pressure on the paw can lead to calluses, sores, and arthritis. The dog may have difficulty exercising and partaking in normal activities if the toenail does not grow back properly. Seeking veterinary care can help manage pain and inflammation and prevent long-term issues.

When to See the Vet

If your dog loses a toenail, it’s important to monitor the area for signs of problems that require veterinary care. Here are some key signs to watch out for:

Signs of infection – Redness, swelling, discharge, foul odor, and fever can indicate an infection is developing where the nail was lost. Infections need to be diagnosed and treated promptly with antibiotics and other care to prevent worsening.

No regrowth after several months – Healthy nails typically start to regrow within 1-2 months. If you don’t see any new nail growth after 3 months or more, veterinary exam is recommended.

Abnormal regrowth – In some cases, the nail may regrow in an abnormal shape or angle. This can cause pain and difficulty walking. Your vet can assess the growth and determine if the nail needs to be trimmed or removed.

Veterinary care is also advised if the dog seems to be in pain, has trouble walking, or if you have any other concerns about the healing process. Early intervention can help prevent complications and support proper regrowth.





In summary, a dog’s missing toenail may or may not grow back depending on factors like the level of damage, the dog’s health, and proper care. The nail bed and nail matrix play key roles in nail regrowth. If they remain intact, the nail has a good chance of growing back normally over time. However, in cases of permanent damage to these tissues, the nail will likely not regrow. Providing adequate nutrition, preventing infection, and keeping the area bandaged helps support the regrowth process. While waiting to see if the nail regrows, it’s important to monitor for signs of infection or discomfort. Consulting a veterinarian can help determine the outlook for regrowth and recommend appropriate treatment to support your dog’s recovery.

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