Did your dog break a nail? Here's what you can do

18 December 2023 - 2 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Closeup of dogs paw and nails

Spotting and treating a broken or split nail in your dog, especially when the quick is exposed, can be a delicate task. Let's dive into how you can identify this common issue and the steps to treat it effectively.

How to tell if your dog's broken a nail

First, let's play detective. Is your dog limping, licking their paw, or showing signs of pain? Check those nails. A broken or split nail might not be obvious at a glance, so inspect closely. Look for:

  • Uneven or jagged nails

  • Bleeding or discharge

  • Swelling around the nail, don't forget the dewclaw

A person high fiving a dog

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A person high fiving a dog

How to help your dog with a broken or split nail

Have you discovered a broken or split nail? Here are a few steps you can take to help:

  1. Keep calm. Your dog can sense your anxiety, and it could make it a lot harder to treat them. I know it's hard if there's lots of blood, but aim to stay calm.

  2. Call your vet. This is 100% the best thing you can do. Get your vet on the line, and they can advise you on the next steps.

  3. Muzzle up: A muzzle or a cone (or alternative) can help keep your dog from biting or bothering the nail while you figure out next steps with your vet.

Here's what your vet may advise if the broken or split nail needs immediate treatment:

  1. Clean it: Gently wash the area with mild soap and warm water.

  2. Stop the bleeding. If there's bleeding, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth. Styptic powder or cornflour can be a true lifesaver here.

  3. Trim carefully: If there's a loose piece of nail and you're comfortable, carefully trim it using dog nail clippers. If not, your vet can do this.

  4. Disinfect: Apply a pet-safe antiseptic.

  5. Bandage, if needed: A light bandage can protect the nail, but don’t wrap it too tight.

  6. Limit activity: Keep your dog calm and avoid strenuous exercise.

  7. Keep an eye on it. Watch for signs of infection, like increased redness, swelling, or discharge.

Even once your dog's poor paw is wrapped and seemingly under control, it's probably still a good idea to head to the vet ASAP. They can help ensure there isn't an underlying condition or something else—like a serious infection—taking root. They may even prescribe antibiotics.

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Can a broken or split nail heal on its own?

When your dog suffers from a broken or split nail, you might wonder if it's a wait-and-see situation.

If the break is minor, superficial, and not bleeding, your dog’s nail might heal over time with just some basic home care. However, remember that dog nails have both a blood supply and nerve endings, so significant damage won’t just resolve itself, and again, serious infections can crop up.

This is especially true if:

  • The break is close to the paw.

  • There's severe bleeding.

  • Your dog is in a lot of pain, or the site seems infected.

  • You're not comfortable handling it.

The bottom line? Even for the DIY pet owners out there, a trip to the vet is always the best choice.

Cost for treating a broken or split nail

Treating a broken or split nail in your dog can vary in cost depending on the treatment required.

For a more basic treatment that includes a clean, trim and dressing you'll be looking at a lot less than more intensive treatments. These can involve sedation, pain medication and antibiotics. And sometimes even minor surgery.

Costs can also vary based on your location and the specific veterinary practice. Urban areas and speciality clinics typically charge more. If you have dog insurance, you might be covered for the cost of these unexpected vet bills. Check out your policy for details on coverage.

How to prevent nail breaks in the future

Regular nail trims can prevent future nail drama. Keep those clippers handy, and aim for a trimming session every month or so, depending on how quickly your dog's nails grow.

Broken nails are no fun, but with a bit of know-how, you can get your pup back on their paws in no time. Stay vigilant and give those paws the TLC they deserve so your pup can prance through life with you for the long haul.

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