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What Causes Brittle Dog Nails and How To Prevent Them

Dog nails are strong and rigid and serve multiple purposes, from assistance with running and digging to providing traction and stability. Dog nails are very different from ours, yet they are both made of keratin and can become flaky and brittle for various reasons. Keeping your dog's nails healthy is essential to their ability to carry out their daily activities.

If uncared for, their nails can become brittle and susceptible to breaks and splits, which can reduce their functioning and cause pain. So what do you do if you notice your dog's nails splitting or cracking frequently? First, you need to establish the cause, then take the necessary steps to improve their health. This article will explain the common reasons for brittle dog nails and how to keep them in top condition.

What Causes Brittle Dog Nails?

Considering dogs use their nails daily in various activities, accidental damage is not uncommon. Therefore, it's natural for nails to break, split or wear down from time to time. But, if you notice your dog's nails peeling or breaking frequently, there could be a bigger problem at play. Here are some of the most common causes of brittle nails.

External Damage

A broken dog nail can happen after running on rugged terrain or engaging in rough play with a canine friend. External damage tends to affect single nails, making them more susceptible to other nail problems, like infection. For example, if a large part of the claw breaks off and leaves the quick exposed, that nail could easily become infected. In addition, dogs with dry and brittle nails are more likely to experience breakage and splitting as the nails tend to be weak, making the whole process go full circle.

Nail Infection

A dog nail infection can occur from fungi or bacteria. When your furry friend's nails become infected, their immune system is compromised, weakening multiple claws and making them brittle and flaky. Bacteria entering small cuts and food or environmental allergies are usually the cause of infections. Fungal infections, in particular, result in a crusted appearance, whereas inflammation may accompany a bacteria infection. If a nail infection is present, your pup will likely be excessively licking its paws.

Lupoid Onychodystrophy

Lupoid Onychodystrophy is a form of lupus that affects the cells around the nails and is an immune-mediated non-contagious condition. Some breeds, such as German Shepherds and Rottweilers, can be more susceptible to developing the disease. However, if caught early, various supplements usually clear it up. Severe cases of Lupoid Onychodystrophy may require surgical removal of the affected nails.

Nutrient Deficiency

As we previously mentioned, dog nails consist primarily of keratin. This fibrous protein contains over 90% protein, mainly acquired through the nutrients in food. Therefore, cracked and brittle nails can signify that your pup is eating a low-quality, unbalanced diet and not getting the nutrients they need.

On the other hand, dogs can still get nutrient deficiencies even if they eat a diet high in the appropriate dog nutrition, signaling they're not adequately absorbing the nutrients during digestion. This situation is usually a sign of a deeper problem going on with your pup.

causes of brittle dog nails

Long Nails

If your dog's nails are too long, they're bound to get caught on objects around the house or break while participating in daily activities. Ensuring your dog's nails are nice and short will keep them free, safe and comfortable during long walks or play dates with their furry friends. Trimming their nails every other week will go a long way to preventing brittle nails.

Nail Bed Tumors

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of cancerous tumor that develops within your pup's nail beds. It causes red, irritated skin that weakens your pup's nails, leading them to break and fall out. An SCC may also cause bleeding and ulcerations. Surgical amputation is usually the recommended course of treatment if you catch it early enough.

An SCC is often connected to various risk factors, including environmental conditions and some genetic predispositions. Breeds like the beagle, Labrador retriever, boxer and bull terrier are known to have a higher likelihood of having an SCC — which is thought to be due to their thin hair and light-colored skin.

How to Strengthen Dogs' Nails

The following tips will help keep your dog's nails strong and healthy and treat brittle or flaky nails.

Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 is a fatty acid found in fish oil that contains various health benefits for humans and dogs alike. Giving your pup an omega-3 supplement every day will lubricate and moisturize your dog's nails. Omega-3 prevents dryness and splitting and helps the nails grow strong and healthy. In addition, you will see improvements in your dog's skin and hair, and their heart, joints and immune system will receive a health boost.

Biotin Supplements

Biotin is not as well known as omega-3 but is just as beneficial for dog nail health. It is one of the B vitamins and is an essential part of treatment for dog nail problems such as Lupoid Onychodystrophy. Like omega-3, biotin is also good for your pup's fur coat. Biotin is safe for canines, and as a water-soluble vitamin, any excess is excreted in the urine. You can buy biotin and omega-3 supplements from a vet clinic or a pet store. Your pup's weight will determine the dosage they need, so read the instructions first.

Collagen Supplements

Collagen is one of the most prevalent proteins found within a dog's body. As dogs get older, production of this protein starts falling off, leaving dogs susceptible to issues with their bones, joints, coat, skin and nails. Over-the-counter collagen supplements can be an effective treatment for brittle dog nails, helping you get your pup's health back in order. You can also find collagen within fresh animal proteins, plus bones and tendons. A tasty beef marrow bone could be the ideal solution if you want to boost your four-legged friend's collagen supply.

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Routine Nail Trimming

If your dog spends a fair amount of time outside, it's likely that they naturally file their nails on the rugged outdoor surfaces. However, not all dogs lead such an active lifestyle. Some breed's nails grow quicker than others, so you shouldn't assume they can keep their claws short on their own. Instead, try to trim them every three or four weeks.

Regular nail trimming will prevent overgrown nails, which are often the cause of many nail concerns. If you’re an inexperienced groomer, we suggest using a dog nail grinder rather than clippers, as filing the nails gradually will ensure a safer and smoother finish.

Healthy Diet

Feeding high-quality dog food is essential for your four-legged friend's overall health and the condition of their skin, fur and nails. It's best to feed your pup a dog food that meets the nutritional standards established by AAFCO for a complete and balanced diet. If you're unsure what dog diet is best for your particular canine, speak with your vet.

Vet Visits

If you have concerns about your dog's nails, take them to the vet before doing anything else. Suppose the cause of your dog's brittle nails is due to an infection or Lupoid Onychodystrophy, which may require prescribed medication. Speaking with your vet will go a long way toward developing a suitable plan of action to keep your pup healthy.

Paw Pad Safety

When you want to protect your dog's nails, it's crucial to protect their pads. These areas of their paws are susceptible to all sorts of injuries due to hot and cold conditions, rough terrain and random debris like thorns and glass. Taking precautions like venturing out for a walk during a cooler part of the day and tending to their pads regularly helps avoid injuries and infections that can impact their nail health.

Effectively Avoid Brittle Dog Nails

Dog nails serve many more functions than human nails and are more comparable to our fingers than fingernails. Therefore, taking excellent care of this part of your pup is essential. Luckily, you don't need to have an in-depth knowledge of dog nail anatomy to do so. Little things like keeping an eye on their condition, trimming them regularly and implementing a nutritious diet will prevent brittle nails and keep them strong and healthy.

Last Updated on July 31, 2023 at 8:00 AM

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