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Dog Broken Nail: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

french bulldog laying down
Dogs spend half of their lives on their paws and nails! As such, maintaining good nail health is essential for overall health and happiness. Damaged nails can make it extremely uncomfortable for your canine to go on walkies and enjoy other daily activities. Besides, dogs’ broken nails tend to bleed excessively. The open wound is prone to infection and can lead to other health complications. Therefore, although dog broken nails might not sound like a big deal, you must work hard to avoid them. In this article we run through the causes, symptoms, and treatment of broken nails.

Causes of Broken Nails

Dogs break their nails for all kinds of reasons. They might snag overgrown nails on the carpet when playing, or land with a lot of force when running and jumping. Broken nails also tend to be more problematic in older dogs with brittle nails. Or perhaps your dog’s nail split during trimming and now their quick is exposed. Here is a look at these reasons in more detail.

Overgrown nails

Like human nails, dog nails grow continuously at a very slow rate. They are often worn down through running and walking, and regular nail grooming helps to keep them at a good length. However, overgrown nails are common if you don’t keep on top of trimming. Longer nails are much more prone to snagging and catching on surfaces. If your dog ripped its nail off when playing, there is a good chance its nails were too long.

Brittle nails

As dogs get older, their nails become drier and more brittle. Some skin diseases such as lupoid onychodystrophy can also cause dry, brittle nails. Likewise, nutritional deficiencies can inhibit proper nail formation and cause brittleness. Regardless of the cause, brittle nails are more prone to breakages. This can cause dogs’ nails to split frequently. If you’re dealing with constantly broken dog nails, this is a likely explanation.

Trimming accidents

Establishing a Nail trimming routine is a must for any pet owner. Keeping your dog’s nails short and trim can help avoid breakages caused by overgrown nails. However, trimming accidents can happen. Unintentionally cutting too far down means the dog's nail quick is exposed and your canine’s nails will start bleeding. We recommend using a dog nail grinder instead of regular nail clippers. A grinder gives you more control over the trimming process and can help avoid unnecessary broken nails.

Dog Broken Nail Symptoms

Minor broken nails and snags aren’t a major cause for concern. However, more serious breaks that happen nearer to the base of the nail won’t stop bleeding. Bleeding from the nail is the most obvious sign that your dog has injured itself. Other symptoms of broken dog nails include:
  • Visible breaks or cracks in the nail
  • Excessive licking and chewing of the paw
  • Limping and whining in pain
  • Swelling and other signs of localized inflammation
  • Dog nail quick exposed
An exposed quick can appear visibly obvious. This is the case with more serious broken dog nails where the claw is completely broken off. In more minor cases, the quick can be visible through a cracked claw. You’ll know immediately whether the dog's nail is separated from the quick as it will bleed; the larger the amount of exposed quick, the more bleeding there will be.

How to Treat a Broken Dog Nail

Minor broken nails can heal on their own. However, more severe breaks are extremely painful for dogs and human interference can make the healing process faster. Serious breaks are best looked at by a qualified veterinarian; however, it is good to know what to expect and what to do before your appointment. Or for minor breaks, you might be able to carry out treatment at home. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to treat broken nails to guide you through the process:

1. Restrain your dog

Broken nails cause dogs a lot of pain, and they may act unpredictably. Even the happiest, friendliest dogs can bite if you try to mess with their injured foot. Therefore, you’ll want to get a friend to cuddle and restrain your dog while you look at their paw. If no one is around to help, consider putting on a muzzle to avoid bites and injury.

2. Control the bleeding

Next, you need to stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the nail. Wrap your dog’s paw in a towel and press gently but firmly. The bleeding should subside within five to ten minutes. If it doesn’t seize, you must use a styptic pencil, silver nitrate stick, or cauterizing powder to help limit bleeding. These can be found in most local pet stores.

3. Remove the damaged nail

Once the bleeding has stopped, take a look at the nail and see if there is a loose part that can easily be removed. If so, you can attempt to carefully cut it away with clippers. This part needs to be removed, or it can lead to future snagging and more tears! Be careful when using the clippers though; you don’t want to cut too low and damage the nail even more. If you don’t want to do this yourself or if there is not an easily trimmable split, ask your vet to do this step for you. The process is painful, especially for serious breaks. Your vet will usually apply numbing cream to the area before trimming away the outermost part so that the nail can regrow.

4. Bandage the paw

Knowing how to bandage a dog paw for broken nails is next. Your first step is to wash the paw and apply an antibiotic treatment. This helps to protect the wound against infection and ensures no nasty pathogens are underneath the bandage. You should then take a non-absorbent pad to the nail and secure it in place with tape. Next, you need to wrap the paw in cotton gauze, followed by stretch gauze, and finally vet wrap.

5. Allow time for healing

After the paw is bandaged, do your best to keep it clean and allow time for the nail to regrow. Whenever the bandage gets dirty or comes too loose, make sure you replace it. Moreover, never let your dog lick the wounded area. Dogs’ mouths are full of bacteria that can enter the wound and cause infection. Keeping it covered and clean is a must! If your dog is in a lot of pain, you can give them painkillers to help ease their discomfort during the healing process. Speak to your veterinarian about medication options for the best results. Your dog won’t be in pain for too long though; within three to six weeks, your dog’s broken nail should be fully healed!

Final Thoughts

Although this guide is useful, dog broken nails are best avoided altogether. They are extremely painful for your pet and a hassle for you. Do your dog and yourself a favor and keep on top of regular nail trimming. The shorter the nails, the less likely they are to snag and break. And if you’re dealing with dog torn nails regularly, schedule an appointment with your vet. You’ll want to get any underlying health conditions and nutritional deficiencies sorted out. Shop LuckyTail Nail Grinders
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