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Broken Dog Nail – Here’s what you should do!

Broken Dog Nail

Although scary to look at, broken nails are an extremely common injury in dogs. While most minor nail tears can be successfully treated at home, a dog nail separated from quick might warrant a trip to the veterinarian. If you notice that your pooch is favoring their leg, licking their paw, or you see blood on their feet, they may have a torn toenail. 

So, how to treat a dog’s broken nail? Whenever you’re dealing with an injured nail, safely restrain your dog, as they may try to bite while in pain. Now, you’ll need to cut the broken nail using pet nail clippers and then clean the wound. Next, bandage the area with gauze and apply pressure to the injured toe to stop the bleeding.

Treating a dog broken toenail can be scary, especially if you’ve never done it before and your pooch is howling in pain. But, regardless of how afraid you are, minor nail injuries can be successfully treated at home. However, you should take your pup to the vet if the broken nail is bleeding excessively, or if the nail is ripped below the surface of the quick. 

Stay with us till the end of this article to learn what you should do if your dog has a broken nail. We’ll also tell you why your dog’s nails break and what you can do to avoid these types of injuries!

Why Do Dog Nails Break?

As mentioned above, broken nails are a common problem for dogs, and sooner or later your pooch will break, tear, or crack a nail. Depending on the severity of the injury, a cracked dog nail can be extremely painful and cause much discomfort to your pooch. 

Whether your dog has a tiny tear in the nail, or the dog ripped the nail off, or the dog’s quick is exposed, the injury can’t be ignored. No matter how small the injury might seem, the pain caused by a broken nail can be so severe that the dog requires pain medication. 

There are many different reasons why your dog’s nails break, the most common one being nail clipping. It takes only a small jerk of a dog’s paw during regular nail trimming, for a dog’s nail to become chipped, cracked, or broken.

Furthermore, if your dog’s nails are too long they are more likely to split, crack, or break at any given time. Longer nails can easily get snagged into carpets or upholstery and can break easily when coming into contact with gravel, asphalt, concrete, or any other hard surface. 

Older dogs, sometimes, have very dry and brittle nails that are prone to splitting and cracking, and breaking no matter what your pooch is doing. Your dog may also jump and land on its feet in such a way that the nail bends and breaks leaving the dog nail quick exposed. 

In addition, the dewclaw that is located higher up on your dog’s front legs is more prone to breaking and tearing than other nails (source). This is mainly because dewclaws aren’t as attached to the skin as other nails, which puts them at a higher risk of breaking. 

As you can see, many different things can cause your dog’s nails to break. Regardless of the reason, a dog’s broken nail can be very painful and cause all sorts of problems to your pooch. 

Why Are Broken Nails Such a Problem?

To get a better idea of why a dog’s broken nail can be extremely problematic, you need to know a bit more about dog nail anatomy. 

For starters, most dogs have four nails on each paw, but some can have an extra nail located higher up on the front legs, called a dewclaw. As your pooch walks, runs, and plays on hard surfaces they naturally file down their nails, keeping them nice and short.

However, since dewclaws are located higher up, your pooch can’t file them naturally, so you need to trim them regularly to keep them short. Otherwise, they can become ingrown or break and subject your dog to excruciating pain (source). 

Just like your own nails, your dog’s nails are made of protein, called keratin. Most dogs tend to have oval-shaped nails that are wider at the toe and become narrower as they grow. 

Underneath the nail is the nail bed and the quick that consists of a collection of highly sensitive blood vessels and nerves. When the quick is cut or injured it causes the dog toenail bleeding.

Pass the quick, a dog’s nails are made solely of keratin and don’t have any nerves, which makes them less sensitive to handling. The quick is also attached to the bone, so any injury to the quick can cause an infection to the bone, which can end up becoming a serious health problem. 

The biggest issue with a dog’s broken nail and exposed quick is the risk of painful bone infection. So, whether your dog’s nail is broken at the base and bleeding profusely, or your pup has a minor tear in the nail there are some steps you must take to avoid infection. 

Even if the broken dog nail looks ghastly and you are afraid to go near it, you’ll have to at least stop the bleeding before you take your pooch to the vet. So, let’s see how you can treat your dog’s broken nail at home!

What to Do If Your Dog Broke Their Nail and The Quick Is Exposed?

What to Do If Your Dog Broke Their Nail

Although a broken nail is a common type of injury seen in dogs, it’s rarely so serious that it requires a trip to an emergency veterinary clinic. However, if you believe that your dog’s broken nail warrants a trip to the vet, take your dog to the clinic.

Treating a broken dog nail might seem like an impossible feat, even more so if seeing blood makes you queasy. In reality, it is a lot simpler than it looks.

If your dog is favoring one paw by holding it in the air, limping, or leaving bloody paw prints all over their bedding, they probably have a broken nail. Before you jump the gun and assume anything, check your pup’s paw for a broken nail.

Please note, if your dog won’t let you examine or touch their paw, or if their toe looks sore and injured, take your pooch to the vet. In cases when a dog doesn’t want to cooperate it’s always best to seek professional help.

On the other hand, if your pooch allows you to inspect their paw, there is a big chance that their injuries aren’t so serious. In this case, you can proceed with the examination and treatment of the broken nail. 

If the nail broke in the middle, or is completely broken and bleeding minimally take the following steps:

1. Safely Restrain Your Dog

Sporting a broken nail can be excruciatingly painful for your dog, and the pain might become unbearable when you start touching the nail. As much as your dog loves you, their first instinct might be to bite you to keep you away from touching the nail and creating more pain (source). 

To prevent biting and other injuries, you should muzzle your dog, or at least have someone hold it still, while you are examining the toenail and treating the injury. That person should keep your dog restrained and try to hold their head down or away from you to give you a chance to inspect the nail safely.

Once your dog is safely restrained start inspecting the area to assess the damage with as little contact as possible. Try gently lifting your dog’s paw to get a better picture of the damaged nail. 

This is the point when you’ll assess the severity of the nail break and see whether you can take care of it at home, or whether your pup will be better off going to the vet. 

A dog nail split in half vertically past the quick, or a broken nail that is bleeding profusely will require veterinary attention. If this is the case with your pooch, just wrap the foot in gauze or a towel to control the bleeding and take your dog to the vet.

2. Carefully Remove the Dangling Piece of Nail

Sometimes, a broken part of the nail remains attached to a dog’s toenail causing more pain and continuous bleeding. If this is the case with your dog, you should try to remove the dangling piece of the nail to prevent further injury. 

Trimming the loose piece of the nail will also help with healing and allow for proper regrowth of the new nail. 

However, this type of injury can be very painful for your pooch. So if you aren’t confident that you can remove the dangling part without injuring your pet additionally, you should let your veterinarian take care of it. Most often, a vet will sedate your dog or use a nerve block to numb the area before trimming the broken section of the nail. 

But, if the dog’s nail is falling off or barely hanging on, you can use sterile pet nail clippers to cut the broken piece. The broken piece of the nail should be carefully removed so you don’t cause any additional pain to your pup. 

Make sure to use pet nail clippers that are strong and sharp enough to cut through a dog’s toenails. Another thing to keep in mind when removing the dangling piece of a broken nail is to trim it above the break to allow for the proper regrowth of the nail. 

3. Control The Bleeding

Removing the broken section of the nail might cause your dog’s toe to bleed, especially if the nail broke in the middle leaving the quick exposed. 

You can control the bleeding by wrapping your dog’s paw in gauze or a towel applying gentle pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. If the bleeding doesn’t stop in the next five to 10 minutes apply styptic pencil or cauterizing powder to the toe. 

If you don’t have styptic powder at home, you can use baking powder, flour, or cornstarch to stop the bleeding (source).  

4. Clean and Disinfect the Toe to Prevent Infection

After the bleeding has stopped, gently clean your dog’s paw and the injured nail using warm water. Gently clean your pup’s injured toe to remove all dirt and debris that might be lodged between the toe and the nail. 

Keep the whole area clean and disinfect the wound with a pet-safe antiseptic spray. Besides serving as a disinfectant, the spray will also relieve any discomfort from the wound. 

If the broken toenail starts bleeding again, apply gentle pressure to the wound using a clean gauze or use styptic powder to control the bleeding. 

5. Bandage the Paw 

Once the nail is cleaned completely, it’s time to apply the dressing to the wound. Unfortunately, dogs hate having their paws bandaged, so wrapping the bandage around the wound can be rather tricky. 

Wrap the bandage around your dog’s paw and use medical tape to secure the wrap. Make sure that the wrap isn’t too tight to restrict blood flow to the paw. 

If your pup isn’t a fan of bandages you can try placing a clean sock on their paw and taping it into place. Some dogs react better to wearing a sock, since it isn’t as restricting as a bandage, and will allow your dog to move more freely.

6. Keep an Eye On the Paw for The Next Few Days

At this point, your dog’s broken nail is cleaned and dressed in a bandage that should prevent infection and allow the injured toe to heal. But, that doesn’t mean that your job is done!

Change the bandage every day to check how the nail is healing and to keep the wound clean. When inspecting the wound, keep an eye out for any signs of infection including swelling, oozing pus, increased pain, or blood mixed with pus. 

If you notice any of these symptoms of infection, take your dog to the vet right away. As mentioned previously, infections caused by a broken dog nail can cause serious health problems and must be treated on time with antibiotics. 

Types of Broken Nails in Dog

Types of Broken Nails in Dog

Like people, dogs can break their nails in several different ways. In most cases, broken nails are the result of injury, but they can also be caused by poor diet, lack of proper grooming routine, or underlying disease. 

Whatever might be the case, knowing what type of broken nail your pooch has can help you treat the injury successfully at home. So, let’s see what are the most common types of broken nails in dogs!

Split Nail

A dog split nail is a common type of toenail injury that can happen to all dogs regardless of their age, size, and breed. In most cases, dog split toenail is the result of poor diet, trauma, brittle nail syndrome, or overgrown nails. 

When it comes to splitting, you should know that your dog’s nails can split in two different ways – vertical split and horizontal split. 

Consult your vet if your dog suffers from split nails frequently, and make sure that you are doing everything you can to prevent split nails in the first place. 

Cracked Nail

Cracked or broken dog nails are a common injury in dogs. In some cases, a dog can crack their nail and still have a piece that is loosely attached or have a nail that is completely cracked but still firmly attached to the toe. 

If your dog happens to have a cracked nail that is loose and dangly, you can attempt treating the injury at home following the steps listed above. 

However, if your pup has a cracked nail that is painful and bleeding, but still completely attached to the toe, it’s best to consult your vet. In most cases, treatment includes sedation with pain medication and cutting off the nail above the crack. 

Ripped Off Nail

While it may seem the most terrifying, a nail that has been completely ripped off is generally the easiest to treat. When this happens, you can expect to see mild bleeding that you can control by applying styptic powder or using gauze. 

However, if you can’t stop the bleeding at home, call your vet and take your pooch to receive medical treatment. 

How Can I Help My Dog Avoid Broken Nails?

The best and the easiest way to avoid broken dog nails is to keep your pup’s nails trimmed. Short nails are less likely to split, crack, or break simply because they are less likely to snag than long nails. 

Besides being extremely painful, broken nails can become a serious problem if they get infected. An infected nail can cause a severe bone infection that can put your pet’s health at risk and may even require surgery. 

So, trim your dog’s nails regularly and keep them as short as you can without injuring the quick. And if you aren’t comfortable trimming your dog’s nails at home, you can always take your pooch to the vet or a professional groomer. 

Regardless of who does the trimming, make sure that your pup’s nails are cut regularly and that nail clipping is a part of your pup’s grooming routine (source). 

Why Is My Dog Biting and Pulling Their Nails?

If your dog has a habit of biting and chewing their nails, you’re probably wondering what’s that about?! There are many reasons why dogs bite their nails, in most cases, it’s to relieve discomfort. 

So, what are the most likely causes for this behavior?

  • Your dog’s nails are too long and it is time to visit the groomer.
  • Allergies are making your dog itchy all over their body, including their toes.
  • Skin infections – the area between your dog’s toes is the perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to grow.
  • Anxiety and boredom can cause your dog to bite, chew, and pull its nails.
  • Fleas and ticks can hide between your dog’s toes causing itchiness and discomfort.
  • A broken nail can be extremely painful leading a dog to bite, chew, pull, and lick it as a way to relieve pain and discomfort.
  • Demodectic mange is a common skin condition that is often localized on the paws and can result in chewing and biting at the paws and nails.
  • Interdigital cysts, tumors, or other growths on the paw can also be the reason why your dog is biting and pulling their nails or licking their paw. If you notice any strange masses on your dog’s paws, take them to the vet for a check-up as soon as possible. 

How Do I Stop My Dog from Biting Their Nails?

Since there are many potential reasons why your dog is biting their nails, the best thing you can do is identify the underlying problem. Consulting your vet and taking your dog for a check-up is the best course of action when you have a pooch that is biting their nails. 

Additionally, you can make sure that your dog is regularly groomed and that their nails are trimmed and kept short. Another thing you can do to stop your pooch from biting their nails is to ensure that their paws and nails are washed and kept clean.

A simple thing like washing your dog’s paws every time they come back in from outside can help remove pollen that is triggering their allergies and making them itchy. 


Broken nails are a common injury in dogs, and your pooch will come home with a broken nail sooner or later. While they might seem terrifying, most broken dog nails are successfully treated at home with a few simple steps. 

As long as your dog’s nail isn’t bleeding profusely and you aren’t afraid to go near it, you can clean the wound and remove the dangling piece of nail at home without veterinary assistance. But, if despite your best efforts you can’t control the bleeding, or clean the injury without causing additional pain to your pooch, you should take them to the vet.

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