How to Treat a Torn Dog Nail

Dogs can tear or break their nails on numerous surfaces, including asphalt. By: Aaron Tait

Consult your veterinarian for treatment. In case of emergency, call your veterinarian or animal hospital immediately.

If you have a dog, it is quite likely that at some point in time your dog will tear, crack or break a nail.

Dogs are active creatures, and their nails can get caught on any loose material while they run and play. If a nail is caught, it can tear or break off completely. In some cases, the nail may crack rather than break.

The dew claws, the nails found higher up on the front of the foot, are most susceptible to tearing and breaking because they are more loosely attached than regular nails, putting them more at risk.

Another common cause of a cracked or broken nail is nail clipping. When a dog’s nails are being trimmed, it takes only a small jerk of his paw to cause a nail to break or chip, and if he yanks hard enough, he could tear a nail partially or rip it out completely.

Nails that are too long are more likely to snag and be torn, and long nails are also more likely to break or crack when a dog is walking or running on asphalt, concrete or a similar hard surfaces. In addition, some dogs are just born with weaker nails, making them more susceptible to damage.

Symptoms of a Damaged Nail

The following signs are all possible indications that your dog has injured a nail:

  • Favoring a paw by holding it in the air rather than walking on it
  • Limping or visibly not putting weight on a particular paw while walking
  • Blood on the floor of your dog’s bedding
  • Constant licking of a particular paw
  • A visibly swollen paw or toe
  • Resistance when you try to examine a paw or toe

If you are comfortable doing so, examine your dog’s paw if he exhibits any of the above symptoms. If the toe is sore and injured, he may not allow you to examine or touch his foot; if he resists your efforts, pack him up and take him to a vet.

If your dog allows you to examine his paw, you might still consider a muzzle or at least a helper who can divert your dog’s attention, and his mouth, away from your hands as you examine him.

How to Treat a Torn Dog Nail

If your dog has broken the nail down to the quick, you really need to get to the veterinarian’s office for proper treatment, possibly with your pet under vet-supervised sedation. It’s a painful injury.

The idea is to remove the remaining piece of nail to prevent further injury and to allow for proper healing and regrowth of the nail.

Some pet owners report using pet nail clippers to cut off the remaining nail just above the point where it’s broken or torn. This may make a clean cut in the nail that will increase the chances of the nail growing back properly.

Stop the Bleeding

Removing the nail may cause your dog’s toe to bleed, especially if the breakage occurred at the quick of the nail. Make sure you have the pet emergency kit out: A styptic pencil or powder applied to the wound will stop the bleeding almost immediately, as it contains a cauterizing agent that seals the wound.

If you don’t have a styptic pencil or powder, you can apply some regular flour or cornstarch to the wound and compress with a towel for a few minutes until the bleeding stops.

Clean the Wound

Once the nail is removed, you will need to clean and disinfect the toe to prevent infection.

Bathe your dog’s paw in warm water, and be sure that all traces of dirt and debris are gone. Spray a pet antiseptic on your dog’s toe; it will disinfect the area and will also relieve any discomfort from the open wound your dog may experience.

If the wound bleeds again, apply pressure or use a styptic pencil or powder.

Dogs may to struggle to take bandages off their paws, so consider an E collar for their safety. By: Miles Goodhew

Bandage the Paw

Dogs don’t like having their paws bandaged, so this can be a tricky procedure. You can try wrapping the paw in a loose-fitting bandage, using first aid tape to hold in place.

Another method is to place a clean sock on the paw and tape it into place. A sock often works better than a regular bandage because it’s less restrictive for the movement of the paw, which makes it more likely that your dog will not pull it off.

If your dog pulls the bandage or sock off, you may want to place a plastic cone collar (E collar) around his neck for a few days until the wound heals.

Change the Bandage

Change the bandage or sock every day to assess the state of the healing process and to keep the area clean. Remove the bandage and bathe the dog’s paw in warm water.

Check the paw for the following signs of infection:

  • Swelling of the toe
  • An oozing pus discharge
  • Bleeding that may or may not be mixed with pus

If you see signs of infection, take your dog to the vet immediately. The vet will most likely prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. If the wound is healing as it should, place a new bandage or sock on the paw. If your dog is wearing an E collar, after two or three days, the wound should be healed to a degree that your dog will not lick it and the E collar can be removed. (Remember to follow your vet’s instructions — exactly.)

Treating a Broken Dew Claw on a Dog

Broken dew claw treatment varies slightly, as your vet may recommend removal of both of the dew claws completely if injury occurs to one.

This is a common procedure performed by vets on several different breeds of dogs. After healing, your dog will be able to run and walk just as before.

Has your dog experienced a torn dog nail or broken dew claw? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section below. You might also want to check out my previous post on why a dog might be biting its paws. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Pets Adviser’s popular email newsletter. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll also be among the first to get alerts about major pet food recalls: Learn more here.

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  • Bob

    Thanks for the info. My dog ripped off his dew claw earlier. Thankfully his Quik was still intact

    • Pets Adviser

      Sorry to hear about the injury. Glad to help.

  • Samantha

    What should I do if my dogs dew claw artery it’s sticking out but the nail is still hanging on infront.?

    • Pets Adviser

      Hi, you should consult a veterinarian. That injury sounds painful to the dog.

  • chris

    my litte dog broke his dew claw today what should we do about it

  • Sarah

    This is really misleading article. The only thing to do if a dog breaks his nail down to the quick is to take him to a vet. I tried to cut off my dogs claw after reading this article and I can still hear his screams now. The dog needs to be sedated – it’s such a painful injury. The first thing this article should say is ‘where possible get this treated by a vet’. I’ll be surprised if my dog ever let’s me clip his nails again after subjecting him to such pain. The vet said he must be sedated for this procedure or we’ll risk him never trusting us again.

    • Pets Adviser

      Hi Sarah, that’s scary. Not only have we added a stronger statement before the article, but it bears repeating here as well: Don’t take this injury lightly—especially if the nail has been broken down to the quick. It’s painful for the dog, and only your veterinarian will know the best way to treat it.

  • bear

    Strech-metal floors are traps for most non-retractable claws – but only in one direction. The fatal direction allow the claw to enter the opening, and then lock it in place as the dog attemt to rotate and lift the paw from the floor. My dog got six claws more or less torn off by this ‘sadistic’ type of floor. She is on the mend, and we expect the worst to be over in about three days or after ten days of changing socks, paw-protectors and a protective collar..