How to Treat a Torn Dog Nail

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

This page and the website are not intended to diagnose, treat or give medical guidance. Consult your veterinarian. 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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From Around the Web

  • Bob

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

    • http://petsadviser.com/ 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.?

    • http://petsadviser.com/ 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.

    • http://petsadviser.com/ 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.

    • vknqueen

      it highly depends on the nature of the injury. My dog ripped her dew claw today….it was sticking straight out, I was able to trim it down and she licked it till the bleeding stopped then I bathed it in peroxide and used triple antibiotic and a soft non stick gauze and tape….if the dog will not let you do this it’s time for the vet.

    • Tina

      I totally agree with you my dog Bella won’t let us anywhere near her split claw, and limping badly

      I will have to bite the bullet and take her to the vets I think, as she gets quite nasty when we try to look at it and is constantly licking at it……
      Bless her

  • 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..

  • Kelly wilkinson

    My Newfoundland tore his dew claw yesterday. No blood, but pain. We wrapped it up, and are waiting for the vet to open today. Should I have had these claws removed at birth?

  • Seismik

    My JRT broke his dew claw yesterday. The nail portion was snapped and sticking straight out to the side. There was grass and mud jammed into the wound and it was bleeding. We were more concerned about preventing infection and wanted assess the situation before determining if a vet visit was warranted. I used sterile tweezers to remove the grass. And since the nail was not able to be straightened, I put the clippers in and cut the damaged portion off. One quick yelp and it was over. Cleaned the area with water and a little peroxide, put a piece of gauze over it and covered it with athletic tape for the night. I changed the dressing this morning before I left for work. Other than some licking, he had been leaving it alone. I was able to stop at the pet store and purchased antibiotic spray for dogs. when I got home and went to change the dressing again, I found that the tricky little bugger managed to pull the gauze out. That must have hurt like heck, but there didn’t seem to be much blood on the tape (it was the non-stick kind that only sticks to itself). So, hopefully that means it’s healing. I’m just wondering how long it will take before it grows enough that it won’t bleed anymore or be painful for him. Poor lil guy. :( Thanks for the article, sounds like we were on the right track!

  • Kyle Paul

    Ohh simply soo sad it is!

  • Rachel

    My 3 year old border collie broke his dew claw around 3 months ago right done to the quick so I took him to the vet and got it cleaned up and got medication for it which was a pricey dollar but was worth it if it would make it feel better. Now his claw had grown back but kinda looked distorted and of course it broke again to the quick so I have to go get it cleaned up again and my vet said if it happens again he will completely remove both of his dewclaws. Do you think it’s worth it to get them surgically removed? I don’t want my dog to have this happen again but I imagine it will be quite a lot to have them surgically removed.

    • http://petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

      Your vet is the one best equipped to advise you on that. But such surgery isn’t uncommon.

  • sez

    My pup has had 2 breaks and i treated both at home, however I do not recommend doing unless you have support and knowledge.

    The first break was a clean break straight through the base of the nail. She ripped the whole thing off and went straight through the quick. I treated with homeopathic remedies, kept it clean and only bandaged when she would lick (which was rare as homeopathy treatment to prevent any pain or discomfort).

    The second break was much more difficult, the nail cracked but remained attached by the quick. I left it intact and treated for pain. I used a breathable bandage to hold the nail straight until the quick receded enough for me to keep trimming the excess back until finally, past the break. again i used homeopathy to aid healing and prevent infection. If i didn’t have the time to treat the nail so persistently though i would have definitely taken her to the vets.

    • Jessa

      what homeopathic remedies did you use. My pup had a clean break on her regular nail went right through the quick. She doesn’t seem to be any distress nor did she cry when it came off or afterward when I applied pressure to it. Ive been cleaning it with peroxide and using triple antibiotic (neosporin) on it. I’m not sure if I need to take her to the vet or if what I’m doing should be fine.

  • jo

    hi i have a dog her nails is bleeding dont no if it going to fall off

  • Jessa

    Hello- My dog was playing and her whole nail fell off.. all of it it.. in one piece. She didn’t yelp, and didn’t mind me applying pressure to stop the bleeding. I can’t get to the vet until tomorrow. She has stopped bleeding but it still looks like an open wound.. Should I take her to the vet or just soak the paw in a peroxide/water using triple antibiotic.

  • Georgie

    Hi, my dog has a split dew claw. He licks it but runs around fine. What should I do?

  • Mary Lynne

    Our dog tore her dew claw on Friday – took her to vet, who took it off (under sedation), e-collared her and put her on antibiotics. In the 96 hours since the injury, we’ve tried taking the ecollar off, but both times she has licked incessantly and brought blood to the wound area. We are thinking it looks like she is going to be ecollared for a couple of weeks at this rate. Any negative to doing so?

    • http://petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

      Should be fine with the E collar as long as your dog has access to water/food. You’ll still want to keep a close eye on her. And, of course, follow your vet’s care instructions. Good luck.

  • kayla

    I don’t understand how it happened but my dog’s back left nail is cracked. Is there any type of reason that would happen ???