What Should Owners Do If Their Dog Has A Broken Nail?
Thu, February 2, 2023

What Should Owners Do If Their Dog Has A Broken Nail?



Digit or toenail injuries are extremely painful no matter how a small a tear is on a nail on your dog’s toe, said Lynn Buzhardt of VCA Hospitals, whose objective is to provide the best pet medical care. In fact, even the toughest and biggest dog breeds will limp around, hold up one foot, or whine in pain and discomfort. Broken or torn toenails are common injuries among dogs, with the nails highest up on your dog’s feet (declaws) often more susceptible to breakage, as stated by a staff author of The Spruce Pets, a website dedicated to pets.



Risk Factors for Digit Injuries Among Dogs Training and Competing In Agility Events (2018)

Debra C. Sellon and colleagues of e-Scholarship, a UC open access publications, received complete digit injury surveys from 253 respondents for 253 dogs. The authors found that 89.9% of the 253 dogs had disorders that were deemed traumatic in origin. 5.5% had infections, 5.1% had neoplastic disorders, and 0.4% had a bone cyst. However, the respondents did not indicate that the dogs had concurrent or predisposing trauma, hence they were excluded from the study.

Only 207 dogs with traumatic digit disorders were included in the study. Digit injuries occurred between 1995 and 2014 and five years was the median dog age at the time of injury. 46 breeds were represented in the population of 207 dogs with digit injuries and 109 breeds were represented in the control dog population, consisting of 874 dogs. 

In the injured population, the most common breeds were Border Collie (32.4%), mixed or unknown breed (11.1%), Australian Shepherd (10.6%), Shetland Sheepdog (8.1%). In the control population group, the most common breeds were Border Collie (19%), mixed or unknown breed (10.3%), Shetland Sheepdog (8.1%), and Australian Shepherd (7.3%).

Digit five was the most frequently injured digit (34.3%), followed by digit four (22.7%), digit three (22.7%), digit two (16.4%), and digit one (3.9%). Declaw injury was observed in 3.9% of all 207 dogs and 7.3% of the 110 dogs that were found to have front declaws. 35.7% of dogs had a fracture, 30.4% had a sprain or strain, and 11.1% were reported to have a torn ligament or tendon. Other injuries that were present in dogs were broken or ripped nail (10.6%), dislocation or subluxation (9.2%), arthritis (7.75), and other (4.8%).

The most common reported causes of injury among 207 dogs were participation in agility training or competition (34.3%) or running and playing (35.3%). Of 71 dogs with digit injuries that occurred during participation in agility activities, 36.6% of injuries occurred when dogs were running on grass, followed by dirt (32.4%), artificial turf (14.1%), rubber mats (14.1%), and sand (2.8%).



A specific agility obstacle was to have contributed to the acute injury for 52.1% of 27 dogs injured while participating in agility. The A-frame was specified for 23.9% of dogs, followed by dogwalk, open tunnel (8.5%), jumps (8.5%), and closed tunnel (1.4%). According to the authors, the results of the study helped guide recommendations for training and management of agility dogs and minimize the risk of digit injury.



Why Do My Dog’s Nails Break?

Your dog can break its nail by snagging them on upholstery fibers, grassroots, and more. They can also injure their toenails by jumping off a chair or from a porch and landing on its toe in a way that it “backs and breaks.” Sometimes the nails on older pets are dry to the point that they break and become brittle easily. Longer nails are also more likely to snag on things than shorter ones. Still, a broken toenail is painful and accompanies bleeding. Hence, toenail injuries need to be checked by your veterinarian as soon as possible.



What Should I Do If My Dog Has A Broken Nail?

Check your dog’s foot for a broken nail if it whines in pain, limps, or holds its paw up. Then, safely restrain your dog by having another person hold it while you tend to the nail. A muzzle is recommended to prevent injury since dogs may bite when in pain. You can also provide restraint by hugging your dog, immobilizing it and making your pooch feel safe and secure.



Wrap your dog’s foot in gauze or a towel to control the bleeding. Apply pressure to the injured toe and use a styptic pencil, silver nitrate stick, cauterizing powder, flour, or cornstarch if the bleeding does not stop. These can be purchased from your local pet store or in the first aid section of your pharmacy. Consider trying to stick a bar of soap into the tip of the nail to stop the bleeding.

Have you seen a loosely attached nail on your dog’s toe? That’s a damaged or broken part of the nail. You can trim it by using nail clippers but it is best to leave this task to your veterinarian. Wrap your dog’s injured toe in a before going to the clinic. Bear in mind that removing the loosely attached nail can be painful for your dog. Fortunately, this procedure can be done quickly and often does not require sedation.  

Your veterinarian will apply antibiotic ointment or powder to the exposed nail bed and wrap your dog’s foot in a bandage to prevent infection and minimize bleeding. An oral or injectable antibiotic may also be administered by your veterinarian. Your pet’s foot needs to be monitored so expect your veterinarian to schedule a follow-up visit to examine it or remove or change the bandage.

The keratin part of the nail protects the quick or the nail bed and without it, the tender live tissue, blood vessels, and nerves are exposed— which can be painful for your dog. Your veterinarian may administer pain medication for a few days to make your pet more comfortable.



How Do I Prevent My Dog From Breaking Its Nails?

Keep its nails trimmed to prevent breakage. Consult your veterinarian or veterinary technician on how to properly trim your dog’s nails so that you can do it at home. If you are not comfortable trimming its nails by yourself, you can schedule an appointment to have your pet’s nails trimmed at the clinic. Be sure to make nail trimming part of your dog’s grooming routine to avoid toenail injuries.

Toenail injuries cause pain and bleeding. Owners can trim their dog’s nails by themselves but it is recommended to have a veterinarian do it, especially when your pet canine has a loosely attached nail on its toe.