My Dog has a Broken Nail
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While domestic dogs do not need to use their claws for hunting prey like their wild counterparts, they are necessary for basic movement. They keep the dog balanced, allow them to interact with their environment and grip slippery surfaces. These all help to both maintain their safety and lead their best life. When a nail is broken, it can pose a risk to their health in various ways. The same can be said if the dog's nails are too long, so proper nail care is essential.
In this AnimalWised article, we look at what we can do to if our dog has a broken nail. We look at the different types of breakages, whether the nail is simply cracked or there is an exposed quick. Treatment for a dog's broken nail will depend on the type of damage. We also show you how to help prevent a broken nail in the future.
Why is my dog's nail broken?
Dogs have four toenails on each paw. Some also have dewclaws, a vestigial ‘fifth finger’ which is located higher on the legs of the dog than their feet. It is even possible to have double dewclaws, giving them six nails in total. Wild dogs do not need to have their nails clipped because they do it themselves by walking over hard ground or scratching them on rocks. Many domestic dogs do not have the same access to hard materials, especially those which spend a lot of time at home. This can lead to insufficient wear, meaning the nails grow too long.
Overgrown nails in a dog prevent the dog from placing their toes on the ground properly. This leads to trouble walking and maintaining balance. When the nail is too long, it can also lead to malformations in the dog's paws which can affect their mobility. Infection is also possible as a dog's nails curl round when they grow too long and pierce the sensitive skin on their paws.
As responsible dog guardians, we need to make up for what our animal's lose through domestication. Clipping and trimming our dogs nails is just one of them. We also need to see if there is any reason their paws are not being worn down more regularly. For example, they may need more exercise and/or access to the outside. Rectifying this can improve their overall health, not just their toenails.
Causes of a dog breaking their nail can be varied. It is possible the nail breaks after skidding on a hard surface or some other kind of physical trauma. In this cases, it is possible for the dog nail to be ripped off completely. However, the nail may only become cracked, but the dog worries it themselves with their teeth. It could be they which rip the nail off. A splinter or other type of foreign object might break into the nail bed and cause poor growth, perhaps due to infection. However, the most common reason is simply that the nails have been allowed to grow too long.
My dog has a broken nail and is bleeding
Although it is not a frequent occurrence, it is important to know how to act when our dog has a broken nail. In some cases, the broken nail may be accompanied by bleeding. This may be the first sign to alert us to a paw injury. The blood comes from the ‘quick’, a vascularized part of the nail where nerves and blood vessels are kept. The extremities of the nail do not contain blood vessels, which is why they do not bleed when cut.
We can see the quick if we look at the side of the dog's nail and shine a light through it. However, this is harder to do if the nails are black or very dark. When a dog breaks a nail to the quick, it will be painful as well as produce bleeding. This is one of the reasons we need to be particularly careful when trimming a dog's claws ourselves.
The diagram below shows where is the quick area and where the nails need to be trimmed:
My dog's nail ripped off
If our dog has ripped the top of their nail off completely, it may not bleed unless the vascularized area has been affected. This is why it is possible our dog's nail has been ripped off without us even noticing it. This is actually easier than if the nail is split. A split or cracked nail will need some attention. A nail which has broken off cleanly will grow back on its own, not provide any pain and should grow back in a few weeks. This is not the same if a dog's nail has been ripped off from the paw pad itself, something which will be very painful and cannot be repaired. Fortunately, this occurrence is unlikely.
How to treat a broken dog nail
As we state above, if the dog has broken a nail without bleeding, we can see it will grow back normally. However, if bleeding does occur, we need to treat the problem immediately. The first thing we need to do is take some clean cotton or gauze and place it over the nail to stop the bleeding. We need to bear in mind this process can be painful for the dog, which may cause them to panic or move around egregiously. Silver nitrate powder may also be used to help stem the blood flow.
Once the bleeding has stopped, we should clean the area with hydrogen peroxide or chlorhexidine digluconate solution. This will help prevent infection from setting in, although chlorhexidine digluconate is best as it will cause less irritation. Disinfectant and silver nitrate powder should be kept as part of your canine first aid kit.
If these tips and techniques do not work, then we will need to take the dog to the veterinarian. There, the vet will be able to cauterize the wound, stop the bleeding, clean up the area and provide any additional medical treatment the dog may require.
Do a dog's nails grow back?
Yes, a dog's nails will regenerate once they have broken off. A split nail will grow back on a dog just as it will on a person. In a similar way, if the nail has been split in an awkward manner, the nail may grow back deformed. We need to ensure we take the dog to the veterinarian to see if this can be rectified.
If the dog's nail is removed completely from the nail bed, it cannot grow back. As we state above, this is not something likely to happen.
How to prevent my dog from breaking a nail
A broken nail on our dog may be the impetus for us to promote proper nail care. If we have not done so already, we will need to start checking their length regularly. If the dog's nails have grown too long you will be able to hear them clacking on hard surfaces. The nails should not extend over the soft paw pad underneath. The best way to prevent a dog from breaking a nail is to ensure they do not grow too long with adequate hygiene maintenance. We can clip, trim or file the nails regularly to ensure this is the case.
Ideally we should accustom to dog to being groomed and hygienically maintained from an early age. We can do this by touching their paws. We do this slowly at first and reward them with positive reinforcement until they are able to have their paws touched without being scared.
When clipping a dog's nails, we need to ensure we do so safely. Due to the thickness and shape of a dog's nails, we cannot use clippers used for humans. Instead, we need specialized clippers or files which can handle them. In particular, we need to ensure we do not cut to vascularized zone of the quick. This is trickier when trimming black opaque nails. If we are at all unsure if we have the confidence to cut our dog's nails properly, we need to seek help from a professional. Some veterinarians may offer the service, but a dog groomer is more likely the best option.
Read our article on how to trim a dog's nails properly to know more. You can also see how it is done in our video below:
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog has a Broken Nail, we recommend you visit our First aid category.