What To Do If Your Dog Breaks A Nail

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A broken nail may appear superficial, but it can be extremely painful. This is especially true if your nail was broken at the quick and may even cause a bit of bleeding.

While they are definitely painful, a broken nail isn’t too serious for us humans, and is often regarded as more of a hassle than an injury. To dogs, however, this isn’t the case.

dog broken nail

Since their paws are used to gather information, they have a lot of receptors that are sensitive to a great deal of stimulus—including pain.

This is why any injury to the paw can be acutely painful, even if it’s something as small as a broken nail.

So, if your dog breaks their nail, what can you do? How can you avoid this injury?

Causes of a Dog Broken Nail

First things first, why did your dog break their nails?

Here are a few possible reasons, which can help you anticipate the injury and avoid it.

Nails That Are Too Long

A poor trimming routine is the most common reason for split nails in dogs. Nails that are too long snag on almost every surface, like carpets, clothing, and even asphalt.

Keeping a dog’s nails properly trimmed can help avoid breaking while they move around.

Clipping Nails

Ironically, split nails can happen while you’re clipping your dog’s nails. While trimming them, your dog may move suddenly, causing nails to split or even be removed completely.

Steps on how to properly trim nails are included below.


Your dog’s anatomy can simply lend itself to split or broken nails.

Taking your dog to the vet for their regular check-ups can help you identify these cases, including other problems that your dog can have.

Additionally, split nails can be a sign of an underlying disease. When they occur regularly and don’t heal as quickly as they should, split nails can be a more concerning issue, such as a symptom for disorders like Lupoid onychodystrophy.

dog broken toenail

This is a disease in dogs that results in dry, brittle nails, making them susceptible to breaks.  Lupoid onychodystrophy attacks the immune system, causing more serious problems than just split nails if left untreated.

Regular vet visits can help you avoid this, as well as other diseases.


A broken nail isn’t always easy to spot. Because it would be hard to notice something as minor as a torn nail, they may cause a great deal of pain to your dog before you’re aware something is wrong.

Thankfully, there are other, more conspicuous symptoms to alert you that your dog may be experiencing discomfort.

If possible, examine your dog’s paws if they are exhibiting any of these symptoms.

  • Holding up a paw in the air.
  • Favoring one paw over the other.
  • Blood on beddings.
  • Constant licking on the paw.
  • Swelling around the paw or toe.
  • Hesitance to have their paws examined.
  • Nails are at an odd angle.

To your dog, broken nail injuries can be especially terrible, and would make them hesitant to have someone handle their paws.

If your dog doesn’t allow you to examine them, it would be best to bring them to the vet.

How to Treat a Dog Broken Nail

The Bark categorizes broken nail injuries into three types: a completely broken off nail, a nail that is loosely attached, and a broken nail that is still firmly attached.

The first type is the easiest to deal with, but you may need to address some bleeding. The second and third types will require you to trim off the nails if possible, and you may need to staunch bleeding.

A broken nail can be further complicated by an exposed quick. This will make the injury harder to treat and will require you to bring your dog to the vet.

dog split nail

To figure out whether the quick has exposed, check for is bleeding. If your dog is bleeding, this means that the nail has been broken down to the quick.

The quick is located inside the nail, and its function is to provide blood to the area. This means that cutting the quick (an action called quickening) will be particularly bloody—not to mention painful for your dog.

Treating Dog Broken Nail, Exposed Quick

An exposed quick can be stressful to deal with, because it often results in dog nail bleeding.

If your dog is bleeding, immediately apply pressure to the site. Do this for at least ten minutes, making sure not to lift your hand.

Once the bleeding has slowed, you may use styptic powder (like Kwik Stop) to staunch the flow of blood.

If you do not have this on hand, you can use corn starch or flour as an alternative. To use these, dip your dog’s toenail in the powder.

After doing this, you will need to bring your dog to the vet for further treatment. Your veterinarian will be able to remove the split nail.

They will probably need to keep your dog under sedation, simply because a quicked nail is a painful experience.

Treating Dog Broken Nail Without an Exposed Quick

If your dog’s nail hasn’t been quickened, it will be easier to treat. However, you should still be careful not to expose the quick while you’re treating the broken nail.

Here are five steps to take when handling dog split nail injuries.

Remove the Remaining Piece of Nail

If it is possible to remove the dangling piece of the nail without exposing the quick, do so with a good pair of clippers.

Do not attempt to clip it off unless you’re sure that the break is far from the quick (for example, at the tip of a long nail.)

If you’re worried about quickening your dog’s nail, it’s best to bring them to the vet, so that your dog’s nail can be trimmed under sedation.

dog broken nail exposed quick

Stop the Bleeding

Poking around a broken nail can cause bleeding. For this reason, keep a styptic pencil or powder nearby.

You may also use flour and corn starch as an alternative.

Clean and Disinfect the Wound

As with any injury, make sure that the nail, as well as the area around the nail, is clean.

Wash the paw with warm water, then dry with a clean towel. Follow it with an antiseptic formulated for pets.

Bandage the Paw

While it is important to bandage your dog’s paw, it may prove difficult. You can try to bandage your dog’s paw the traditional way. If that doesn’t work, you can substitute the bandages with a sock.

Make sure the sock is clean and tight enough around the paw. You may secure it with first aid tape.

If you notice your dog removing the bandage, you can buy a plastic cone and place it around your dog’s neck to ensure that their wound heals properly.

Change this bandage regularly. When changing bandages, clean the site of the wound and apply antibacterial spray.

Watch Out for Infections

Keep an eye out for symptoms of infections around the site. Symptoms of infection include swelling, discharge, and bleeding, especially when mixed with pus.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you will need to go to the vet. Infections do not go away on their own, and you will need a prescription of antibiotics from the vet.

Here’s a video showing an example of how to treat dog split nail.

How to Prevent Broken Nails

Before your dog even gets a split nail, it’s best to keep their nails short.

Since prevention is better than a cure, learning how to effectively keep your dog’s nails trimmed is an important skill to learn as a responsible dog owner.

Nail Clippers

Using the right nail clippers is often something new owners overlook. While you may think that all nail clippers are made equal, some are better suited for certain breeds or dogs with select temperaments.

For starters, make sure that your clippers are the scissor-type and not the guillotine style. The scissor-type look like and are held like scissors. The guillotine-type is probably used for your own nails.

Plier-style clippers (clippers that look and are held like pliers) are even better for dog nail trimming.

Finally, make sure to use smaller clippers. This will give you more control; only giant breed dogs will need bigger clippers.


So how exactly do you trim your dog’s nails? Here are the steps to help you complete this routine properly.

Hold the Paw

To ensure that your dog won’t jerk away and cause further injuries, secure their paws. Don’t squeeze their paw, however; there are a lot of nerves in that area, and squeezing will definitely be painful.

Hold their ‘ankle’ in a tight grip that doesn’t place excess pressure on their paw, and go slow.

Cut at a 45-Degree Angle

Do not cut directly across the nail. Rather, angle your clipper so that it is almost parallel to the nail.

If there is a lot of nail that needs to be cut, do so in small amounts.

dog broken nail

Do Not Cut Beyond the Quick

You will know that you are close to nipping the quick when you notice a ring of white at the center of the nail. If you don’t see this ring, you can cut just a bit more.

This can be harder to notice in dogs with white nails; in this case, note that this ring will still be a different shade of white than the nail.

For dogs whose nails have not been trimmed, you may use the notch as a guide. This notch can be found as a part of the nail’s underside, forming a hook.

You can cut at an angle just before the notch; this is a good rule of thumb to ensure you don’t trim the quick.

For dogs with long nails, the exposed quick will often dry up and recede. This will allow you to cut your dog’s nails even shorter with time.

Trim Regularly

According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, trims to keep your dog’s nail short should be completed at least once every two weeks.

Clippings to shorten the nail could be finished once a week.

Tips and Tricks

For dogs, nail trimmings can be a harrowing experience. After all, to a dog, broken toenail injuries are both stressful and painful.

However, there are a few things you can do to make this process less stressful.

Get Them Used to the Nail Clipper

Your dog’s agitation towards nail clipping is because of their unfamiliarity with it. Introduce the nail clippers to them before actually clipping their nails.

Show the object to them, putting it nearby in a safe environment. This will help them get used to the clipper, making them calmer when you actually need to clip their nails.

Give Lots of Treats

Be sure to keep treats on hand and reward good behavior. This will help your dog associate nail clipping with positive experiences.

Eventually, your dog will learn not to fear nail clippings, and may even begin to look forward to them.

In the meantime, bribes that include treats and positive attention will be necessary to keep your dog calm and happy.

Do It Regularly

While your dog may feel agitated and scared at first, regular nail clippings will get them used to the idea.

With enough repetition, your dog will eventually get less agitated, and your nail clipping sessions wouldn’t be too stressful.

Act Positively

While you may not notice it, your dog often looks to you for cues on how to respond to a situation. If you don’t like cutting your dog’s nails, your dog won’t like the experience either.

Try to act like this is a fun experience, and eventually, your dog will act like it too.

Here’s a video showing an example of how to trim dog nails.

Keeping Your Dog Happy and Safe

While it can be stressful for dogs, their broken nails can be stressful for you too. However, dog nail injuries are fairly common.

Being well-informed about what to do can ensure that your dog won’t just stay injury-free, but also become more relaxed about trimming sessions.

With these tips and tricks in hand, you can save them discomfort, save yourself time, and keep everyone happy.

What are your tips when it comes to cutting dog nails?

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