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Get the First Aid Right for Your Dog’s Broken Nail
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Get the First Aid Right for Your Dog’s Broken Nail

Critter Culture Staff
Updated May 16, 2022

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You won't think much about your dog's claws until the day one of these nails breaks, and you feel like you're suddenly on the set of a horror movie. There's a rather dramatic amount of blood that results from a broken dog nail, but it's usually a lot less serious for your canine friend than it looks. The same can't be said for your absorbent furniture, unfortunately.

1

Broken nail causes

Cute little playful bichon frise running through house freemixer / Getty Images

Dog claws break for various reasons. For starters, a nutritional deficiency can cause brittle nails, as can old age. Nails can get stuck in a rug or other floor material and tear off if the dog is mid-sprint. Trimming nails infrequently can lead to longer nail quicks, the part of the nail comprising nerves and small blood vessels, and nails that are more likely to split. On the other hand, cutting nails too short or not keeping the paw still can nip the quick.

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2

Broken nail symptoms

dog licking its paw chendongshan / Getty Images

It's not difficult to detect a broken dog claw. You'll hear a whine or notice a limp. There'll be a puddle of blood on the tiles or a growing blood stain on your upholstery or carpet. The pink and tender nail quick will likely be visible, and your dog may be licking or chewing the damaged site.

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3

Take a look

Shot of a dog putting his paw's in his owner's hands Charday Penn / Getty Images

Draw your dog's attention away from the wound, if possible, by taking out a favorite edible treat. Muzzle your dog to prevent wound licks and bites while examining its tender paw, but only do so if it's not in respiratory distress. Avoid touching the quick— you may need to enlist help to restrain the animal. Now, breathe. Dogs break their claws all the time. This isn't an artery gushing blood forth, so you're not dealing with a life-threatening situation. It's only a major medical emergency if the bleeding doesn't stop after ten minutes of applied pressure—continued bleeding could be due to a blood clotting issue.

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4

Remove damaged bits

Dog nails being cut and trimmed during grooming ThamKC / Getty Images

Once you've inspected the nail, you'll know whether it broke off entirely or if a piece is still hanging on. Try and remove the broken portions of the nail with a sterile dog nail clipper. The removal can be uncomfortable, but it eventually allows a new claw to grow and replace the old one. If your dog doesn't seem to be managing the pain or you're not confident about where to snip, a trip to the vet is in order. You'll need to bandage the now-exposed and sensitive quick before going anywhere. Rinse the wound with warm water first.

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5

Apply styptic powder

Pet first aid kits often contain a styptic powder or product. A pea-sized amount of styptic powder can stem blood flow from minor cuts by contracting blood vessels. Baking soda, cornstarch, and unscented bars of soap can work as substitutes if you can't find any styptic powder, but styptic products also often contain pain relievers. Use a moist cotton swab to apply the powder, and follow up by applying gentle and continuous pressure with a clean cloth for a few minutes.

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6

Bandage up

dog with bandage on its paw Jeanette Fellows / Getty Images

Wrap a not-too-tight bandage over the wound after spritzing an antiseptic spray. Without a gauze or other dressing, there's a good chance your dog will accidentally knock his sore paw against objects, and a new lot of blood will emerge. That's not great for the healing process, your interiors, or the noise pollution—no one wants to hear little buddy in pain, least of all you.

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7

See a vet

scared dog waiting on the vet clinic beavera / Getty Images

If your local veterinarian practice is busy, you could wait a long time while the clinic's team deals with more urgent cases. When you do get to the front of the line, the vet may administer a sedative if your fur baby is looking stressed. The vet will also provide take-home anti-inflammatories for the pain as well as antibiotics for rare but possible infections.

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8

Use a cone

Senior dog with Elizabethan collar JulPo / Getty Images

You may need to use an Elizabethan collar for a couple of days. This prophylactic prevents your dog from licking or biting its paw, which can give rise to an infection. Many modern e-collars are soft and comfy and don't limit a dog's vision, so wearing one shouldn't be too much of an ordeal.

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9

Recovery timeline

Human hand holding dog paw sanjagrujic / Getty Images

Your dog will usually feel fine within a day or two of breaking its nail, even without a visit to your primary care vet. The pain becomes tolerable, and the swelling goes down. In addition, the affected toe begins a two-month claw regrowth journey. Monitor the situation and maintain good grooming habits.

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10

Nail maintenance

Dog groomer cutting nails on black Labrador retriever dog Nastasic / Getty Images

Trim dog nails at least once every two weeks if your dog lives a soft life indoors without as many opportunities to wear the keratin down. The quick is easy to spot and avoid in white claws but err on the side of caution with darker nails. Ensure your clippers are sharp, and you won't compromise the nail.

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