How to Treat Your Dog’s Torn Nail


Broken or torn nails are one of the most common injuries dogs can suffer from. The dew claws, found higher on the front of the foot, are nails that are connected more loosely than others. This makes them prone to injury if your pet is running or playing around outside.

Cutting a dog’s nails might also cause issues. Most of us know dogs don’t love getting their nails cut, and they tend to move around a bit. If they jerk with the clippers cutting the nail, they can tear or cause damage to the nail deeper into the paw.

Depending on the severity of the broken nail, there are different things you can do to help repair the damage and fix the discomfort your pet is feeling.

The Types of Nail Damage on Dogs

Typically, there are three types of nail damage that you might see with your dog. These types differ in terms of how severe they are, their potential causes, and what kind of treatment you should provide.

  • Nail has completely broken off and there is bleeding
  • Nail is cracked or broken but still loosely attached
  • Nail is cracked or broken but still firmly attached

One of the major causes of these incidents is your pet accidentally getting their nail caught in something. If they are running around in asphalt, concrete, or on metal surfaces, their nails can get stuck in a crack—kind of like a thin heel or shoe. This can cause the nail to be ripped off or almost ripped off. Counterintuitively, a full rip is better than a partial one.

The other major cause is with nail clipping. Sometimes, nail clipping can cause broken, bleeding nails that are still firmly attached. Sometimes, these must be dealt with by a veterinarian that can safely remove the nail while keeping your pet comfortable.

How to Treat a Dog’s Broken Nail at Home

A dog’s nail injury is not always a veterinary emergency, but it does depend on the particular situation. While it may seem like the worst type of injury, the best situation is actually a nail that is fully broken off. Although it’s painful, this issue is more easily treated, allowing you and your dog can get back to the normal routine.

If your dog has a broken nail, follow these steps:

  1. Secure your dog and prevent them from biting or licking the wound with a muzzle or blanket
  2. Get gauze or clean bandages
  3. Press the gauze and hold on the wound for 10 minutes
  4. If bleeding hasn’t stopped by that time, apply styptic powder or another cauterizing agent to the wound

Styptic powder cauterizes the wound and makes it stop bleeding almost instantly. If you don’t have any at home, cornstarch or baking powder can provide an adequate substitute. (It’s always a good idea to stock up just in case, and you can find it at your local pet store and many online retailers).

If the nail is broken but not fully separated, it will need to be removed. The only time you should attempt to remove it on your own is if the nail is mostly loose already, like a loose baby tooth. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to at least call your vet, or take your dog in for professional care.

Finally, nails that are broken or bleeding while still firmly attached can be a real problem for your dog. This situation can lead to infection or lingering pain, and must be dealt with by a veterinary professional. Do not attempt to remove the nail yourself.

Nail issues can be really frustrating for you and your pets. Unfortunately, they are very common and can occasionally become serious. If you run into issues with your dog’s nails, or have questions about other first aid issues you may encounter with your dog at home, call us and make an appointment today at Riverside Animal Care.