What to Do When Your Dog Breaks Their Nail: A Guide to Proper Care

dog nail break, dog nail break cure

For dogs and cats, broken nails can really sting. Your pet may yelp or cry when it first happens, or when you try to get a closer look at the nail. Injured toenails tend to bleed more than you might expect. That may feel scary to you as a pet parent, especially if you haven’t seen this type of injury before, but don’t be alarmed — it’s normal.

Dogs are active creatures that love to explore and engage in various activities. Unfortunately, accidents can happen, and one common injury that dogs may experience is a torn nail. A dog's nail can be painful for your furry friend if they injure it and may require immediate attention. Fortunately, toenails do grow back. The amount of time broken dog nails take to regrow varies depending on how far down the nail was broken. While it regrows, your primary focus will be on protecting the fragile new nail and keeping your pal comfortable.

In this blog post, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide on what to do when your dog breaks their nail, ensuring their comfort, promoting healing, and preventing further complications.

What causes broken nails in dogs?

broken nails in dogs

This problem is most common in dogs and cats whose nails have grown too long. In cats, long nails get stuck in carpets, scratching posts, and other objects, and then break. For dogs, long toenails might get caught and snared on the ground, plants, or other objects, or even split down the middle when jumping down from furniture or the car.

A cracked or broken nail can happen to pets with well-groomed nails, too. Often it’s just bad luck—catching the nail at a bad angle on the sidewalk or while playing. But some pets, especially seniors, may be at a higher risk because they have nails that are more brittle and fragile.

If you can’t get a good look at your dog or cat’s paw, here are some clues that you may be dealing with a broken toenail:

  • Limping.

  • Sudden yelping or crying during play.

  • Bleeding from one of the paws.

  • Excessive licking of the toe or paw.

  • Your buddy is reluctant to let you touch the paw.

If you notice these symptoms, it’s best to come for a vet visit right away, to prevent pain and infection. An infection at a broken toenail site can spread deeper, even down to the bone, so it’s important to be sure it’s healing well.

How Do You Fix a Broken Nail on a Dog?

Assess the Severity of the Break

The first step is to assess the severity of a broken or split nail. Some breaks may involve a minor chip or crack, while others can result in the nail partially or completely detaching from the quick (the sensitive tissue inside the nail) or the nail bed. Observe your dog's behavior for signs of pain, bleeding, or limping. If the bleeding is excessive or the break is severe, contact your veterinarian for guidance.

dog nails

Control the Bleeding

If there is bleeding from the broken dog's nails, it's essential to control it. Apply gentle pressure using a clean cloth or gauze to the affected area. In some cases, styptic powder or a styptic pencil, or even baking powder, can be used to help stop the bleeding. A large blood supply can sometimes be possible from this area as the wound bleeds, especially if the dog's nail is completely torn, so it's important to take action. These products can be found at pet supply stores or may be recommended by your veterinarian.

Clean the Wound

Once the bleeding on the dog's broken nail is under control, clean the area around the torn nail. Use a mild antiseptic solution or warm water with a gentle pet-friendly soap. Gently pat the area dry with a clean towel or a cotton ball, being careful not to apply excessive pressure or cause further discomfort to your dog.

Trim or Smooth the Nail

If the broken nail is jagged or sharp, you may need to trim or smooth it to prevent further injury. Use pet nail clippers or a nail file specifically designed for dog's nails. Be cautious and work slowly to avoid cutting into the quick, which can cause pain and bleeding. If you're unsure or uncomfortable doing this yourself, consult your veterinarian for assistance.

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Apply a Protective Covering

To protect any injured nails and prevent further damage, consider applying a protective covering. Having first aid for broken nails on hand is important. You can use a dog-specific bootie or a small, clean sock secured with tape or a vet wrap. This will help keep the area clean and prevent your dog from further aggravating the injury.

Monitor for Signs of Infection

Keep a close eye on the broken nail over the next few days for about a week to ensure it is healing properly. Look for signs of infection on your dog's toenails, such as increased redness, swelling, discharge, or foul odor. If you notice any of these signs, consult your veterinarian for appropriate treatment.

Prevent Licking and Chewing

Dogs may be tempted to lick or chew at the injured nail, which can delay healing and introduce bacteria. Especially if it is a painful injury. Use an Elizabethan collar (cone) or a specially designed recovery suit to prevent your dog from accessing the area. Distractions, interactive toys, and extra attention can also redirect their focus.

Follow Up with Your Veterinarian

Even if the broken nail appears to be healing well, it's important to seek veterinary care or have a follow up visit. They can assess the progress, provide additional treatment if necessary, and offer guidance on proper nail care moving forward. Some dogs may even require pain medication other veterinary medicine.

dog nails care

Preventing Broken Toenails

The best way to prevent a broken toenail is to keep your furry friend’s nails trimmed to a healthy length. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Regular toenail trims at home, the groomer’s, or the veterinarian’s office. Depending how fast your pet’s nails grow, this may be done every two weeks to every few months. Trimming your dog's nails regularly is always a good idea.

  • Provide scratching posts and other scratching surfaces for cats. This allows them to perform some of their own nail maintenance at home.

  • For dogs, be sure they have enough walking time. Walks outside, especially on sidewalks and other rough surfaces, can help to file a dog's nails down and allow less frequent toenail trims.

  • Keep your pal on a nutritionally complete and balanced diet, for healthy skin, fur, and nails.

With a few “healthy nail habits,” you can give your fur baby the best chance of avoiding a painful broken toenail. But if it ever does happen, we’re here to help your pal feel better fast!


A broken dog's nail can be a painful experience for your dog, but with prompt and appropriate care, you can help alleviate their discomfort and promote healing. By assessing the severity of the break, controlling bleeding, cleaning the wound, and taking steps to protect the injured nail, you can provide the necessary care for your dog's well-being. Remember to monitor the healing process and seek professional advice if needed. With your attentive care, your dog will be back to full health and comfort in no time.

Remember, each dog and injury is unique, so it's essential to consult with your veterinarian for specific advice and treatment recommendations. Whether it's a major or minor injury, they can provide personalized guidance based on your dog's size, breed, and the severity of the nail break.

By following these steps and seeking professional help when needed, you can ensure that your dog receives the care it requires for dog nail injuries. Your attentiveness and quick action will go a long way in promoting a speedy recovery and preventing any complications.

Additionally, it's always a good idea to maintain regular nail care for your dog to minimize the risk of future nail injuries. Keeping their nails trimmed and providing them with appropriate surfaces to scratch or file their nails can help maintain healthy nail length and strength.

In conclusion, a broken nail can be distressing for both you and your dog, but with the right approach, it can be effectively managed. By assessing the severity, controlling bleeding, cleaning the wound, and applying protective measures, you can provide immediate care and comfort to your canine companion. Remember to closely monitor the healing process and seek veterinary assistance if necessary. Your dog will appreciate your love, attention, and commitment to their well-being during this time of recovery.

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