Broken Nails in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Estimated Reading Time 5 minutes
Broken Nails in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Dogs' nails need to be clipped or trimmed regularly. Sometimes, the nail can chip, tear or break, unintentionally while cutting it. If your dog's nail splits, breaks or tears, it can start to bleed and/or become very painful. This is a common injury in dogs, but it is advised to take him/her to the vet if it looks a little bit too serious. Keep reading for advice on how to care for your dog when they have a broken nail.

Are you concerned about your pet?

Book a video consultation with an experienced veterinarian within minutes.

  • Professional vet advice online
  • Low-cost video vet consultations
  • Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

If left untreated, a bleeding nail can result in blood loss, infection, or pain. It is rarely a life-threatening condition, and we can divide the breaks into major or minor. You will notice that the dog will start to limp, yelp/cry, or lick the wound. Other symptoms may include:

  • Hanging nail
  • Bloodstains on carpeting or floors
  • Exposed flesh
  • Infection
  • Trauma
  • Visibly damaged nails
  • Swelling
  • Excessive bleeding

Where does the bleeding come from?

It typically comes from small blood vessels in the nail, called quick. This bleeding will typically clot quickly and is not life-threatening. But, if the bleeding does not appear to stop, you’ll need to go to the vet's office for help. Since the animal is in pain, it could try to bite you if you try to administer first aid at home, which is why we advise you to get professional assistance.

Major Nail Breaks in Dogs

As we mentioned, nail breaks and bleeds can be divided into two categories. The first one consists of significant breaks, and it happens when the nail broke high up, near its base. This will cause it to bleed profusely, and you will need to apply gentle and steady pressure to the area and take the dog to the vet's office.

Also, if you can tell that the nail is partially attached, your vet will be able to take care of the wound and may prescribe pain medications and antibiotics.

Minor Nail Breaks in Dogs

A minor nail break or bleeding may occur if you accidentally cut the dog's nail too short. Apply gentle and steady pressure to stop the bleeding with a cotton ball or clean cloth. Cornstarch will also help the bleeding to stop. If it does, take the dog to the vet within 12 to 24 hours to ensure that everything is alright.

What causes a dog's nail to break?

There are many causes of broken nails in dogs, but the most common ones are:

  • Direct damage to the nail from playing or running around
  • The nail gets caught in the carpet or other materials
  • Inflamed nails
  • A health condition that causes the nails to weaken
  • Cancer
  • Cutting too much when trimming the nails

How to Diagnose a Torn Nail in a Dog

A vet will diagnose a torn nail in a dog based on a visual exam of the affected area. By touching, the vet will know that there is pain, so he may administer medication or sedation to treat the nail or nails.

If evidence is found that your pet may have an underlying condition that could affect his health and could change the condition of the nails, the vet may request blood tests and urine tests to be done.

Treatment for Broken Nails in Dogs

There are a few steps that need to be followed for treating a broken nail. First, the vet will inspect the area, and damaged portions of the nails may be removed. The dog may need to be sedated to avoid pain and stress so the wound can be treated properly.

If there is bleeding, it needs to be stopped immediately. The area will then need to be disinfected. If the nail is partially hanging, those portions will have to be removed.

Treatment may also include pain medications, antibiotics to avoid infections, and if a large portion of the nail had to be removed, bandaging might be necessary to protect the area. Your vet will tell you if follow-up treatment is needed.

Be sure should monitor your dog’s foot constantly to ensure that the nail is healing, there is no more inflammation or infection, and the nail is growing back. If the dog's nail is not growing back or is doing so irregularly, you should schedule an appointment with your vet for a recheck.

Tips for Treating Your Dog’s Broken Nail

We advise you to take your dog to the vet if the bleeding does not stop or if the injury looks serious. However, if it is a minor injury, you may be able to take care of it at home.

First, remove the remaining piece of the nail if it is still attached. You can use a dog nail clipper. However, if your dog is in pain from the hanging nail, take her to the vet's office so she can be given pain medication and sedation prior to treatment.

Next, stop the bleeding by applying gentle pressure. If you have a styptic pencil or powder that you can apply to the wound, it will help stop the bleeding almost immediately. Regular flour or cornstarch can also do the trick. Compress with a towel for a few minutes, and you are good to go!

Third, clean the wound and disinfect the area to prevent infection. You can bathe the paw in warm water and eliminate any traces of dirt and debris. Spray antiseptic, and if the wound bleeds again, apply more pressure.

Finally, if you think the paw may need to be bandaged, contact your vet for guidance. Bandages that are too tight, wet, or dirty can cause significant problems for your pet.

Read more:

First Aid for Broken Nails

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

What causes abnormal nail growth in dogs?

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s broken nails or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

Published: 6/12/2021
Last updated: 8/9/2021

Are you concerned about your pet?

Book a video consultation with an experienced veterinarian within minutes.

Get started
  • Low-cost video vet consultations, 24 hours a day Low-cost video vet consultations, 24 hours a day
  • Experienced, licensed vets Experienced, licensed vets
  • Over 700,000 satisfied pet owners Over 700,000 satisfied pet owners
Low cost consultations, 24 hours a day.Low cost consultations, 24 hours a day.

With FirstVet, the vet clinic and pet shop are only one tap away. Get fast advice, trusted care and the right pet supplies – every day, all year round.


FirstVet Inc

900 3rd Ave 29th Floor


New York