Broken nails in dogs

broken nails in dogs
A cracked nail may bleed, be painful, and lift off the underlying nail bed


A broken nail doesn’t sound like anything serious, but they can cause your dog a lot of pain, and sometimes it can be a symptom of something more serious.


In most cases the nail is cracked near where the nail comes out of the flesh. Sometimes the nail is missing altogether. If the nail breaks through the quick (blood vessel/vein) in the nail, there can be a lot of blood – all over the room – don’t panic – your dog won’t bleed out but it can look dramatic. In many cases, when the nail cracks, it is painful and dogs will lick at the nail persistently, sometimes causing a rash or wet eczema from all the licking.  Because it is so painful, some dogs will try to pull the paw away, lick at the owner’s hands to stop them touching the foot, and some may bite so it’s important to be safe and use a muzzle if your dog is very sore to get a better look.


  • Trauma – 90% of cases are simply a case of the dog knocking the nail during exercise
  • Nail too long – and it got caught
  • Immune conditions – rare and normally more than 1 nail involved
  • Infection – fungal, bacterial, viral.
  •  Cancers of the toe. Persistently painful toe, often swollen, nail  cracking off may be first sign of a problem.  Some breeds more predisposed – Flat coated retrievers for example.


The simplest treatment involves pulling the loose piece of nail off, cleaning and dressing the foot, and prescribing painkillers and possibly antibiotics.  This should be done by a vet or nurse. If the nail is very loose, it can be done quickly but if the nail is cracked but still attached firmly, the dog may need to be sedated to have it done. Sometimes x rays of the toe are taken to find  out if there is a crack in the nail or bone if the toe seems painful but nothing is obvious to the naked eye. This would also be done to check for cancers or tumours of the toe or if simple nail removal doesn’t help. Thus a cracked nail can end up being quite expensive! Your pet will be sent home with a bandage which should be removed/changed in about 3 days time.

After the claw has been removed, the foot should be protected with a bandage

If your vet suspects a tumour or immune condition, the toe may need to be amputated together with the nail and sent to a laboratory for a diagnosis. Removal of 1 toe usually doesn’t affect a pets quality of life significantly. Working dogs such as racing greyhounds may be affected if they lose a toe.



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