A dog can lose a toe nail, particularly one that has not been regularly clipped to control length. The nail can get caught in things like small cracks or carpet fiber. Whether the dog is standing still or running at the time of the nail capture, it will pull its leg free, leaving the empty shell of the nail behind or dangling from its paw. Getting to the vet should be the first thing to do to have the nail professionally cared for and obtain an antibiotic and pain killer. If you cannot afford that route, following are some tips on what you may want to do at home. It's best to have a partner to help restrain the dog.
How to Care for a Dog that Lost a Toe Nail
Place a muzzle on your dog. An injured dog will be defensive since it is wounded, and may growl or even try to bite you. Don't take it personally; it's the dog's nature. Bring the muzzle over the top of the dog's head so the dog does not see it coming. Quickly, but gently, put the muzzle on and secure the ties.
Hold the dog's leg at the first joint and gently press several layers of about two-inch square sterile gauze against the toes to help slow or stop bleeding. Hold the pressure as long as the dog will let you or up to one minute.
Exam the dog's paw. If the nail is completely gone, you will see a red nub that is the quick, or base of the toe nail. If the toe nail is hanging by a thread, cut the thread.
Rinse the paw with saline solution or peroxide.
Place an "ouchless" pad with about 1/3 of the pad over the nub and the rest of the pad under the paw to collect the blood. Even if the bleeding has stopped or slowed, it may bleed more for a couple of hours.
Use stretchy two-inch wide medical tape to wrap the foot up to the first joint. Be careful not to wrap the foot too tight as it can impair blood circulation and bother the dog.
Cover the white wrap with adhesive-back stretchy medical tape. Stop short of the end of the white wrap so the sticky portion is only adhering to the non-sticky white tape.
Leave the wrap on for about 12 hours, and then remove it to help the nail to dry. Wrapping is best used for daytime or at the height of your dog's outdoor activities. Don't worry if the dog pulls the wrap off or if the dog licks the tape or the nail. Re-wrap after 12 hours or just before the dog will be going outside. Repeat the wrap for cleanliness and unwrap for airing cycles for three to five days.
Watch the nail for signs of infection, such as swelling of the paw or leg, pus or bad odor from the paw. The dog will need to see the vet for antibiotics.