How to Fix My Dog's Split Nails

Your dog may be trotting along on her usual walk, sniffing the early morning air and enjoying the exercise. Suddenly, she stops and moans in pain. She may have broken a nail on an uneven edge of the sidewalk or on a rock obscured by long grass. Unlike the annoyance when you break a fingernail, a dog nail split vertically almost always causes severe pain and may leave her paw at risk for infection

Dog Paws
You may not know immediately if your dog has injured a nail.
credit: Garrett Aitken/iStock/GettyImages

Dog split toenail signs

You may not know immediately if your dog has injured a nail. It may split while he's playing in the yard without you, or he may snag a long nail on carpeting or his bedding. Because the injury is so painful, VCA Hospitals says your dog may limp, favor other legs, or lick his paw incessantly. The injury sometimes causes bleeding, so a bloody paw or a trail of drops of blood on the floor are causes for concern.

Sometimes there is a dog cracked nail with no bleeding. When you examine your dog's nails, look to see how far the split extends. If it goes into the blood vessels and nerves in the center of nail known as the quick, you will need to be extra vigilant for infection. The quick attaches to the bone, and if the infection spreads there it could be serious.

Treating a torn toenail

Examining a torn nail can be a two-person job. If your dog is in pain, she may lash out no matter how gentle she normally is. It's helpful to have someone restrain her while you examine the paw.

If there's blood, Canidae says to apply pressure to the toe after wrapping it in a towel or gauze. If that doesn't stop the bleeding within 10 minutes, applying a styptic pencil, silver nitrate stick, or cauterizing powder can staunch the flow. If you don't have these handy, home remedies such as coating the nail with baking powder or flour could help.

Once the bleeding has stopped, assess exactly where the nail is split. If it's just a very small area, it's possible you might be able to trim the dangling nail with clippers at home. But it's often best to take your dog to the vet or an emergency clinic. The vet will be able to hygienically cut back the nail to above the split and treat with antibiotic cream or a pill or injection antibiotic if infection is a concern.

Pain medication may also be prescribed to help make your dog more comfortable as her paw heals and the layer of protective hard keratin around the quick grows back so the nerves are not exposed.

An ounce of prevention

The best way to avoid a dog split toenail according to Embrace Pet Insurance is to keep his nails short and smooth. The longer the nails are, the more likely they will get caught on something that will cause them to split.

When grooming your dog, cut the nails back, but avoid cutting the quick. The quick is easier to see in white nails since it will appear pinkish; dark nails are more challenging to trim. Offering your dog treats and praise while you trim can make the job easier. If your still dog resists having his nails trimmed it might be time to consider a groomer.