How to Treat a Dog's Ingrown Toenail

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Ingrown dog nails occur when the nails grow so long that they curl around and become embedded in the dog's paw. This is extremely painful and needs to be treated right away by trimming the nail and removing it from the paw. Additional treatment may be needed depending on the severity of the injury.

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Ingrown dog nails occur when the nails grow so long that they curl around and become embedded in the dog's paw.
Image Credit: kzenon/iStock/GettyImages

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Dog ingrown toenail symptoms

Just like your fingernails, a dog's nails grow continuously. If you don't trim them or if they aren't worn down enough when your dog runs and plays, the nail can curl around and start to grow into your dog's paw pad. An ingrown claw on a dog can also be caused by a nail that is malformed or misaligned. This can be uncomfortable and even painful, and if left untreated, it can cause further sores and infections to develop.

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If your pup allows you to examine the foot, you can easily see the ingrown nail. Some other symptoms for which to watch out include limping, swelling, licking, and chewing. The paw may also bleed if the nail is embedded enough.

Remove ingrown dog nails

The first step in treating a dog with an ingrown toenail is to trim the affected nail. If your dog has a lot of long hair on his feet, it is a good idea to trim the hair first so that you can more clearly see the nail. Take care not to cut the nail so short that you cut the quick, which can cause further pain and injury.

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If the nail hasn't broken the skin of your dog's paw and he will allow you to do so, you can trim the nail yourself at home. If he is struggling or the nail has caused a wound in the paw, it is best to take your pup to the vet for treatment. This will help to avoid infection and further injury.

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Additional treatment options

If your dog has a wound on her paw, additional treatment is likely necessary. The wound should be thoroughly cleaned to ensure all of the nails and any other debris are removed. Your vet may recommend soaking your dog's paw with Epsom salts to help with the healing process.

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Some wounds may need to be bandaged until the paw fully heals. You will need to ensure your dog doesn't continue to lick and chew on the paw or the bandage. This may mean putting an Elizabethan collar on your dog while she heals. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to treat and prevent an infection in the wound.

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Prevent ingrown nails

The best thing you can do to prevent ingrown nails is to regularly check and trim your dog's nails. Check the nails weekly and trim them as needed, including the dewclaws. Use nail clippers designed for small animals and be sure to replace them if the blades become dull. Clip the tip of the nail, taking care to avoid the quick of the nail, where there is a blood and nerve supply. You can see the change in the nail if your pup has white nails, but the quick can be difficult to see in dogs with black nails.

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If your dog doesn't allow you to trim his nails, take him to the vet or a groomer for a nail trim rather than waiting until a problem develops, such as an ingrown nail. Take time to work with your dog so that eventually you can complete the task at home.

Get your dog used to having his paws handled and offer plenty of positive reinforcement. Let him sniff the nail clippers and get him used to having the clippers touch his paw and nails without making any cuts. Build up to trimming just one or two nails a day until eventually you can complete a full nail trim in one sitting.

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