My Dog Broke a Nail, What Do I Do?

My Dog Broke a Nail, What Do I Do?

Disclaimer: Joyride Harness writers are not professionals. Please consult your trusted veterinarian any time your dog has an injury of any type.

Nail care is something that can look wildly different from person to person. Whether we keep our tips trimmed, manicured, long, brightly colored, or au natural it’s everyone’s personal choice.

It’s a little different for our fur babies. While we can still give our pups colorful claws with pet-safe nail polish that comes in all sorts of fun colors, nail care for dogs is pretty straightforward. We want to keep their nails well trimmed on a regular basis and that’s pretty much it!

Now, we can still use all sorts of
tools to get the job done, like a clipper or nail grinder. We can even have the vet’s office or groomer do it for us. But what happens if our pup breaks a nail?

What Does a Broken Nail Mean?

Any of us break a nail, it might mean an emergency visit to the salon or even some pain and possibly bleeding. What does it mean if our pup breaks a nail, though? How serious is it?

Whether or not you’ve experienced this with your fur baby, it is actually a pretty common pet injury. Which makes sense given that as our pups
play and romp around, they could easily get those toes caught on something amid the excitement.

When a pup’s nail breaks, it can also look pretty gruesome since there can be a lot of bleeding involved. So here are some things to keep in mind.

There are two types of nail breaks for dogs:


1. Major Nail Breaks and Bleeds

If your pup has broken their nail close to the base, there will be a lot of bleeding. The first thing you may notice is your fur baby has a lot of blood on their foot or is leaving horror-film style bloody footprints throughout your house.

While nail breaks in dogs aren’t rare, it is important to
pay attention especially for a major nail break. Since there is a great deal more bleeding, it is possible for your pup to lose a lot of blood if not taken care of right away.

This will be an injury that more likely happens when playing.

2. Minor Nail Breaks and Bleeds

This is when the nail breaks or is trimmed too close to the cuticle or quick. Your pup will feel some discomfort and there might be a little bit of bleeding. 

Though it’ll likely be just some spots of blood and much less the amount of a major nail break, you will still want to address this kind of break or damage so that the injury doesn’t get worse and lead to bigger problems.

This tends to happen more when a nail is trimmed too close to the quick.

It’s important to remember that no matter how much bleeding there is, if it doesn’t stop after a day of treating it at home it’s important to talk to your trusted veterinarian as soon as possible! And if you ever aren’t sure, call your vet!

While either sort of nail injury isn’t necessarily unusual, being left untreated can make things a lot worse for your pup. They will likely be in pain, could get an infection, may lose a lot of blood, and could even hurt their feet if walking oddly because of a broken nail.

So make sure to check on your fur baby’s toes and watch for any signs that they’re having nail trouble.

Diagram of the quick of the nail for a dog

Dog 101: What is the Quick?

In order to avoid cutting too close to the cuticle, or quick, it’s important to know and recognize what it is.

When you look closely at your pup’s nails, if they’re light, you may see something inside. That’s the quick! It is the blood vessels and nerves inside the nail.

If you hold your pup’s paw up to a light, you’ll be able to clearly see where the quick is. Hint: it looks like a nail within the nail. This is what you want to avoid cutting too near when trimming your fur baby’s nails, as it’s painful and can cause an injury.

Dog lying down

What to Watch Out For

There are times when your pup’s nail could be damaged without leaving a true crime trail of blood behind them. There are certain signs you can look out for to get an idea whether or not your fur baby is experiencing nail damage.

  • Holding a certain paw in the air rather than walking on it
  • Limping and not putting full weight on all feet evenly
  • Leaving traces of blood on their bed, near their food, or on their favorite things
  • Constantly licking a certain paw
  • A swollen foot or toe
  • Unusually not wanting to have a certain foot or toe touched
  • The nail just looking unusual, for example at an odd angle

Some things to keep in mind as well is that longer nails get caught on things more easily and so are more easily broken. It’s always important to keep those nails trimmed regularly.

Additionally, your pup’s dew claw - or the small claw a little further up on their wrist - is not as strongly attached as their lower claws and often more hooked. This means it also can tend to break more easily.


Dog raising paw

What To Do When Your Dog’s Nail Breaks

Whether it’s a major or minor break, it’s always upsetting to see your fur baby in pain or bleeding. You want to know what you can do!

First and foremost, a dog who’s in pain - even our beloved fur babies who love us - may lash out. Anyone ever snapped at a loved one when we didn’t feel well? So it’s important to be careful when handling a damaged nail or the surrounding foot. As much as they love us, they may not understand what we’re trying to do or the pain may simply be too high.

Additionally, it can be hard to inspect our fur babies’ nails in the best of circumstances, much less when they aren’t feeling well. One thing that can help, is a secure and comfortable dog harness to help keep them from being as wiggly while you work.

That said, there are a few things that you can do if your pup has a broken nail.

Remove Any Loose-Hanging Nail Bits

First thing’s first, if you’re ever in doubt, the most important thing to always do first is to contact and talk with your trusted veterinarian. They are there to help and will always know what to do with nail injuries.

If you look at the foot and notice that there is any of the damaged nail hanging loose. A loose, dangly nail is more likely to really easily get caught on things and injure the rest of the nail even more.

However, and this is a big but, do not cut above the hanging nail if you will cut into your pup’s cuticle. It will be painful, cause a lot of bleeding, and be unpleasant for everyone. In that situation, it would need to be done by a vet.

Dog getting their feet washed

Clean The Toe

Just as our toes are not the cleanest places, pup paws can catch a fair amount of germs. And if there is a wound near them, we want to make sure to clean it so they avoid getting infected.

  • Remove any noticeable dirt or debris from the toe and nail.
  • Wash the whole foot in warm water with soap.
  • Dry the foot, toe, and nail fully.
  • Apply antiseptic.

Stop Any Bleeding

If your pup’s broken nail is bleeding from a major break, if cutting a hanging nail has caused bleeding, or even if you accidentally clipped your fur baby’s nail just a hair too short you’ll want to stop that flow.

The following three easy steps can help!

  1. If there is a lot of blood, put pressure on it until it’s lessened a bit.
  2. Apply corn starch, flour, or styptic pencil/powder if you have it.
  3. If applying corn starch or flour, put pressure on the injury again.

Bandage the Paw

If your pup has experienced a major nail break, you may need to give them a bandage. After all, pups love licking wounds and that’s not what we want.

Anyone knows that a pup keeping anything on their feet is not the easiest of things to do, so this can be a bit tricky. However, there are things you can do to make it a bit more workable.

  • Make sure your pup is secure and sitting still while you bandage them.
  • Wrap the whole foot in loose gauze with medical tape holding it in place.
  • Put a clean sock on your pup’s paw and tape the top closed - keeping the tape only on the top of the sock.
  • Use a cone or inflatable collar to keep them from being able to get to their feet.
  • Change any bandaging daily!


Dog on a vet's table

Call Your Vet

In situations where your pup has broken a nail, if it is a major break it is more likely that you may want to call your vet right away. You want to make sure that everything is okay and nothing has been damaged that needs a professional hand.

With any type of nail break, if your pup’s nail doesn’t stop bleeding after a couple days, if you see infection, or if they don’t stop showing signs of pain or discomfort definitely give your vet a call. 

It’s important to consult your vet any time your pet has an injury of any type, and you always want to be on the safe side!

While a broken nail likely won’t end in death, again it can lead to infection, pain, bleeding, and just not feeling great. We all want to make sure our fur babies are happy and healthy, and the more we’re prepared with the knowledge to help when something goes wrong the better we can provide for them.

This is just a sampling of tips and informational posts we offer at Joyride Harness. You can find more content including tips and tricks and how-tos for caring for your dog on our blog in this section.

For more doggie photos and pup-related fun, follow us on Instagram at @joyrideharness. And for a more detailed blog post about finding the best size dog harness for your pup, check out this blog post!
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