Dog Nail Ripped Off? Causes and Treatment for Broken Nails in Dogs

Just as your nails may break, crack, or tear from time to time, the same can happen to your dog.  Dealing with a broken dog nail can be scary.  Sometimes there can even be a lot of blood.  You want to do what you can to give your dog the best care possible and make sure their broken nail doesn’t cause them any unneeded pain or discomfort.  If a dog nail ripped off or broke in some other way, start by trying to remain calm.  We’ll share treatment options below to help you take care of your pup.  We’ll also tell you some symptoms of broken nails to be on the lookout for, as well as when it will be necessary to call the vet about a broken nail.

Causes of Broken Nails

My dog ripped his nail off, what caused it?  Believe it or not, there are a lot of possible causes behind broken nails in dogs.  If your dog ripped claw off and you want to understand what led to the break, here are a few possibilities to consider.

  • Nail clipping:  Nail clipping is one of the most common causes of broken nails in dogs.  If your dog pulls their paw away from you as you are trimming their nail, the clippers may pull the nail.  This can cause the nail to crack or even rip off.  If you accidentally cut too high when trimming your dog’s nail, it can also lead to cracked nails.  When trimming your dog’s nails, take care not to cut the quick. This can make your dog bleed and may make it more likely for their nail to crack.  
  • Nails that are too long:  If your dog’s nails are too long, they may be more likely to break or chip.  When a dog’s nails become too long it can make it uncomfortable for the dog to walk. Additionally, longer nails are more likely to get caught up in carpets or bedding.  If the nail catches on the carpet or bedding, it can snag, crack, or tear when the dog tries to pull their paw away.
  • Damage to the nail:  Damage to the nail may also be the reason why your dogs toenail ripped off.  Some dogs bump or hit their nails when playing, running, or walking. This trauma can lead to a broken nail or may even result in the entire nail tearing off.
  • Inflammation:   Inflammation of the nail can also cause cracks and tears.  Some dogs may develop bacterial infections in their claws, which can cause the nail bed to swell.  Trauma to the nail can cause bacterial claw infections. Sometimes other health conditions such as hyperthyroidism, immune mediated diseases, or hyperadrenocorticism may be to blame.
  • Health issues:  Cancer and other health issues can cause a dog’s nails to crack or break as well.  If you notice that your dog has been dealing with multiple cracked or broken nails, it is probably worth a checkup with their veterinarian.

Symptoms of Broken Nails

In many cases, you may be able to tell that your dog’s nail has broken or torn off.  Other times, however, it may not be as obvious.  Below are a few symptoms to look out for when trying to determine if dog toenail torn off:

  • Blood:  If you see blood on your dog’s paw, on their bed, or on their carpet, it could be a sign that their nail has cracked or ripped off.  To confirm that a broken nail is the cause of the bleeding, try to get a closer look at the nails on their paw and inspect them all for damage.
  • Limping:  When you’re asking, “what happens if a dog’s nail gets ripped off,” you may notice that your dog is limping or trying to avoid placing weight on one of their paws.  Cracked nails can cause a dog a lot of pain. They may try to ease the pain by not stepping on their paw while walking.  Your first thought when you see your dog limping may be that they have an injured leg. However, you should look at their nails to confirm whether or not a broken or torn nail is actually the culprit. 
  • Licking at the paw:  When dogs are experiencing pain, they may lick at the hurt area excessively.  Licking at the area is their way of trying to minimize the pain and find relief.  So, if you’ve noticed your dog licking at one paw rather constantly, take a look at their nails.
  • Swelling:  When a dog claw ripped off, it can also cause swelling.  Just one toe, or even the entire paw, may appear swollen.  The swelling can help you determine where to look to find evidence of the injury.
  • Resistance to being touched:  Since a ripped off nail can cause dogs a lot of pain, they may not want you to touch the affected area.  If you notice your dog is more hesitant to let you touch their paws than they previously were, it is possible that one of their nails cracked or tore off.
  • Nail looks to be on at a strange angle:  If you look at your dog’s paws and notice that one of their nails looks to be at a different angle than the others, this can also be a sign that something is wrong.  The nail may have started to tear off, but not come off completely yet.  If you see a nail angled in a strange way, try to get a closer look at it. this can help you determine if it is indeed tearing off.
dog nail ripped off

Treatment Options for Dogs with Broken Nails

Deciding what to do if dog rips toenail off can vary based on the circumstances.  In some cases you may be able to treat your dog’s ripped nail at home. However, in other cases a trip to the vet may be necessary.  

You should be able to provide necessary treatIf your mndog’s nail wasn’t broken to the quick, you should be able to provide necessary treatment at home.  Follow the steps outlined below to take care of your dog’s torn nail and keep them comfortable and infection-free:

  1. Remove any broken pieces of the nail:  Sometimes a piece of broken nail may still be partially attached or dangling off.  Very carefully remove this piece of the nail. This will help allow the area to heal and ensure that a new nail grows back as it should.  If you can remove the dangling piece of nail using the clippers do so. However, only do so if you won’t get too close the quick.  If you don’t think you’ll be able to remove the broken piece of nail without getting the quick, take your dog to the vet.  You don’t want to risk nicking the quick and making your dog bleed more.
  2. Get the bleeding to stop:  Once you remove the nail, you will need to stop any bleeding.  Styptic powder has a cauterizing agent that stops bleeding.  However, if you don’t have styptic powder at home there are some alternatives that you may have in your pantry. Cornstarch, or even flour, can also help get the bleeding to stop.  Add the powder to the area and use a towel as a compress to get the bleeding to stop.  
  3. Clean and disinfect:  Next, you will want to thoroughly clean the nail and paw area to remove dirt and bacteria.  This will help prevent an infection.  Start by washing your dog’s paw in warm and soapy water.  Rinse the paw to remove all soapy residue and gently pat it dry.  Use a pet antiseptic spray on the area where the nail broke to disinfect the area.  
  4. Apply a bandage:  Once the wound has been cleaned, you’ll need to apply a bandage to keep the broken nail clean and covered.  Depending on your dog’s tolerance level this may be easier said than done.  You may find success wrapping the paw with some gauze and first aid tape. However, this method may not work with all dogs.  Alternatively, you can try using a clean sock to cover the wound.  If you do this, tape the top of the sock to keep it from sliding off your dog’s paw.
  5. Prevent your dog from biting or pulling at their bandage:  Many dogs don’t like having their paws wrapped up and may try to pull the bandage off.  You may need to use an Elizabethan collar, or cone. This will stop your dog from being able to reach their paw with their mouth.  Keep the collar on them until the broken nail heals.
  6. Change the dressing daily:  Keeping the bandage for your dog’s wound clean is essential.  If bacteria is introduced to the wound, it can lead to an infection.  Replace the bandage every day, check on how it is healing, clean the wound, and reapply a new bandage.  If you notice any signs of an infection, bring your dog to the veterinarian right away. Oozing, bleeding, and swelling are all signs of an infection.

As we mentioned above, sometimes when a dogs nail ripped off, you may need to bring them to the vet.  We’ll look at some of the reasons to defer treatment of your pup to their veterinarian in the next section.

When To Bring Your Dog to the Vet for a Broken Nail

Following the steps outlined above can help you take care of your pup for more minor nail tears or cracks.  However, if your dog ripped claw out to the quick and there is a lot of bleeding, you should bring them to the veterinarian.  When a dog’s nail breaks to the quick it is more painful for the dog. Furthermore, it will result in more bleeding, which can be more challenging to stop.  Sedation is sometimes necessary. This allows the vet to remove the broken pieces of nail without making the dog too uncomfortable.

After dressing the wound, if you notice any signs of infection, such as bleeding, swelling, or oozing, you bring your dog to the vet. Catching an infection early will help prevent more major complications.

Finally, if your dog has broken multiple nails recently, you may want to schedule a checkup with your veterinarian.  Cancer and some other health issues can cause nails to break or tear, so it might be a good idea to rule out these possible concerns.

Don’t Panic!

If your dog ripped toenail completely off or even cracked it a little bit, you may see what looks like a lot of blood.  Keep yourself calm so you’ll be ready to provide your dog the help and treatment they need.  If you’re worried about the severity of the break or are concerned about an infection, don’t hesitate to reach out to your dog’s veterinarian.  After all, that is what they are there for!

FAQ Dog Nail Ripped Off

Do dogs claws grow back if ripped out?

If your dog ripped off a toenail, the good news is that the nail should grow back.  Like human nails, dog nails almost always grow back after they are ripped off.  The new nail will take a few weeks to a few months to grow in all the way, so be patient and work to keep your dog comfortable and infection-free while his new nail is growing.  Exposed nail beds are more prone to infections, which can hinder the growth of a new nail.  If your dog’s nail bed is completely exposed after a nail being ripped off, scheduling an appointment with the vet to prevent infection is a good idea.
In some cases, depending on the damage and trauma that occurred to your dog’s paw, the new nail growth may be irregular.  If the new nail looks oddly shaped or like it is at a strange angle, be extra vigilant about trimming it.  You can also check with your veterinarian if you’re concerned about the growth of the new nail.

Will a dog’s broken nail heal on its own?

When your dog’s toenail ripped off or cracked, you may wonder whether the nail will heal on its own.  While the nail should grow back on its own (after some time), there are still steps you as the pet parent should take to protect your dog.  
You will need to carefully remove the broken piece of nail (if it is still attached) or bring your dog to the vet to have the nail removed.  Next, you’ll need to stop the bleeding using styptic powder, cornstarch, or flour.  Once the bleeding has stopped, disinfect the area to prevent it from becoming infected.  Use warm water to clean the paw and nail area, then spray a pet-friendly antiseptic on the toe.  
Finally, bandage the paw, and change the dressing once a day to keep it clean.  If your dog won’t leave the bandage alone, you can look into using an Elizabethan collar, commonly referred to as a cone, to keep them from licking or biting at their paw.

How long does it take for a dog torn nail to heal?

The length of time it will take for a torn nail to heal can vary based on the dog, the severity of the tear, and whether the nail bed becomes infected.  In most cases, however, a new nail should grow back within a few months.

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