Your Dog’s Broken Toenail May Be A More Serious Problem Than You Think

Your Dog’s Broken Toenail May Be A More Serious Problem Than You Think

If you ever had a dog that has suffered a broken nail, you know how problematic it can become.  The severity of the break will determine the action you need to take in treating it. In cases where the nail is broken and at risk of further injury, such as catching on something and ripping it off, you will need to see a vet. Broken toenails are relatively common injuries in dogs, especially active breeds.   Once the protective outer shell of the nail breaks, it may expose the tender tissue that is located between the nail and the bone in the toe.


Treatment for broken toenails in dogs


No matter how broken nails in dogs happen, they are incredibly painful and most likely, your dog won’t like your handling their paw.  You should exercise caution when handling your dog’s paw after a toenail injury. A broken nail is just one reason to keep a muzzle in your dog’s first aid kit. Vets agree, that if the nail looks like it needs medical treatment, it is best not to try to fix it at home but to take your dog to the vet for medical care.


Symptoms of a broken nail that requires vet care includes:


  • Persistent or excessive bleeding
  • Licking or biting at the injury
  • Swelling in the toe or foot
  • Lameness
  • Signs of pain (whimpering, being clingy, snapping, etc.)


Because toenails are prone to re-injury and infection, in many cases your vet will remove the remainder of the toenail while your dog is under sedation and prescribe pain medication and antibiotics. Protecting the toe from infection cannot be underemphasized.  Due to the anatomy of a dog’s toenail, infection can easily travel from the toenail to the bone, which can destroy the bone and end up requiring partial or total amputation of the toe.


Preventing broken toenails in dogs


While you can never eliminate all risks, if you keep your dog’s nails short you will lessen the chance of injury.  If you can’t trim them yourself, usually your vet will keep them up for a very nominal fee or your local groomer can take care of them for you. If your dog lives a highly active lifestyle complete with hikes over rough terrain, booties can help protect footpads and toenails from injury.


Diseases that can cause broken toenails in dogs


If you have a dog that breaks or loses the same toenail repeatedly or breaks toenails over and over, you should ask your vet to refer you to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist to rule out the following potential causes:


  • Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy (SLO) is an inflammatory condition that involves the nail bed.
  • Vasculitis- inflammation in the small blood vessels in the toe and toenail and can lead to poor blood supply that affects the nail.
  • Cancers- such as subungual melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma, which can develop near the nail.

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