How to Care for a Dog’s Torn Toenail


Torn dog toenails are a common home injury, especially with dogs that still have their dewclaws. This injury requires swift action to stop bleeding and trip to the vet for follow-up. Learn how to treat torn dog nails and ways to prevent them.

Caring for a Torn Dog Nail

A pet owner may panic when he sees his pet’s paw bleeding. A torn toenail can bleed so profusely that it appears life threatening, but rest assured, it is not. Follow these steps to treat a torn dog nail:


  • Comfort the dog so that he will be still while you examine him. Calmly inspect him to ascertain exactly where the blood is coming from.
  • Determine if the nail is completely torn off or still attached. If the nail was completely ripped off, it will be easier to treat at home because once the bleeding stops, the wound will heal cleanly. Removing the broken nail is best because torn pieces of nail can be painful and may start to bleed as the dog walks. When nails are still attached, treatment depends upon whether or not the nail is firmly attached to the foot. If a toenail is only hanging by a thread, a pet owner can gently remove it with dog nail trimmers. A veterinarian must treat a nail that is severely ripped but strongly attached to the paw.
  • Wash off the injured foot with warm water and soap to remove any debris or germs.
  • Apply gentle but firm pressure to the injury site to stop bleeding with a clean cloth or pad. A styptic pencil or powder can help stop bleeding faster. Be careful using the styptic product because in these types of wounds, some dogs find the styptic painful. After applying the styptic product, it may be necessary to apply more pressure with the clean cloth for a few minutes to completely stop the bleeding.
  • Wrap the wounded paw in gauze, add cotton pads to the top of the injury, and cover it with an elastic bandage secured by a metal clip.
  • Call the vet for further care instructions and to determine if the dog needs veterinary treatment. Sometimes a vet will need to remove torn nail bits or prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.
  • If only home treatment is necessary, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the every six hours and put fresh bandages on the wound. Remove the bandage after 24 to 48 hours have passed, depending on the vet’s instructions. Leaving the bandage on longer can increase the risk of infection.

Canine Nail Injury Issues

Infection is a risk of canine nail injuries because the paws get exposed to all types of germs when the dog walks indoors and outdoors. The best way to prevent infection is to limit the dog’s activity and clean the wound frequently for the first two weeks of healing.

The blood clot or scab that forms around the injury can also easily reopen if the dog licks it or even from normal walking activity. This is way a bandage is critical for the first 24 hours. Some vets even prefer to keep the paw bandaged longer along with a prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection and promote better healing.

Preventing Torn Dog Toenails

Torn dog nails are easily preventable by keeping a dog’s nails clipped short. Dogs with declaws are at high risk for torn nails when they get long. Short toenails are less likely to catch on things and rip off. Clip a dog’s toenails regularly is the best way to prevent torn nails.

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