dog

Puppy Care 101: What To Do If Your Dog Cracks, Tears, Or Breaks A Nail

by Desirée O

When you bring a new puppy into your home, you want to do everything you can to keep your pet safe, healthy, and happy.

But when you have a rambunctious little creature running around who loves to spend the majority of time play-fighting, scratching, and digging, your pup is bound to suffer a few bumps and scrapes as well as other (hopefully) minor injuries and annoyances. That, unfortunately, includes the possibility of breaking a nail.

There are different levels of severity when it comes to a puppy nail injury and just as many ways to treat whatever the problem might be.

But before you rush your dog to the animal hospital or try to apply a little first aid at home, there are a few things that you should know first.

Check out these important tips about what you should do if your puppy has a chipped, cracked, or broken nail.

Calm Your Puppy (and Yourself) Down

Calm Your Puppy (and Yourself) Down
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

If your puppy breaks a nail, the little one could very well be hurting and might be upset. Of course, this could upset you as well. Before you do anything else, start by calming yourself down and then work on calming your pup.

Pick up and cradle your pup, and speak in a soft, reassuring tone to let your puppy know that you’re going to take care of things and everything will be all better soon.

Assess the Symptoms and Signs

Assess the Symptoms and Signs
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

Puppies with damaged nails can exhibit a few different symptoms, so there are some signs you need to watch out for.

Check for a possible broken nail if your dog is constantly licking a certain paw, avoiding putting weight on a paw, or limping in any way. If you notice blood on your dog’s paw or any swelling, you’ll also want to take a closer look at the situation to find out the cause.

Of course, if you see anything amiss — like a nail that’s crooked or split — you’ll know right off the bat what’s causing your pet’s discomfort.

Assess the Injury

Assess the Injury
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

Once you suspect that something is wrong, it’s time to zoom in on the problem.

Get your puppy in a comfortable position — either lying down or cuddled up in your lap — and check the toes, including the nails, the webbing in between each toe, the padding on the bottom of the paw, and the top of the paw.

First, try to find the source of the issue (i.e., the injury and/or cause of pain) and determine if the problem is just in one spot or in multiple places. Next, see if there are any foreign objects that have embedded themselves into the paw (such as dirt, pebbles, twigs, or glass). If you are indeed dealing with a nail-related injury, the next step is to determine the type of damage to the nail.

Determine What Kind of Nail Issue You're Dealing With

Determine What Kind of Nail Issue You're Dealing With
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

Examine the damaged nail closely. Is the nail scraped or chipped? Is it cracked or split? The tip or side of the nail might be broken right off, or a piece could still be slightly attached. Note everything that you see when you look at the nail to help you figure out your next step.

Determine How Serious the Issue Is

Determine How Serious the Issue Is
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

You’ll then need to determine the seriousness of the issue. If it’s something minor, like a scrape or a clean break, then you can probably handle things yourself. But if your dog appears to be in a lot of pain or is bleeding a significant amount and you can’t get it to stop, then you’ll need to call your vet and get your dog in for treatment right away.

If you can take care of the situation yourself, then read on.

What to Do If You Think You Can Handle It Yourself

What to Do If You Think You Can Handle It Yourself
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

If the problem isn’t too serious and is something you can handle yourself, then the next thing you’ll want to do is get your puppy ready for some TLC.

Make sure you or someone else is holding the puppy securely (though not so tight that you’re hurting the little one). If your pup hasn’t learned not to nip yet, then you might have to use a muzzle while you work. Prepare yourself for a few cries and whimpers from your pup (and possibly from yourself) as you administer first aid.

What to Do If the Nail Is Broken Off and Bleeding

What to Do If the Nail Is Broken Off and Bleeding
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

If a piece of your puppy’s nail has broken off completely and the paw is bleeding, you’ll first want to carefully and quickly wash it with a little warm water to remove any dirt. If necessary, you can do a more thorough cleaning after the bleeding stops.

To stop the bleeding, wrap the paw in gauze or anything clean you have on hand like a towel or cloth. Apply pressure for five to 10 minutes until the bleeding stops. Try to keep your puppy calm and still during this time, because getting upset or moving will increase the dog’s blood flow and make it harder to stop the bleeding.

What to Do If the Bleeding Won’t Stop

What to Do If the Bleeding Won’t Stop
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

If your puppy’s nail injury simply won’t stop bleeding, many experts suggest that you apply either baking soda or styptic powder.

Another option, of course, is to seek out a vet’s help to make sure that your dog doesn’t suffer from a dangerous amount of blood loss or any sort of infection.

What to Do If the Nail Is Broken But Still Attached

What to Do If the Nail Is Broken But Still Attached
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

If your puppy’s nail is damaged and a piece is hanging off but still partially attached, you’ll want to be careful when it comes to removing the broken bit. If you try to rip it right off, you might end up hurting your pup even more.

Instead, slowly and carefully try to pull the piece away from the rest of the nail. If necessary, clip the piece off using dog nail clippers. Be sure not to cut the nail too far down. Take off little sections at a time if that’s easier.

What to Do If the Nail Is Chipped

What to Do If the Nail Is Chipped
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

If the nail is chipped or a piece has completely broken off, you might need to file down any sharp sections of the remaining nail. You can use either a normal nail file (obviously NOT the one you plan to use on your own nails) or a battery-powered file that’s made specifically for pets.

If you’re not used to filing your pet’s nails, the electric option can be a great choice because they often come with a guard that keeps you from filing down the nails too far and accidentally cutting the “quick” inside.

What to Do If the Nail Is Cracked

What to Do If the Nail Is Cracked
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

If your puppy’s nail is cracked, you might need to gently file down the edges; however, if the split is bad, filing it might be too painful for your dog.

If you worry that the crack will get worse or it seems to be bothering your pup,  temporarily wrap the paw in gauze to provide some protection and relief (more on that below).

Cleaning the Wound

Cleaning the Wound
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

Once you’ve addressed the source of the problem, you might want to do another deep-cleaning of your puppy’s paw. Again, use warm water and possibly apply some pet-specific antiseptic to prevent a possible infection.

Bandaging the Paw

Bandaging the Paw
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

You might also want to bandage the affected paw if the injury is serious enough or if your puppy can’t resist licking and/or nibbling at the nail. You can use normal gauze to dress your dog’s paw.

Note that a lot of puppies will gnaw at the wrapping or pull it right off, so you’ll have to watch your dog closely and possibly redo the bandage a few times until the nail is back to normal.

Try to Keep Your Puppy From Licking The Paw While It Heals

Try to Keep Your Puppy From Licking The Paw While It Heals
Joy-Sujintana Kansakarn for RockYou

If you don’t opt to bandage your puppy’s paw, you’ll still have to be on watch until things heal up. A puppy will naturally try to clean the injured paw by licking it and fix any damage by nibbling at the nail. But this can cause problems for the area as it’s healing, which is why you’ll need to stay vigilant and (calmly) keep your pup away from the affected spot.

Try to distract your beloved pet with a few extra hugs. That will surely make you both feel better!