How to Treat Torn Dog Toenails

dog-lifting-pawThinking about torn dog toenails really makes me shudder – I know how painful it is when I tear my own nails, and torn nails are just as painful for your dog.

How do you know when your dog has torn his nail?

The signs are any of the following: a bleeding paw, your dog limping, licking and biting at his paw and possibly some whining due to the pain.

How to treat a torn dog toenail

The first thing you need to do is examine your dog’s paw to determine where the nail is broken. As he’s likely to be in pain, take precautions not to get nipped – you may want someone to hold your dog, or put a muzzle on him, whilst you examine his paw.

Torn nails can either be treated at home or by your vet – they are not life threatening injuries, but are painful and distressing for your dog.

If the nail has broken fairly close to the tip and you feel comfortable removing it yourself, either by pulling the torn part off quickly or using nail clippers, then you can treat the injury yourself. Just remember that this will be momentarily painful for your dog, so be prepared for him to try and pull his foot away from you, yelp and possibly nip you!

If the nail has torn close to the base of the nail, or you are uncomfortable treating the torn nail yourself, refer to your vet. Nails that tear near to the base of the nail usually have to removed in their entirety, and this may have to be done under anesthetic.

Whether you treat the nail at home or take your dog to the vet, you will want to stop the bleeding as soon as you can. Use styptic powder, silver nitrate or a home remedy of applying flour or cornstarch to the nail and the bleeding will soon stop.

If you are going to trim the nail with nail clippers, cut to the level of the tear. Once you’ve done this, wash the paw in warm water and make sure it is thoroughly clean before applying a loose bandage to the paw, which you’ll probably want to keep on for a couple of days.

It will take some time for the nail to re-grow, and you should watch for any signs of infection in the paw.

Don’t leave a [tag-tec]torn dog toenail[/tag-tec] untreated – it will continue to bleed on and off, and can become infected. It will also be painful and irritating for your dog.


Nine times out of ten it’s dogs with overgrown nails that suffer with torn and broken nails – they get caught in the carpet, rugs, decks etc. and tear as your dog pulls away trying to free his paw.

Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is the best way to prevent torn and broken toenails.

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  1. Ryan Molik says:

    thank you this waas verrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyy helpful and calming to know my dog cant die

  2. My dog injured a nail on his right rear leg which was not witnessed. He is limping badly, but is not in any distress. He does not want to go for a walk which is unusual, and the nail is not bleeding but looks cracked and partially broken. We think he snagged it on the carpet. He is not licking it and still uses it to scratch, but he has a hard time with weight bearing.

  3. thanks a lot. my dog tore her nail to the tip of her toe and i didn’t know what to do, but now I do.

  4. thank you! Very helpful for me in an emergency situation!

  5. Nielisse says:

    Thank u! I was so worried bout my doggy….She ripped her nail down by the base 🙁 cries…at least I know it’s not a HUGE emergency…she’s ok and I’ll take her 2 the vet as soon as I can 🙂

  6. Michele says:

    Thank you very much. My dog has been limping off and on for a few weeks and I just figured out this morning that it’s a split nail. The split runs to the pad. It’s my fault for letting her nails get so long and now I feel soo bad. She’s such a sweetie and is by my side day and night. I’ll get her to the vet ASAP!!

  7. Sparky, his dad, and I thank you so much for this article. We have spent years trimming Sparky’s nails but today we had a really bad trim and got one really short and I really wasn’t sure what I should do. We didn’t have one of those nifty pencils but I was relieved to learn that there were some at home things we could try. Thank you for helping to put us at ease. Hopefully Sparky will forgive me!

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