Dogs may sometimes break a nail when they are out and about on a walk. The dew claw, above the paw, is more loosely attached and is therefore most prone to damage. Although some dogs have naturally stronger nails than others, it is important to keep your dog’s nails short to reduce the risk of them getting caught or cracking. Nail clipping should be done carefully and regularly. This article covers what to look for and what to do if your dog breaks a nail.
Long nails are more likely to chip, tear, split or break, which can be painful to your dog and may require veterinary treatment. When a dog stands or walks on a long nailed paw it puts pressure on the wrong parts of the foot, causing pain and discomfort and can ultimately contribute to joint issues especially in older dogs.
The most important thing to do straight away is to stop your dog from licking its foot or nail. Dogs and cats have bacteria in their mouth, which can cause an infection if they lick a broken nail. Bathe the paw twice a day with warm salt water (1 tsp salt in 500ml/1 pint cooled boiled water), or a dilute Chlorhexidine solution (1 part Hibiscrub to 20 parts water). Ensure that the paw is dried thoroughly afterwards.
To prevent them licking the paw, we recommend using a plastic Buster collar, or an inflatable Buster collar, to stop them reaching the nail. Or, try a children's sock; check that the sock isn’t too tight and stays dry at all times. The sock will need to be changed and washed daily. Any of these prevention methods should be used for at least 3-5 days, to allow the damaged tissue to seal and the signs to fully resolve. Grannicks Bitter Apple spray (available online and from pet shops or your vet) can be applied to the sock to stop your dog from chewing it. However, do not apply it directly to a wound.
Avoid woodland walks or muddy areas until the damaged nail has dried up. If necessary, limit walks to short lead-walks, for toileting only, until the nail has fully healed. In this way the nail will heal faster and your dog will be back to normal much more quickly. You can use a dog boot, such as a Mikki boot or a Therapaws boot, to protect the area whilst walking. After walks, ensure that the affected paw is cleaned and dried.