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What To Do When Your Dog Has A Broken Or Bent Nail

What To Do When Your Dog Has A Broken Or Bent Nail

Last week, I noticed that the “pinky” side nail on Matilda’s left paw was bent at an outwards-turning 90 degree angle. I hadn’t seen any signs of pain like limping or licking before I saw it, but she didn’t let me mess with it too much.

When it comes to minor incidents like this, it can be tough to decide whether a vet visit is needed. In these times, it’s been harder for pet parents to schedule vet visits, even for serious health concerns.

My general rule of thumb is, if the same thing were happening to me, and I’d go to a doctor, I should take my dog to the vet.

I’ve had plenty of incidences where I broke a nail to the point of it being painfully short. While awful, there’s no need to see a doctor for that. I always just trim off any excess to prevent the remaining nail from getting caught on anything, then allow it to grow back on its own.

For Matilda, I was unable to use our Dremel to grind off the end of that delicate bent nail, but I could use clippers to trim the end.

I also shined my phone flashlight through it. It was hard to see whether or not the quick was running through the broken piece. For the uninitiated, the “quick” is that pink blood vessel running through your dog’s nail. If you trim past it, your dog’s toe will bleed.

Long story short, I trimmed off as much as I could and monitored the toe for swelling, redness, oozing, or anything that could indicate pain or infection.

Within a few days, the last piece after the bend had fallen off on its own.

Right now, the remaining nail is still fairly short, but it’s otherwise just fine.

Preventing Bent Nails In Dogs

I think this happened because I’ve been late in trimming Matilda’s nails. A long nail is more likely to get caught on something. I think she bent it when she was jumping onto the couch and lost her balance, and the nail must have bent while she was flailing for a foothold.

I only trim my dogs’ nails about once per month, when they’re starting to look long, but this isn’t really the best for them. It’s better to trim more often so the nails stay at a consistent, manageable length.

What’s more, when you trim your dog’s nails often, the quick actually stays short. In nails that are allowed to get long, the quick will eventually grow to fill them.

I’m grateful that Matilda trusts me to handle her, even when she’s in pain. She flinched and pulled her paw away a few times when I was trimming her bent nail, but I know she’s not going to try to bite me.

Frequent trimming also helps build that trust. However, even the most gentle dog may bite if they’re experiencing a true medical emergency.

Stay safe out there, friends!

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.

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Sunday 30th of January 2022

Great post, Lindsay! I worked as a veterinary technician for 15 years and I wanted to offer two helpful tricks, in relation to this post!

If your dog has a broken and bleeding toenail, there are two simple household items that you can use to stop the bleeding.

1. A simple bar of soap 2. Any multipurpose flour

Use either one of those items and pack the nail or nails that are bleeding and then wrap them with an ace bandage or vet-wrap. Leave that on for a few hours and your furry family member will be just fine!


Saturday 1st of January 2022

The nails of dogs are broken through dropping them onto upholstery fibers, carpet, grass roots,. Sometimes, they will leap off of a chair or fall down from a porch and land on the toe so that the nail is bent back and splits. Sometimes the nails of old pets become so dry that they begin to break quite easily. Longer nails are more likely to get caught in objects more frequently than shorter ones. No matter what the cause, a damaged nail can cause bleeding and pain, and it is urgently attended to.


Monday 29th of November 2021

Hi Lindsey!

Love the tips that you gave for bent nail prevention! I always feel so guilty when my dog has to go through these kinds of pain.

Love your content! Looking forward to more.

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