You arrive home to what looks like a murder scene. There’s blood everywhere, and a bloody trail can be found all over your house. You follow the trail and you hear whimpering and yelping close by. Eventually you see two scared, panicked eyes looking right at you. It’s your dog, and he seems to be hurt. For whatever reason, his nail is torn, and the bleeding won’t stop. What do you do?
First, take a deep breath, you will need to treat your dog. Whether he is actively bleeding or not, you must tend to the injury. But before taking action, you have to remember that your dog is scared and will instinctively try to protect himself. Thus, he may reflexively snarl or bite at you, without really intending to. You should therefore put a muzzle on your dog, or you may suffer some injuries yourself.
Step 1: Remove any nail fragments that remain
Broken pieces of nail can cause your dog more pain, and can aggravate or worsen the injury every time the piece is disturbed. Thus, to the best of your ability, try to remove as much of it as possible.
The fastest way to do this is by using a dog toenail clipper. If you’re lucky, the nail piece is already dangling and all you need to do is swiftly yank it off with just your hands (no tools required).
Step 2: Clean the wound
The injured area must be gently washed with warm water to dislodge any debris that remain between the nail and the leg or toe. If the wound is bleeding, don’t wash it right away. Administer some light pressure using a clean cloth on the affected area. If your dog will allow it, firmly grasp the entire foot and apply pressure.
Step 3: See your vet
You’ve done all you can for your pet at this point, it’s time to leave it to the experts. Generally, this type of injury can result in a bloody stump of tissue outside of the nail that would normally be inside the toenail. If touched, it will feel sensitive and tender. Thus, you should take your dog to the vet to treat it.
If a large section of the toenail has been removed, vets will likely bandage the area and administer some antibiotics to guard against infection. An alternative is to apply some antibiotic ointment (in addition to regular bandage changes) on the affected area to essentially lubricate it and reduce any pains caused by friction. In the worst circumstances, especially if it is a full declaw, your vet may suggest removing the affected toe.
Sometimes it is unclear what caused your dog to be injured. A nail may fall off without any apparent physical trauma. You will need to see a vet to confirm the culprit, but in such cases, it is usually an undiscovered tumor or infection in the area. This weakens the toenail and leads to secondary breakage.
Help! I’ve cut my dog’s nail too short!
You should have some shaving alum or styptic powder close by for general first aid. When you’ve accidentally cut a nail too short and nicked the quick, quickly apply the aforementioned onto the affected area to halt the bleeding and prevent infection. Styptic powder and alum can be bought at most pet or drug stores in the first aid section.
If you don’t have any of these supplies on hand, you can substitute corn starch or flour to stop the bleeding. Compact a small amount into the affected area and keep some pressure on it. If your dog allows it, put some ice on the cut surface to halt the bleeding.
Photo Credit: OakleyOriginals