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Help! A Dog Nail Broke and the Quick is Exposed

Sad dog with bright blue eyes

Sometimes dog’s nail is separated from the quick and it can be painful for them! It might have been that nail clipping you gave him the other day with the clippers that were less than as sharp as they should be, or maybe his nails were just too long, or the nail got caught on something.

Whatever the reason is, having a dog nail quick exposed is going to happen to you at least once as a dog owner. But what to do about it? Spruce Pets recommends that you remove any broken parts of the nail that may still be attached, but first there are seven important steps that need to be taken. 

Warning: If your dog is having trouble breathing or anything out of the ordinary like vomiting, gagging or labored breathing than take him straight to the vet. Do not touch the area. 

7 Steps for Dealing with a Dog’s Broken Nail with an Exposed Quick

Dog paw with broken nail with quick exposed
  1. If the toenail is bleeding compress the wound for at least two minutes with a clean towel. Bleeding often happens when the dog’s quick is exposed. The bleeding will often stop with compression.
  2. Muzzle your dog. As much as dogs love us, a nail that has been broken, cracked or exposed down to the quick can be very painful, especially if you start touching it, so his first instinct, as a reflex might be to bite you. So, please be sure to either muzzle your dog or have someone hold your dog’s head down and away from you as you inspect the area. I recommend this dog muzzle, that is available at Amazon.com.
  3. Inspect the area. Try to do so with as little contact as possible. Gently raise the paw and get a good assessment of the damaged nail. Check for the following. 
  4. If the nail is split in half down past the quick, take him to the vet and have them remove the nail. Doing it yourself could cause your dog serious pain.
  5. Remove the dangling nail, but be wary of where the quick is. The more white you can see in the center of the toenail, the closer you are to the quick, so trim with caution just above the quick. 
  6. After removing the nail, grab some styptic powder, flour or cornstarch and apply it to the wound to stop the bleeding. You might need to lightly compress it until the bleeding stops but that should not be the case.
  7. Do not compress the paw or squeeze the toe. Only apply pressure to the wound. if bleeding continues past five minutes, it might be a good idea to take your dog to the vet.
  8. Quickly dab the wound in warm water or sterilize it with pet antiseptic. 
  9. Apply a bandage to the wound and watch it carefully for the next few days.

Important! I know that dog muzzles aren’t very pleasant, but they should always be part of a dog first aid kit to keep you and your dog safe if they are scared and injured. I recommend this adjustable dog muzzle if you need one for your dog first aid kit.

Dog Muzzles Suit, 7 PCS Anti-Biting Barking Pet Muzzles Adjustable Dog Muzzle Mouth Cover for Small Medium Large Extra Dog - Black

Petful recommends you watch out for three simple things as signs of trouble after a dog nail breakage.

  • Toe swelling 
  • Oozing puss
  • Bleeding mixed with puss.

If you see any of these symptoms consult with your vet!

Styptic Powder for Dog’s Nails

Styptic Crystals on a black surface

Styptic powder, gels or pencils can be purchased at most pet stores and is what dog groomers and veterinarians use to stop bleeding. Benzocaine works as a topical anesthetic to ease pain while ferric subsulfate stops bleeding.

According to Dog Training Nation, if you are going to cut your dog’s nails, you must have it. It’s also useful for nail tears and breakage. Here is how to use styptic pencils and powders.

  1. Have the powder or pencil ready.
  2. Put a little water off to the side so that you can dip your finger in it for the powder or the tip of the pencil.  (Don’t lick your finger and then put it into the powder. Also do not lick the tip of the pencil. You contaminate it when you do that.)
  3. Dip your slightly wet finger into the powder. / Pencil into the water.
  4. Apply it to the wound.
  5. Be careful it will sting at first and the dog may react by biting or trying to pull its paw away so make sure you have a firm grip and your dog restrained to prevent any negative reaction.  
  6. Give the powder time to coagulate before letting him roam around.
  7. Puppyleaks recommends that you keep moderate pressure on the cut for at least 30 seconds.  But don’t squeeze it or compress it.
  8. They also recommend that you reapply the powder if the bleeding continues.

Of course there are many types of powders and gels to choose from. Here is a list of some of the best sellers on Amazon. Or if you would prefer a pencil here is a good link for that on Amazon

Note: If you have a dog with black nails, then clipping the quick becomes more likely because it’s hard to easily see.

Dog Split Nail – Super Glue?

Illustration of a tube of super glue with a drop dripping from tip

I occasionally get questions about using super glue on a dogs nail to help heal a split or deep breakage. This isn’t a good idea. Instead stick with the styptic powder method outlined above.

Preventing Future Nail Splitting

There is one sure way of preventing your dog from having this problem and Embrace recommends you keeping the dog’s nails short which means you need to cut his nails often.

This can be done by providing snacks while trimming the nails.

YouTube video

Now, I am not saying that you can cut down to the quick and your dog will not bite you, but this is a good idea if you want to keep their attention away so that you can work on their nails. Please keep in mind though that every dog is different so results may vary.

Summary – What to Do When You Have a Dog Nail Quick Exposed

The methods here work in most cases to stop nail bleeding when your dog breaks their nail.

However, if your dog’s toes get swollen, puss leaks from the wound, has trouble breathing or is vomiting after treatment, then take them to the vet immediately.

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