PetMeds® How to Help a Dog or Cat with a Split Nail

Apply pressure to the nail and cut the nail to prevent it from splitting any further Another common scenario seen in the veterinary clinic and which veterinarians often see on an emergency basis is the alarming symptom where one or more of the toenails split down to the base of the nail leading to bleeding, acute lameness, and pain for the pet. While trauma can play a role in these situations, many dogs have brittle nails which will often spontaneously split on their own without any known cause or trauma. The panic comes when the dog cries out in pain or the nail bleeds for several minutes.

The best advice I can give clients is to remain calm and simply apply pressure to the affected nail for 5-7 minutes. In the vast majority of cases, simple direct pressure and patience is all that is needed to stop the bleeding. Certainly a soft wrap or bandage can be placed on the foot at home, which can remain in place for 24 hours. If the nail breaks at an angle and/or remains split, it is best to cut the nail right at the point of splitting which while painful to the pet, it is only brief, but is necessary for proper healing and future regrowth of the affected nail.

Many pet stores sell over the counter pet supplies to facilitate healing and lessen bleeding time. If in doubt, certainly your veterinarian can clip the nail at the point of splitting and apply a soft wrap, but this is a condition that many animal guardians can be taught to handle at home, in order to avoid the expenses of a veterinary visit. If a pet continuously breaks off or splits their nails on a more frequent basis, then a full medical workup at the veterinarian is needed to rule out underlying medical, hormonal, or autoimmune conditions that could be underlying causes.

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