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How to treat a split nail on a dog

Updated April 17, 2017

When a dog has split nail, it can be a harrowing experience for both the owner and the dog. The dog could be experiencing pain and stress, causing it to whine and cry, and the nail could even bleed. It is important to stay calm and ensure the safety of both you and your pet if you attempt to treat the nail. If the split occurred naturally, it may not be that painful for your dog. However, if the split occurred because of trauma or injury, it may have split back to the quick and can cause a large amount of pain. There is not a whole lot that you can do for a split nail, but you can take steps to relive your dog's pain and prevent future splits.

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  1. Prepare for your dog to try to bite you or get away from you when attempting to treat his nail. Your dog is likely in some pain right now, and the last thing it wants you to do is touch this area that is extremely sensitive. Ask a helper to hold your dog so that it cannot bite you or get away. If alone, consider using a muzzle on your dog. Even the friendliest of dogs will bite if it's in pain.

  2. Stop any bleeding with a coagulant. If the nail split into the quick, it will likely bleed, but if the split occurred only within the nail, it may remain dry. Effective coagulants include styptic powder, cornstarch or flour. In addition, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment on the split to prevent infection.

  3. Trim off any rough edges with a nail file, according to the veterinary website vetinfo.com. If there are jagged edges, they could potentially hook onto something and cause part of the nail to tear off. Do not use nail clippers, as they can cause the nail to split even more. If the nail begins to bleed while you file, apply a coagulant to the source of bleeding.

  4. Apply a clear nail polish to the nail to keep the split together until the nail grows out. Do not let your dog lick the polish until it has finished drying. Furthermore, keep the nail trimmed as short as possible until the split grows out.

  5. Tip

    Add 1/2 tsp olive oil to your dog's food once a day to prevent future splits. Keep your dog's nails trimmed as short as possible to prevent them from getting caught on an object and splitting. If your dog begins to limp, take it to the veterinarian.


    If you are worried about your dog or the nail, if your dog is acting aggressive toward you or if you are unsure about your ability to treat your dog's split nail, take it to a veterinarian immediately.

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Things You'll Need

  • Coagulant
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Nail file
  • Nail polish

About the Author

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