How To Treat a Dog Nail Separated From the Quick (Complete Guide)

A broken nail is no joke even for us humans, but it’s worse if you walk on four legs. Broken nails are common but a dog nail separated from the quick makes even the toughest dogs start yelping and limping.

Broken nails can happen during playtime or from an unbalanced diet. Depending on how bad the break is, you may have to take a trip to the vet. But there are also some home remedies to ease your furry friend’s pain.

What Is The Quick On Dog Nails?

For those not in the know, the quick is part of the anatomy of a dog. There are two main parts to a dog’s nail. The keratin shell and the quick. 

The keratin shell is the out layer. The shell is hard and has no feeling because it doesn’t have nerve endings. When trimming your dog’s nails, the shell is the part that you want to shorten. 

Inside the keratin shell, where the nail meets the paw, is where the quick is. You don’t want to cut that part. If you do, your dog will feel tremendous pain and bleed.

You don’t want to cut your dog’s nails too close to the paw. Ouch! You may lose your furballs’ trust forever, so it’s imperative to distinguish it from the nail. 

If your dog has white nails, it’s usually pink. It’s black for dogs with black nails. It can be tricky to locate the quick on dogs with black nails, but you’ll know you’re getting close to the quick when you see a dark circular part in the pulp.

Learn how to find the quick on black dog nails.

How To Treat a Dog Nail Separated From the Quick

There are many ways nails can break, but we’re specifically talking about when the nail separates from the quick. Treating a dog nail separated from the quick can be painful to look at, but imagine what your pup is going through. Try to stay calm and collected. This will help keep their nerves down. 

Step 1: Restrain Your Dog & Examine the Area

Some pets will probably vocalize their pain as this is a sensitive area. Others may start limping or licking their feet. Other signs include:

  • Swollen paws
  • Blood
  • Puss
  • Aggression

Your dog probably won’t let you touch the area. They might even bite you, so now would be a good time to use a muzzle if you’ve got one. Talk to your pooch in a calm voice and if you can, get some extra human hands to help you out. 

Step 2: Call the Vet

If the broken nail has gone all the way down the quick, you won’t be able to do this alone. In the meantime, ask your vet for advice on what to do before heading to the office. 

Your vet will likely remove the entire nail. If left attached, the nail is prone to infection. It will also cause your dog more pain. The surgery is usually quick, but your dog may get sedated or numbed.

Step 3: Stop Your Dog’s Bleeding

There are a few different methods to stop the bleeding. One is the classic, wrap a towel or sock tightly around the affected area. 

Apply a styptic pencil or silver nitrate stick if bleeding persists. You can purchase these items at a local pet store or pharmacy. Baking powder or flour also works to stop bleeding if you don’t have these on hand. 

Step 4: Cut Off the Nail

We strongly suggest taking your pal to the vet, especially in critical conditions. If you’ve got experience and you’re feeling brave enough, this would be the next step.

It will be painful for your dog, but it will be a relief when the broken nail is off. For the nail to grow back, you will have to remove all damaged parts. This means cutting it just above the break. 

Step 5: Disinfect and Bandage the Wound

Once the hard part is over, it’s time to disinfect the area to prevent infection. Prevention is important because the quick is attached to the bone. This can lead to bone infections, and you wouldn’t want that.

Spray a pet antiseptic on the nail to disinfect the wound. The spray will give comfort and numbing relief to your dog’s paw. At the vet’s office, they may apply ointment or antibiotic powder to stop the bleeding and prevent contamination. Antibiotics or painkillers may also be prescribed.

Step 6: Clean Daily

Keep the area clean and change the bandage daily. Let your dog’s paw soak in warm water with antiseptic soap for about 20 minutes. You should do this twice a day. 

Make sure your tail-wagger stays off their feet until the wound heals. It should take around 2-3 weeks to heal.

What Causes a Dog’s Nail To Break?

Nails break for several different reasons. Simple everyday things, like a snag in the carpet or a rough landing after a jump, can cause a nail to break. 

Older dogs’ nails tend to be drier, increasing the chances of breaking. Diet could be a factor as well as not trimming your dog’s nails often enough.

Preventing Your Dog’s Nail From Breaking

Trim your dog’s nails once a month. Ask your vet to show you how. Shorter nails have fewer chances of getting snagged on carpets and rough terrain. Going for walks on concrete will naturally file down your dog’s nails and prevent them from growing longer. 

Feed your pet high-quality and healthy food that is high in fatty acids. Giving your pet fish oil supplements will help their nails grow stronger and thicker.

Final Thoughts

Treating a broken dog’s nail is no pretty sight. If you’re worried about your capability to do it at home, don’t risk your pet’s health. Take them straight to the vet. 

Don’t panic, and keep calm. If you maintain and trim your dog’s nails, you can avoid the grief of a dog nail separated from the quick.

Photo of author

Dr. Jacob Hawthorne, DVM

Dr. Jacob Hawthorne, DVM is a certified veterinarian who graduated from the University of California - Davis Veterinary School in 2012. He specializes in nutrition and veterinary medicine for companion animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and more. He has been featured in websites such as PetMD, Yahoo News, Hills Pet, Daily Paws, and more. Learn more about Dr. Jacob Hawthorne, DVM.

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