Male veterinarian wrapping a small dogs paw with gauze
If your dog splits his nail, take him to a vet immediately for treatment. This may include pain medication and wrapping the paw in gauze or a bootie until it heals. ©FatCamera / Getty Images

How Dogs Split a Nail and How to Treat It

When a dog splits a nail, it’s extremely painful and needs to be treated immediately. Here are steps you need to take on the way to your vet’s office.
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It can be very painful when dogs split their nails, but preventive measures and proper dog split-nail treatment helps them heal smoothly and comfortably. Understanding the different types of dog split nails lets you manage these injuries effectively, along with always seeking necessary care from your veterinarian.

Types of dog split nails

There are three ways a dog can split nails:

  • Vertically: occurs when the nail splits down the middle
  • Torn hangnail: with the dog split nail underneath
  • Ouch!

Dogs can split their nails because of numerous reasons, including overgrown nail length, awkward movements onto a hard surface or carpet, age or even illness. Even the smallest tear is agonizing and must be treated immediately, especially if the quick, or the dark park in the center of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves, becomes exposed.

Preventing dog split nails

To prevent dogs from spliting their nails, trim nails regularly and monitor nails for bleeding. Keep nails short to prevent injury or discomfort. Overgrown nails develop cracking, says Kristie Thompson, owner of Paws & Claws Pet Spa in Anza, California.

Dog split nail treatment

Here’s a list of items — your split nail emergency kit — to use if your dog splits a nail:

  • Styptic Powder (like KwikStop)
  • Gauze/Q-tips
  • Vet Wrap
  • Soft Sock
  • Nail Clippers (minor cracks)

If your dog splits a nail:

  1. Apply styptic powder to stop bleeding, holding a Q-tip or gauze to nail for 45 seconds.
  2. Once controlled, the nail itself should be treated and removed only at your veterinarian’s office. Never remove the split nail yourself due to increased pain or infection!
  3. Until arriving at your vet, temporarily wrap your dog’s paw with gauze and vet wrap (or sock).

Medical treatment for a dog split nail may involve sedation, pain medication, antibiotics and bandaging. Don’t worry, your dog’s nail does grow back in time.

“I recommend a doggie shoe with Velcro over the bandaged foot and keeping it clean and dry, says Kristie.” An example is the medical bootie by Healers Pet Care.

Split nails are as painful as they are “cracked up to be,” but rest assured! Maintaining these safety techniques and veterinary support will bring your dog much relief and ease.

2 thoughts on “How Dogs Split a Nail and How to Treat It”

  1. This is very helpful, especially because knowing what to do before a split happens is important. You don't want to be unprepared or taken by surprise. I really liked Anna's previous article on how to trim nails, because long nails are a preventable cause of split nails, as she said. Thanks for the information!

  2. Yes yes
    Kristie at paws and claws is the best she has been there for years and she very knowledgeable with animals
    Highly recommend her

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