Why Is a Dog’s Nail Being Pulled Away From the Pad Such a Big Deal?

Pet Care


July 26, 2022

A broken toe nail is a terrible injury. It sounds so painful to even read about such cases. It should not be that much of a big deal for dogs because they seem to be tough creatures. But in reality, it can turn into a much bigger problem.

Many times, the nail will be completely pulled off, leaving in its stead a blunted quick. That is actually a much easier injury to cater to in the case of a dog. Other times, the nail can be pulled away from the pad partially. This will cause an issue every time the dog moves that foot or puts pressure on it. Each time it will irritate the wound and cause it to bleed again.

In most cases, the injured dog will act scared, hide, and might even skip meals. The dog will lick the wound to make it better and will guard it so that nobody can touch it. You will need to be very careful in earning their trust before they let you look at the wound.

Why Is it Such a Painful Injury?

A dog’s toenails are much thicker than those of humans. They have a lot of nerves and blood vessels in their nail beds, which are called quick. This is covered with a hard layer of material that is called keratin.

The keratin is a dead tissue, whereas the quick is a living tissue because of its nerve endings. This is the reason why when you trim your dog’s nails it does not hurt because you are basically trimming the keratin. However, if you were to accidentally over-cut the keratin and reach the quick, it is going to hurt the dog a lot.

When there is a dog nail pulled away from pad, with all the nerves and blood vessels exposed, it must be excruciatingly painful for the dog. It is necessary to rush to the vet if the nail has not come off completely.

Another reason is also that they have to use that paw to walk or to make any kind of movement so the pressure on that toe is only going to cause it to hurt even more.

How Do Dogs Break Their Nails?

Just like human nails get snagged in carpet and break, you can see a dog nail ripped off in the same way too. Dogs have a habit of jumping off furniture or a porch or out of a car and landing on their toes in a way that their entire weight falls on that particular toe, breaking the toenail.

There are also older pets that might have brittle and dry nails that are more prone to breakage than healthy ones. If their nails are not trimmed regularly, they might grow longer and this will also make them more susceptible to damage.

How Do You Find Out If Your Dog Has a Broken Toenail?

Your dog will be limping because it is too painful to put their weight on that paw to walk. When hurt, dogs can be found whimpering alone by themselves. They can also detach themselves completely and stop eating as well. It causes them to retract and try to recover in isolation.

Many times, the dog’s reaction to a broken toenail is so extreme that their owners worry if it is a broken leg. It is only when they reach the veterinarian that they find out that it is a broken toenail.

What Should You Do When You Find That Your Dog Has a Broken Toenail?

Sometimes the toenail may be left attached to only the base of the nail and the quick might be completely exposed. That can give an illusion that your dog has two nails. You can make an effort to remove the toenail completely. This is not recommended by experts because the dog is usually very defensive about the wound and might react aggressively to anyone who touches the wound and it can even bite.

The main thing to look for is the amount of bleeding. Some dogs bleed very little and some dogs bleed a lot. Others do not bleed at all. In case there is a massive bleeding that does not stop and you are unable to rush to the vet right away then it is sensible to use a big bandage and wrap the wound properly. However, make sure the pressure of the bandage is just the right amount and not so much that it cuts off the bloody supply to that toe.

If the dog’s foot is dirty, it is better to wash it with clean water first to avoid any contamination or infection of the wound. This also needs to be done very carefully to prevent the dog from experiencing too much pain because that can cause it to lash out.

Things That You Should Be Careful About

One thing that you should avoid is giving your dog an over-the-counter pain medication. These medications are usually unsafe for dogs and they might cause another problem that will have to be taken care of.

You need to try to keep the dog as calm as possible. It should be kept in a small and quiet space so that it cannot run around and aggravate the injury even more.

What Will the Vet Do?

They usually start the dog on pain medication that is safe. Then, in most cases, the dog will have to be sedated to get the broken toenail removed. Depending on the level of injury and its severity, your dog may have to be prescribed antibiotics. The injury will also be bandaged and it will have to be kept on for as long as the wound recovers.

At this point, you also have to be careful about your dog licking the injury because that might expose the wound to harmful germs. If the dog finds it difficult to leave its injury alone then you will have to buy an E-collar. The pain medication will have to be continued for as long as the pain remains or as long as the vet has prescribed it for. Risk of further infection usually subsides within a week.


Broken toenails might sound like they are not that much of a big deal. But due to the anatomy of a dog’s nail, it is better to rush your dog to a veterinarian right away.