Dealing with a vertically split dog nail can be scary for any pet owner. The sight of your dog’s nail cracked open and bleeding is alarming and painful. As caring owners, we want to know how to prevent vertical nail splits and also how to treat them properly when they do rarely occur.
In this complete guide for 2024, we will cover all the key things you need to know about dog nail split vertically issues:
What Causes Vertical Splits in Dog Nails
There are a few common causes of vertical nail splits in dogs:
- Overly long nails – When nails grow too long, they tend to split and crack more easily. The quick inside the nail is allowed to extend too far out.
- Injury – Direct trauma to the nail from running, playing, accidents can cause cracks and splits.
- Nutritional deficiencies – Lack of certain vitamins/minerals leading to weak nail health.
- Age – Senior dogs tend to get more nail splits as nails age and become brittle.
Keeping your dog’s nails neatly trimmed is the best prevention. But even with good care, vertical splits sometimes still happen.
Signs Your Dog Has a Vertical Nail Split
How can you tell if your dog has a painful vertical nail split? Here are the signs:
- Bleeding/Redness – You may see blood and redness around the nail.
- Limping – They start limping and licking at the paw with the cracked nail.
- Whining/Crying – They may whimper or cry out in pain.
- Licking the Paw – Excessive licking at the affected paw.
If you see any of these signs, inspect all nails carefully to locate the split nail and get treatment promptly.
Treating a Split Dog Nail – Step-by-Step
If you discover your dog has a painful vertical nail split, here is a step-by-step treatment guide:
Step 1: Stop the Bleeding
Use styptic powder or a cotton ball with firm pressure to stop any bleeding and disinfect the wound.
Step 2: Trim the Split Portion of Nail
You can carefully trim off any cracked/splintered edges using sterile nail clippers to smooth the nail.
Step 3: Further Clean and Disinfect
Use hydrogen peroxide, saline solution or other disinfectants to flush out debris.
Step 4: Bandage and Protect
Lightly wrap the paw in gauze/bandage to keep clean until healed. Prevent licking.
Step 5: Pain Relief
Give over-the-counter pain meds like paracetamol or vet-prescribed analgesics.
Step 6: Monitor over the Next Week
Check daily for infection and reapply bandages. Visit the vet if not healing.
Most small vertical nail splits will heal on their own with good at-home care. But if you notice redness, swelling or oozing, take them into the vet right away.
“Vertical nail splits can look scary, but following these first aid steps can get your pup comfortable while the nail heals.”
Preventing Vertical Nail Splits in Dogs
While even well-cared for dogs can get an occasional nail split, there are some prevention tips to help reduce the chances:
1. Regular Nail Trims
- Trim nails often taking just a tiny bit off the ends. Ask your groomer/vet to show you safe techniques.
- Goal is to keep the ends blunt, just before touching the floor as they walk.
2. Soft Surfaces
- Try to avoid having them walk/play excessively on concrete or gravel paths that put pressure on nails.
- Stick to grass, dirt paths and soft woods chips as much as possible.
3. Nutritional Supplements
- Supplement their diet with vitamins/minerals for healthy skin, coat, nails and bones.
- Look for dog foods/treats enriched with biotin, zinc, linoleic fatty acids.
- Or add a splash of olive oil which contains keratin-strengthening vitamin E.
4. Moisturize Nails and Paws
- Use a natural paw balm or coconut oil to condition nails and paw pads to stay flexible.
- Avoid brittle nails and cracks.
“While you can’t prevent all nail splits, keeping those nails neatly trimmed and supplementing their nutrition can help significantly strengthen nails.”
When to See the Vet About a Split Nail
Most minor vertical nail splits can heal well at home with first aid care as covered above. But there are certain situations where you should make an urgent vet visit:
- The split nail is bleeding heavily and won’t stop
- Signs of a nail bed infection – redness, swelling, pus/oozing
- The entire nail seems partially or fully torn off
- Your dog is in obvious severe pain
- Lameness lasts more than 5 days
- The split nail is not showing signs of improvement
Seeing the vet promptly can prevent complications like nail bed infections and ensure pain is properly controlled. They can fully remove damaged nails, cauterize any bleeding, and prescribe antibiotics or pain relievers as needed.
Dog Nail Split Vertically – Q&A
Still have some lingering questions about dealing with painful vertical dog nail splits? Here are answers to some common queries:
Can a dog’s split nail heal on its own?
A: Yes, small vertical nail splits that affect only the outer keratin layer can heal on their own with proper at-home care to keep the area clean and prevent infection. The new nail will often grow out oddly shaped. But if the split extends into the quick or causes ongoing lameness or infection, veterinary treatment is needed.
Should you cut a dog’s nail that is split vertically?
A: It is recommended to trim any jagged edges of the split section of nail to smooth it out. Use sterile trimmer and take just small pieces at a time to assess sensitivity. Stop if you see any redness, bleeding or signs of pain. The goal is to remove loose cracked portions while avoiding the quick.
How long does it take for a broken nail to heal?
A: If the nail split or break only affects the outer shell, it can fully heal in 2 to 3 weeks with proper care to prevent infection. But if damage occurs to the quick or nail bed, it can take 6 to 8 weeks to fully regrow the nail. Dogs should see improvement in pain and lameness within 5 days.
Can you repair a dog’s broken nail?
A: There are some special veterinary adhesives such as Bond & Band that can be used to repair split dog nails. But they tend to work better for smaller horizontal breaks across the nail rim versus deep vertical splits which often must regrow new nail slowly over time.
Prevent Vertical Nail Splits for Happy, Healthy Pups
While the sight of a vertically split nail can be alarming for pet owners, having a game plan makes it less stressful for all. Know what first aid steps to take immediately and when to seek veterinary care. Most importantly, be vigilant about keeping those nails neatly trimmed, nutrition boosted and paws conditioned to help reinforce your dog’s nails to prevent splits and cracks in the first place. Implement some of the handy prevention tips covered today for your pup. Here’s to healthy, happy dog feet!