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In short, yes, a torn nail can be dangerous for your pet. We know it’s odd how something so small can cause so many problems. The pain from a broken nail can bring even the largest dog down. The bleeding that accompanies a torn nail can also become an issue.

How Do Torn Nails Occur?

Your dog can tear his nail in numerous ways. Their nail can snag on a piece of carpet, roots if they’re running outside, they could land on their feet wrong, and the list goes on and on. If you have a senior dog, their nails are more likely to be torn because they’re so brittle.

Where Does the Bleeding Come From?

When you first see your dog’s nails, you’re probably thinking 'where does all this blood come from; they’re just nails?'

Dogs have a collection of blood vessels in their nails known as the ‘quick.’ You have probably heard of this term if you’re a dog lover (or cat lover). The quick is covered by keratin (the same stuff our nails are made of) to protect those blood vessels.

When you cut your dog’s nails and it doesn’t bleed, you know you have only snipped off the ‘dead tissue,’ AKA the keratin. If your dog starts bleeding, you’ve hit the quick (the living part).

The quick is attached to your dog’s bone, so once there is damage done to the quick, your dog is susceptible to infection in the bone which can become dangerous.

What Do I Do?

If you hit your dog’s quick, there are a few things you should do (or if he tears it). Control the bleeding from the quick by wrapping her foot in gauze and apply pressure for 5-10 minutes.

If bleeding doesn’t stop, you can throw on some cauterizing powder. You may have also seen ‘quick stop’ at the pet store; this is a must-have in your pet first aid box.

If your dog’s nail isn’t completely gone and there’s a piece dangling, this is when you need to call your veterinarian to have the remainder removed properly. Your veterinarian will likely place some type of antibiotic on the nail to prevent infection and wrap it up well for you.

To make your dog more comfortable, your veterinarian may also prescribe a few days’ worth of pain medication

Avoiding Broken Nails

Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is an important portion of their routine grooming process. Short nails are less likely to tear or break than long nails.

If you aren’t comfortable with clipping your dog’s nails, you can bring him or her to the veterinarian or groomer to have this done for you.

Also, if you have a nail trimmer, make sure it stays sharp, so it cuts properly. Dull trimmers are highly likely to cause a break.

Torn nails may seem like a small issue, but they can lead to larger problems. Just like in humans, nail care is an important part of an overall grooming routine. Besides the aesthetics, proper nail care is an important part of keeping your pet happy and healthy. If you have questions about nail care, your vet or groomer can provide more tips and care instructions.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.