Ask the Vet Small Animal

Fall 2004



Dr. Anna Edling
Horsham Veterinary Hospital
Horsham, PA


Dr. Edling graduated from University of Pennsylvania in 1982, and has been in private small animal practice for 32 years. She owns multiple pets and also is a ferret specialist


Fluffy has torn off a nail. She is lame, doesnít want to touch her foot to the ground and it wonít stop bleeding. Whatís the best thing to do?

Sometimes the nail comes all the way off and youíre left with a bloody stub. If the dog will let you touch it, you can try applying cornstarch, flour, or use a styptic pencil. I had one client who never cooked, so didnít have these items. She used a store-bought cake mix in desperation. Many of these dogs do end up at the Veterinary office because they wonít stop bleeding. Or the nail is broken but didnít come all the way off.

These dogs are in a lot of discomfort, because every time they take a step the nail moves. Or it hits objects when they are walking.

We will remove the nail quickly by cutting or pulling it off. We sometimes need to stop bleeding with epinephrine
injected locally, or cautery. I bandage all of them to protect the stub from further trauma. The owner can remove that in a couple of days and apply two or three layers of childrenís socks to protect it for 10-14 days until the area hardens.

Most of these nails will grow back normally after 2-3 months. I always put them on antibiotics. If the nail bed gets infected it can be very difficult to clear up, or can lead to infection of the adjacent bone. If your dog breaks off nails quite often or breaks several nails around the same time, there may be an underlying problem with the growth of the nail. In that case, Fluffy needs to be checked by your Veterinarian.


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