The nails of the dog are basically an extension of his skin. Nails are composed of hardened (cornified) epithelial (skin) cells arising from the ungual crest or nail bed. The toenails of a puppy tend to be more pointed and sharp as compared to adult nails. Their rapid growth rates and sharpness require frequent trimming, sometimes more than once a month.
The nails of dogs frequently become traumatized from breakage. Dogs typically catch a nail in rugs, carpets, decks, etc. The nail can be broken or torn.
What are the symptoms?
A torn nail will usually be intensely painful. All limping dogs should first be examined for a traumatized nail. If the nail is torn near the base (by the toe), one may see bleeding.
What are the risks?
Torn nails may bleed profusely for short periods of time, but this is not a serious condition. It is painful, however, and infections may develop.
What is the management?
Generally, the fractured nail is removed entirely. Anesthesia may be required. Hemorrhage should be controlled either with styptic powder, bandage, or cautery. As intense as the bleeding may seem, the normal dog will not lose a significant amount of blood. Once the nail is removed, healing will begin. Eventually a new nail will regrow. This may take months, and the nail may be malformed. Depending upon the injury, antibiotics may be given.
Dogs' nails should be trimmed on a routine basis to decrease the chance of a nail being caught and torn.