My dog has torn a claw – what to do?

Narrated from: Dog Health

Once in a while, your dog may tear his claw out. This is a minor injury and you should not worry, but it needs to be treated to avoid complications.

First of all, you must see the difference between the keratin part of the claw – that is the equivalent of the human nail – and the quick. The quick is a part of the dog’s claw, but it is actually living tissue, so it would best be compared to the last phalanx of a human finger. If the quick is damaged, then you should go to the vet before meddling with it.

You would probably have to visit the vet in any case, so he could prescribe some antibiotics or supplements that would help your dog avoid infection. There are first aid steps you need to take at home though, since a torn nail is associated with strong bleeding:

1. Clean the damaged paw. Remove any dirt stuck to it. You must get a clean view of the wound. If necessary, shave some of the dog’s hair.

2. Cut the broken fragment. The broken part of the claw needs to be cut. The dog will probably be in pain and he may try to snap at you, so it is best to find an assistant to hold the dog down. The dog needs to be held gently and reassuringly, otherwise he may start to struggle.

For cutting the damaged part of the claw it would be best to use a dog nail-clipper, but a human one should do just as fine. Sometimes the piece is barely hanging on and it should be easy to pull it with your hand, but be careful – if you are mistaken, the dog will not react kindly to having his injured nail pulled!

3. Wash the wound. You need to warm some water, but the water mustn’t be hot! You need to remove any debris lodged between the nail and the toe.

4. Stop the bleeding. It is quite likely that the injured toe will continue to bleed. You need not worry, since this is natural for this sort of wound. You need to stop the bleeding, and make sure you use a clean cloth for that. The cloth needs to be pressed firmly against the wound. If your dog allows it, you may grasp the whole paw and apply firm pressure. You still need to be gentle though, and if broken fragments of the nail are lodged in the wound you must not meddle with it!

It is a good idea to apply some antibiotic ointment with a clean cotton ball. If you don’t have any, silver nitrate wil do, and you could always make a paste of some flour – flour is the dog first aider’s best friend!

5. Bandage the wound. It would be good to leave the wound open to air dry and heal, but most dogs would constantly lick it. You need to put on a sterile bandage. Wrap it tightly around the paw and secure it with medical tape, but do not make it too tight – you could stop the paw’s blood circulation! You need to change the bandage regularly, and keep a watch on the dog – he may try to chew his way through!

Generally, the most important thing is not to panic. Torn claws are a minor injury and if there are no complications, they can be safely treated at home. However, it would be a good idea to make a visit to the vet.

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