One common injury for canines is a split nail. With their rambunctious and curious natures, puppies are prone to nail damage as they engage in rough play. A split nail can be painful for your puppy and alarming for her owner, especially if the split causes bleeding. Thankfully, though, this type of injury is manageable.
A dog’s nail is made of a thick layer of keratin that surrounds a central layer of nerves and blood vessels. This central layer is commonly referred to as the quick. When trimming your puppy’s nails, care must be taken to avoid cutting into the quick, lest you cause pain and bleeding and a fair amount of trust issues on the part of the puppy. Many dogs have what is known as a dew claw on their front paws -- a fifth claw higher up on the inside of the foot, similar to a thumb. These dew claws are especially susceptible to getting snagged and damaged. On any nail, damage to the quick will require special care.
A nail split that tears into the quick could cause bleeding and leave your puppy prone to infection. Apply styptic powder to stop the bleeding. If you don’t have styptic powder on hand, you can use flour or cornstarch, and compress the wound with a towel until the bleeding stops. Once the bleeding stops, trim away as much of the damaged nail as you can without further damaging the quick. The wound should be cleaned thoroughly before applying antibiotic ointment and bandaging the paw.
A split that damages the quick might require veterinary intervention. According to Dr. Erika Raines at VetInfo.com, the usual treatment for a split nail is to remove the nail and allow it to grow back. Such a solution shouldn’t be attempted at home. However, if the damage to the quick is minimal, you can apply first aid to your puppy’s paw and monitor it to see if it heals without needing to take such a drastic measure. In any case, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian for advice on how to proceed.
If the split doesn’t reach the quick, it should be relatively easy to fix. Simply use a nail file to smooth the rough edges. Don’t use a nail trimmer, which could make the split worse. Keep an eye on the nail as it grows back, continuing to file the snags until the split grows out. You can apply clear nail polish to the nail to hold the split together while it grows out -- just be careful not to let your puppy lick the polish while it's still wet.
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