Broken dewclaw – When is it time to see a vet?

broken dewclaw

When your dog is out exploring the world, sometimes accidents happen. And if your dog gets injured, it’s your responsibility to give them the care and attention they need.

A broken dewclaw may seem like a minor injury, but it can actually be extremely painful for your dog. It’s not just a cracked nail as we humans experience it. There are lots of sensitive nerves in your pup’s nails. So if your dog has injured their dewclaw, here are some top tips on how best to care for their poorly paw.

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What is a dewclaw?

A dewclaw is the nail you’ll find further up the inner side of your dog’s front legs. Some breeds are born without them, while others have them on all four legs. It acts as their fifth digit and is essentially like your dog’s thumb.

Dogs use their dewclaws to hold onto chews or toys while they’re chewing or playing. They also provide extra stability when your dog is running at high speeds.

In some countries, dewclaws are removed during the very early stages of puppyhood. Here in the UK, it’s generally not advised unless there is a valid medical reason to do so.

But because dewclaws are sometimes flimsy and not as securely attached as other nails, they can break easily. Which is why it’s good practice to keep your dog’s dewclaws trimmed so they don’t get caught or cracked.

If your dog keeps injuring themselves with several breaks a year, your vet will likely advise they have them removed.


What should you do with a cracked dewclaw

A broken dewclaw is extremely painful for dogs because it contains a blood vessel called the ‘quick’. If the nail is broken above the quick, your dog will bleed and be in pain.

If your dog cracks their dewclaw you will likely see a break in the nail, and part of the nail could be hanging off. If your dog cracks their nail awkwardly and keeps catching it, you will need to have that part of the nail removed.

If you’re brave, you can use a pair of doggy nail trimmers to snip off the nail at the break. If you don’t feel confident doing it yourself, it’s best to see your vet who will do it as quickly and painlessly as possible.

However, if your dog has cracked their nail high up in the nailbed but it’s intact and not bleeding, most vets will suggest you keep the area clean and covered until the nail has grown out sufficiently enough to snip off with nail trimmers.

Your vet may also prescribe pain relief and anti-inflammatories to help manage the pain. Alternatively, you can have the nail removed during a surgical procedure, but they will likely suggest it be performed under anaesthetic to avoid putting your dog through unnecessary pain.



What should you do with a snapped dewclaw

If your dog’s nail has snapped clean off, the best thing you can do is keep it clean and covered with bandages. To keep the area clean, dilute 1-part Hibiscrub in 10 parts water and soak the area in the solution for 5 minutes, 3 times a day. If you don’t have Hibiscrub, you can also use a salt water solution to keep the area sterile.

When my Loki snapped her dewclaw, we also used a doggy sock for extra protection against dirt (and her licking!) These socks are absolutely brilliant and were worth every penny.

With a broken dewclaw, it may continue to bleed for a while. To stop the bleeding, you can use a Styptic Powder. Or for a home remedy, you can use flour or baking powder. Cover the entire nail and gently compress the nail with a clean cloth until the bleeding stops.

Your dog will likely be in a lot of pain with a snapped dewclaw. Which is why it’s a good idea to have pain relief handy in your doggy medicine cabinet. For Loki, her vet prescribed Metacam, which is both a pain relief and anti-inflammatory.


How to avoid a broken dewclaw

The best thing you can do to avoid a broken dewclaw is to trim your dog’s nails on a regular basis. I personally trim my dog’s nails every two weeks when she has her fortnightly bath.

But if you don’t feel confident trimming them yourself, many vets offer nail trimming for free under their healthcare plan, and some groomers will do it too.

The ‘quick’ recedes as you trim your dog’s nails more often. This will allow you to keep their dewclaws short so they don’t get caught while getting up to mischief.

How did you handle your dog’s broken dewclaw? Let us know in the comments below…


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