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Dog Nail Bleeding: Causes and How to Stop It

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How many toes does your dog have? It could be as little as 16, or it could be as many as 24!  With this many toes and lots of digging, running, and jumping, it’s not surprising that dog nail bleeding is a common occurrence that nearly every dog owner will likely face. 

Not only are nail injuries quite painful for dogs, but bleeding nails can also cause a mess in your home. Let’s review common causes of dog nail bleeding, what pet parents can do to stop the bleeding, when veterinary care is necessary, and how to prevent it.

Causes of Dog Nail Bleeding

There are several accidents and injuries that can cause nail bleeding in dogs.

The most common causes include:

Trimming too short

Accidently cutting your dog’s nails too short can cause major bleeding. That’s because the meaty inside of the nail, known as the quick, houses the nail’s nerves and blood supply. Due to its vast nerve and blood flow, the quick is incredibly painful when cut, and it bleeds quite a bit.

Torn, cracked, or broken nails

Dog nails can easily become snagged during play or exercise. Therefore, torn, cracked, or broken nails are common in highly active dogs. Dogs with overgrown nails are also at a higher risk of torn, cracked, or broken nails. When a dog nail is damaged, the quick of the nail is often left exposed, again resulting in bleeding and pain.  

Ingrown nails

When dog nails become overgrown, they can begin to grow into the flesh of the toe due to their natural curvature. This is most often seen in dogs with long coats, which can hide overgrown nails. As the nail grows into the pad, it can cause pain, bleeding, and infection. 

Infected nails

A dog nail infection can be common in canines who chew at their feet regularly. These are usually bacterial infections, but they can sometimes be fungal. Pet parents might notice their dog is licking the area more than normal, smell a foul odor near their pet, or even see pus in the hair around the affected toe. Infected dog nails can bleed due to the inflammation occurring secondary to the infection.

Autoimmune disorders

Certain canine autoimmune disorders, like pemphigus, can cause a dog’s nails to be weakened. Weakened or brittle nails are more likely to split or crack and leave the quick exposed and bleeding. 

How to Stop Dog Nail Bleeding

Fortunately, most nail bleeding is minor and can be easily treated at home by following these steps:

Step 1: Remain calm

The first thing to do is relax and soothe your dog, who is likely startled, especially if you trimmed the nail too short. Calming yourself and your dog down will make treatment easier for both of you and help prevent a bloody mess. 

Step 2: Recruit help

If possible, have somebody help you restrain your dog, as your dog likely doesn’t want you near their painful toe, which can make tending to the wound difficult. 

Step 3: Apply pressure

Grab a clean cloth, wrap it around the nail, and apply pressure to the wound for at least 60 consecutive seconds. This will help slow the bleeding, if not stop it altogether.

Step 4: Use styptic powder

Gently remove the cloth and quickly apply styptic powder or a styptic pen to the bleeding part of the nail. This powder, which can be found at most pet stores, constricts the blood vessels to stop bleeding and also has a pain-relieving component. If you don’t have styptic powder at home, cornstarch or baking flour can also be used to stop dog nail bleeding.

Step 5: Repeat

If the powder did not stop the bleeding, repeat steps 3 and 4 a few more times.

Step 6: Clean the nail

Once the bleeding has stopped, use gentle antibacterial soap and warm water to clean away the dried blood and help prevent infection. 

Step 7: Bandage

If the bleeding continues, a temporary bandage can be applied at home, but it should not be left on for longer than a few hours. Improperly placed bandages can result in severe loss of blood flow to the limb, causing extreme tissue and nerve damage. 

Step 8: Reduce activity

Limit your dog’s activity for the next 12 to 24 hours. Exercise can increase blood pressure and disturb the clot, causing the bleeding to restart.

Dog Nail Injuries: When to See a Vet

Dog nail bleeding should stop within a few minutes. If it persists or requires a bandage to control, a veterinary visit is necessary. Other signs your dog should see the veterinarian after a bleeding nail incident include:

  • Limping
  • Excessive licking
  • Swelling or warmth around the toe
  • Yellow, green, or white discharge from the nail
  • Yelping or flinching when you touch the affected limb

How to Prevent Dog Nail Bleeding

The best way to prevent nail bleeding is to regularly trim the nails. Some dogs will need their nails trimmed more frequently than others, depending on how quickly their nails grow. When the nails are kept short, they are far less likely to become broken, cracked, and torn. Additionally, regular nail trimming will keep your dog’s quicks short, which will help prevent you from accidentally cutting them. 

Using a dremel (electric nail file) to shorten your dog’s nails is a great way to prevent dog nail bleeding. You’re less likely to damage the quick using a dremel since it is essentially filing the nail, as opposed to cutting it.

Some dogs are very frightened of having their nails trimmed, likely because they’ve had their quick cut in the past, and it can be painful and traumatic. If your dog is very wiggly or fearful when you try to cut their nails, it’s best to take them to a professional groomer or a veterinary clinic.

Unfortunately, your dog may wind up with a bleeding nail no matter what you do. Luckily, using what you’ve learned in this article, you will be prepared to handle the situation efficiently and effectively.