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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Nail Damage View In Cats

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Pets who are active usually don't get nail damage. That's because friction (for dogs, it's the friction from walking on the ground and sidewalks. For cats, its the friction from scratching things) wears the nails down.


There are a lot of nerves and blood vessels in the toes, so nail injuries are painful and often bleed a lot.


There are many different causes of nail damage.


Diagnosis can be made by examining the nail.


The damage is rarely serious and can be treated with simple first aid.

  1. Hold your pet still - A torn nail is painful, so you will need someone to hold your pet while you perform first aid. To hold a cat or small dog, grab the loose skin at the back of the neck with one hand, capture the hind feet with the other, and stretch you pet out on her side. To hold a larger dog, put one arm under and around her neck to hug her to your chest, and the other arm around and under the chest. You may want to muzzle your dog with pantyhose, a necktie, or a standard flat leash to be sure you aren't bitten. First, tie the ends on top of your dogs nose, then bring the ends under her jaw and tie them again. Finally, bring the ends behind her ears and tie them in a knot or bow.

    Cats may put up quite a fight, so you may need to wrap them in a towel with only the nose and affected foot exposed.
  2. Use pet nail clippers - To remove the damaged nail, use sharp, clean nail clippers designed for pets. If the intact portion of the nail hasn't split any further, you can just trim away the dangling part. If there is a jagged or split end that bleeds, you must cut the nail above the damaged section, which may mean cutting nearly level with the toe. Dip the clippers in alcohol first, then dry them. Grasp the pet's paw securely, position the clippers directly above the damage, and cut quickly and decisively. Be prepared for a yelp and a flinch from your pet - and even more blood (the bathtub is the best place to perform this messy task). If the bleeding doesn't stop within 30 minutes, go to the vet, who will cauterize the injury.
  3. Stop the bleeding with stypic powder - If the nail bleeds, try stypic powder (available at all pet stores). The powders usually come with a sponge applicator that can be applied to the nail. If you don't have stypic powder, gently rake the cut end of the nail across a dry bar of soap - or powder the cut with talcum powder, baking soda, or flower. Fill your palm with the powder and dip the nail in. Keep dipping until the bleeding stops, usually within a minute.
  4. Wait to wash - Don't wash the paw until the bleeding has stopped entirely. Wash the affected area with a mild antiseptic liquid soap like Betadine Skin cleanser. Be very gentle around the clot to be sure you do not dislodge it and restart bleeding. If bleeding re-occurs, stop washing, rinse the soap off, and bandage. Leave the bandage on for several hours before attempting to clean the area again.


Keeping nails trimmed on a regular basis will help to prevent undue nail damage.


Damages nails get infected easily because bacteria from the ground slip through the cracks and into the nail bed. Veterinarians sometimes give oral antibiotics to be safe. If the nail looks intact, however, infection is much less likely, especially if you soak the foot in an antiseptic solution. Do this by diluting Betadine Solution with warm (100F) distilled water until the solution is the color of weak tea. Soak the foot 3 times a day for 5 minutes each time. Continue for 3 - 4 days. Be sure to rinse the solution off after each soak to prevent your pet from licking it off.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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