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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Ingrown Nails View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

The toenails of many dogs and cats are naturally curved and grown constantly. Outdoor dogs and cats may wear down their nails, but pets who spend most of their time indoors don't walk and run enough to wear off the excess nail.


Any toenail can become ingrown, but often, the ingrown nail is the dew-claw. This is the high nail on the inside of the leg. This nail doesn't make contact with the ground, and therefore has no normal wear. The long fur of some pets can also hide the over-grown nail until it has become a problem.

A pet with an ingrown toenail often limps on the affected paw, holds it up, licks it a lot, or even leaves bloody paw prints.


If the nails aren't kept trimmed, the growing nail can be damaged and split. Sometimes, the nail will grow so long that it curls back around and grows into the flesh.

Ingrown nails are a problem more commonly found in toy breed dogs such as the Chihuahuas and in long-haired cats because their toenails tend to thicken and grow faster.


Diagnosis can be made by physical examination.


Ingrown nails are very painful, and in severe cases, you pet may need to be sedated by your veterinarian before the problem can be treated.

  1. Restrain your pet - Ingrown nails are very painful, and your pet will probably not want you to touch the injured foot. You will need someone to help restrain him while you take care of the problem. It is easiest to work on small dogs and cats on a tabletop. You can gently grasp the loose skin at the back of the neck with one hand, capture the hind feet with the other hand, and stretch your pet out on his side.

    For a larger dog, kneel on the floor next to him with one arm under and around the dog's neck and the other under and around his chest so that you are hugging him to your chest.
  2. Consider muzzling - Some pets may need to be muzzled if you don't have someone to help restrain them. With long-nosed dogs, a length of fabric, or standard flat leash will work just fine. Make a loop, slip it over your dog's nose, and tighten the knot. Then bring the two ends back over the neck and tie them in a know or bow behind his ears. A small pet can be contained by a towel or pillowcase.
  3. Use pet nail trimmers - The scissors type nail trimmers like the Millers Forge brand are the best choice to treat ingrown toenails. You can get them from pet supply stores and catalogs. Otherwise, very sharp, blunt tipped scissors or human nail clippers may be ok for smaller pets. Never use human clippers on larger dogs - they will not work well and may cause undue pain.

    Cut the claw just above where it jabs into the pad. Be prepared for your pet to flinch, and for some possible bleeding from the quick. Leave enough extra cut off nail for you to be able to grasp it.
  4. Be gentle - Grasp the cut-off piece of exposed nail that is now protruding from the pad. You may be able to use your fingers. If not, try blunt tipped tweezers or needle nosed pliers. Pull out the part that is stuck in the pad with a slow, gentle motion.
  5. Clean bleeding paws - Don't be surprised if the pad bleeds. This will actually help clean out the wound, so a small amount of bleeding is fine. Wash the paw with mild antiseptic liquid soap like Betadine Skin Cleanser and warm water to keep the wound clean and help prevent infection.


Keep your pets nails trimmed on a regular basis. Groomers recommend trimming every 4 - 6 weeks for indoor pets.


Trim back the rest of the overlong nail. Trimming a little at a time every few days, cutting just the very tip. If you cut too high, you will hit the quick, which looks like a pink or reddish pink vein running through the center of the nail. The quick will recede as the nail is trimmed. Once you get the nails to a reasonable length, be sure to trim them every few weeks to prevent this problem again.

An ingrown nail often causes swelling an inflammation in the pad. Soak the affected foot in warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of Betadine Solution or Epsom salt. This not only keeps it clean, but also soothes the pain and can help prevent infections - or help an existing infection heal. Purchase Betadine solution from the vet or from a pet supply store in a strength of 0.01% - 0.1%. If you purchase higher strength Betadine, dilute it with distilled water until it is the color of weak tea. If you are using Epsom salts, dilute them by adding 1 cup of the salts to 2 gallons of water. Soak the foot 2 - 3 times a day for 10 minutes, or as long as your pet will hold still.

Watch for swelling and continued limping, along with a fever and discharge of pus, which could indicate infection. See the veterinarian if you suspect infection. You pet will probably need oral antibiotics. Commonly, you will need to administer pills at least once a day for 7 - 10 days, depending on the type of medication and the severity of the infection. To give your pet a pill, encircle his nose with your fingers and press your fingertips against his gums, right behind the long canine teeth. This will prompt him to open his mouth, and when he does, place the pill on the back of his tongue. Close his mouth and stroke his throat until he swallows.

Dogs may be excessively bothered by the injured pad as it heals, and often lick and chew at the injured area. This will make the situation much worse. Put an Elizabethan collar on any pet that in interfering with the healing process.

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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