Nail and claw

Nail and clawNail and claw injuries are a common injury that you could come across is a damaged or broken nail or dew claw.  The dew claw is found on the leg and the nails on the end of their toes.

Nails can get damaged when they are too long and not cut back or where they are cut back too much, causing bleeding. Nails usually are worn down as they walk but sometimes they get too long and need trimming. It is more common for the front nails to get damaged and they can get caught or torn off as they walk or play. Wounds on nails are also prone to infections as it is difficult to keep them clean as they need to walk on them.

The first thing we need to consider is that although they may be minor injuries, as you may have found yourself when you tear a nail, they can be very painful, and the animal may become aggressive or difficult to handle.  It may be that only a vet can help but there are some steps you can take if the animal allows.

Firstly, think about safety for you and the animal and consider the use of a muzzle.

What you need to then do is to inspect the area and see what the damage actually is. Look closely at the nails and pads and carefully move them to see where the damage is.  You are looking for lose nails, bleeding, foreign objects and swelling. You may see a hanging section of the nail that may be able to be easily removed with nail clippers, but this is not always the case.  If you cannot easily remove you may need to take them to a vet as they may need a local anaesthetic, or they may need to be tranquilised in order for the vet to remove the broken nail.

Often once the broken nail is removed they feel much better quickly.

Now let’s look at bleeding.  Do not panic when you see a lot of blood, it can be that nails bleed a lot, but these capillary bleeds can be stopped easily. If bleeding cannot be controlled, you need to get them to a vet quickly.

You can control bleeding by holding a gauze dressing over the site, keep it on tight and keep holding it for a few minutes to allow time for a clot to form and bleeding to stop.  Do not keep looking at the nail, give it time to stop.  There are also different powders you can purchase that stop bleeding.

You can apply a dressing on the paw which will keep the pressure on the site and you may find it only has to be left on for a few hours.

Bleeding is a good way of flushing dirt and bacteria away from the injury site, but the paws will have more bacteria than other parts of the body as they have to walk on them picking up whatever is on the ground.  You can clean the area with first aid sprays like Aqueous which are a very good way of ensuring the area is clean before bandaging.

Finally, prevention of damage to nails and claws can be by ensuring you check them regularly and get them cut if necessary remembering the dew claw on the lower leg.