Although dogs do not shed their nails, they can lose them. The main reason dogs lose a nail is because of physical trauma to the paw. If your dog lost a nail, the first thing you should do is check for bleeding. Bleeding signifies a wound, which can lead to an infection.
If you’re a new dog owner, you may be surprised when you find one of their nails lying around the house. Although this doesn’t often happen, when it does it, it might catch you off guard. But why is their nail there in the first place? Do dogs actually shed nails?
Technically, dogs do not shed their nails. However, there are many reasons they might lose a nail. The good news is that, in most cases, losing a nail doesn’t point to a health issue.
With proper maintenance and care, your dog’s nails should not be falling off regularly. Of course, some instances will lead to a dog’s nail falling off even with proper care.
What You'll Learn
- 1 Why Do Dogs Lose Nails?
- 2 Is it Bad if a Dog Loses their Nails?
- 3 How to Tell if Your Dog Has Nail Issues?
- 4 Behavior
- 5 Your Dog Should Not Be Losing Nails Regularly
Why Do Dogs Lose Nails?
Your dog may lose a nail for several reasons. This is especially true if you have an active dog that still has its dewclaws.
Outlined below are some of the reasons dogs lose their nails.
Lack of Nutrients
Dog nails need certain nutrients to grow properly, just like humans. If you recently changed your dog’s diet and noticed that their nails are weaker, it could be because your dog is not getting enough nutrients to maintain them.
Always check the ingredients and nutrition information on dog food, or check with your veterinarian to get the food that is best suited for your pup.
Several medical issues could cause your dog’s nails to fall off or not grow properly.
However, one of the most common medical reasons is excessive growth hormones, which could cause abnormalities in the nails and nail beds.
An infection to the nail (or nail bed) and physical trauma could also cause a nail to fall off. If your dog is walking gently on one of their paws, there’s a good chance they have an infection or have been injured.
There is also the chance that your dog’s nails are overgrown. If you are not regularly cutting or maintaining your dog’s nails, they might be too long. Most dogs’ nails get worn down through activity, but if your dog is inside most of the day or doesn’t spend much time on cement, you may have to cut the nails yourself.
Dog nails that are too long risk getting caught on something, especially the small, fragile dewclaws.
Long nails could also break off if your dog is playing rough. The general rule is that you should not be able to hear your dog’s claws on the floor when they are walking.
Is it Bad if a Dog Loses their Nails?
If the nail comes off cleanly, it should not present any issues. However, keep a close eye on your dog to make sure they aren’t in pain.
The three primary concerns to watch for are an exposed nerve, bleeding, and infection.
If the nerve is exposed, that’s a big issue. Exposed nerves happen when the nail is broken too close to the paw. Dogs have a very sensitive nerve in their paw called the “quick.” If this nerve is exposed, it can be extremely painful and requires a trip to the vet.
Aside from the pain, exposed nerves can lead to a bad infection if not treated quickly and adequately. The most important thing is to keep it clean to make sure no infection develops.
The loss of a nail could result in excessive bleeding, especially if the quick has been exposed.
If the bleeding is excessive, your dog is in pain. Just make sure you stay calm. Bleeding from a nail often looks scarier and more severe than it actually is.
To put a temporary stop to the bleeding, you can put a bit of cornstarch on the source of the bleeding (in this case, the nail).
After the bleeding has stopped, wrap the nail to protect it from infection. If it keeps bleeding, call the vet.
Another big risk to a nail falling off is that your dog might get an infection. Any exposure to a nerve or open wound is perfect for dirt and grime.
Infections are usually signaled by swelling, redness, and pus. Infections can also spread in your dog and lead to a way bigger problem than just a nail falling off.
It is very important to keep your dog’s wounds clean at all times. This might be difficult if your dog is in pain and will not let you get close to the source of the pain. However, it is something you have to do.
Clean the exposed nail thoroughly but gently. Bandage it tightly enough so that the nail is not in contact with the ground and then make sure you monitor it.
Any sign of infection should warrant a call or visit to your veterinarian. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
How to Tell if Your Dog Has Nail Issues?
Simply observing your dog’s nails is the easiest way to tell if there are any issues. Look for swelling, redness, pus, or tenderness.
You should also pay attention to the color of the nail and the way it looks. If one nail looks different from the others, a trip to the vet may be in your future.
Finding a Nail
If you find a nail lying around, there’s a good chance your dog has had some trauma to its paw.
However, if your dog does not seem to be in pain, a lost nail is nothing to worry about. This is especially true with dewclaws. They tend to get caught on things and easily rip off.
If you’ve found a nail, give your dog a quick inspection. Try to find where it came from and check for any open wounds, bleeding, or infections. If your dog’s behavior is no different without the nail, they are likely fine.
The following behaviors are signs your dog may be bothered by its nails.
- Limping on a particular paw.
- Your dog suddenly is not letting you close to a paw.
- Excessive licking of the paws, especially if it happens suddenly.
If your dog has an issue with its nails or paws, limit the activity until healing occurs. This will help prevent pain and limits the chances of infection.
Your Dog Should Not Be Losing Nails Regularly
Most dogs do not lose nails regularly. When a dog loses a nail, it is often because of something physical, like trauma or the nails being too long. Although rare, your dog can lose nails because of a medical issue.
Remember, dogs CAN lose a nail, but they do not shed their nails.
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