Dog giving his paw so we can check his nails.

7 Common Dog Nail Problems & How to Solve Them

Written By Olivia De Santos | Canine Coach, Professional Writer & Video Content Creator.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | Double B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 7th January 2024

Though nail grooming can be the bane of our routines as dog owners, dog nail problems are more common than we might think. Your dog might be lucky to never experience any of the common dog nail problems we’re going to talk about today. But more than likely they’ll have an unfortunate encounter with at least one of them in their lifetime.

This article is to help you prepare for when that faithful day comes. We’ll talk about the causes of the most common nail problems your dog can experience, as well as solutions and prevention techniques.

Let’s dive in!


7 Common Dog Nail Problems

So I won’t beat around the bush! Here are the seven most common dog nail problems and how to solve them.

Related: How to Cut Your Dogs Nails.
Related: What to Do If Your Dog Has Nail Problems?

Disclaimer: If in doubt, always consult your veterinarian for personalised advice on your dog’s nail care and health condition.

Overgrown nails

Dogs have quite slow-growing nails but when they get too long, it can be a real issue.

Some dogs have faster-growing nails than others.

Related: The Best Dog Nail Grinder.
Related: The Best Dog Nail Clipper.

Overgrown nails can be uncomfortable for dogs, affecting the way they walk and even their posture.

Related: How Long Should Dog Nails Be?

Telltale signs that your dog’s nails are overgrown include:

  • Tapping on the floor
    If you can hear your dog walking around because their nails are tip-tapping on the hardwood floor, it’s a sign your pup needs a nail grooming session asap.
  • Their nails are scratching you more often
    It’s normal to get the occasional scratch if your dog is being a little excitable during playtime. But if you’re getting injured more often than not, it’s probably because their nails need trimming.
  • They are walking on their toes
    Well..not literally. But overgrown nails can make your dog look like they are walking on their toes. 

Solution: To prevent your dog’s nails from overgrowing, you need to trim them regularly.

How regularly? Make it a habit to check your dog’s nails every few weeks.

Most vets and groomers agree that you should clip your dog’s nails every one to two weeks depending on how fast they grow. (1)

Walking your dog regularly in paved areas also helps naturally file them a little.

Related: How Often Should You Cut Your Dogs Nails?

By keeping your dog’s nails trimmed, you can prevent the vast majority of issues on this list.

Let’s move on to split nails. 

Related: Should You Trim Your Dog's Dewclaws?

Broken or Split nails

Split nails are as ugly as they sound. And they are not only painful but also susceptible to infections.

How do split dog nails happen?

Typically because of blunt force trauma or overgrown nails run amuck. For example, your pooch could snag their nail on a rug or trip over outside and injure their paws.

Related: What To Do About Broken or Cracked Dog Nails.

You can also accidentally injure your dog while cutting their nails which causes them to split if they are brittle.

Underlying medical disorders can cause issues too.

“Accidental nail injuries may only happen once or twice during your dog’s life, but a nail disorder can lead to recurrent issues if left untreated. If you suspect your dog has a medical condition affecting their nails, schedule a visit with your veterinarian.” - Brianna Anderson, PetMD (2)

You can spot a split nail if your dog is limping or excessively licking their paw. The split nail may also bleed.

Solution:  Regularly checking your dog’s nails for injuries is paramount to keeping them healthy. Especially if they have had issues with their nails in the past. Optimising your dog’s nutrition will help prevent your dog’s nails from being brittle enough to snag or break easily.

Related: How To Stop A Dog’s Nail From Bleeding.

If you notice any cracks or splits, consult your vet.

Normally a delicate trim and a thorough clean will fix it, but sometimes the injury needs more tender loving care.

Ingrown Nails

Ingrown nails are painful and tricky to solve.

They happen when a nail grows into the paw pad. Cue inflammation, discomfort and sometimes infection. (3)

Suspect your dog has an ingrown nail? Here are the signs:

  • Curved nail inward
  • Limping
  • Sensitive paw
  • Excessively licking the area
  • Swelling around the toe pad or foot

If your dog is in a lot of pain, they could also resort to aggressive behaviour when you handle their paws.

Solution: It’s best to leave ingrown nails to the vet to solve. Simply because you might cause more damage if you try to trim the area yourself.

Your vet can sedate our dog during this painful process too.

As for prevention? You guessed it! Regular trimming is a must.

Curly or Twisted Nails

Curly or twisted dog nails are usually a sign of overgrowth.

But it’s true that certain dog breeds are more prone to having curly or twisted nails, which can pose a unique set of problems.

Your dog’s nails can grow in strange directions. This makes it difficult for your pooch to walk comfortably.

Solution: Dealing with curly or twisted dog nails will depend on the severity of them. If it’s a slight curve that you can solve by clipping or grinding your dog’s nails, the fix is simple.

However, if your dog has severely deformed nails, you might want to consult a vet for the best course of action. They will likely trim your dog’s nails or even extract nails that could cause a future nuisance. Allow your vet to use their best judgement.

If your dog is prone to curved or twisted nails, regular trimming is vital to keep them in check.

Fungal or Bacterial Infections

Dogs can develop bacterial or fungal nail infections.

A common bacterial nail infection your dog can develop is paronychia. (4) This is characterised by swelling and redness around the claw and nail bed.

Fungal issues are common too. For example, onychomycosis. (5) Symptoms include discoloured nails, fragile nails, cracked nails, and/or nails separated from the nail bed.

The most common way that nail infections occur is after nail injuries. But dogs with diabetes and weakened immune systems are more prone to nail infections.

Solution: If you notice any of these signs, consult your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Bacterial infections will likely be treated with a course of antibiotics and instructions on how to consistently wash the area.

Fungal infections will involve anti-fungal treatment orally or topically. There is typically ongoing treatment involved because fungal infections are difficult to get rid of.

Abnormal Growths

Abnormal growths can happen anywhere on your dog’s body – their nails and toe pads are no exceptions.

If you spot any unusual lumps around your dog’s nail, it could be a tumour or a cyst.

Of course, a cyst is far more benign than a tumour. But it’s important that it’s investigated as soon as possible.

Solution: Don't hesitate to have the abnormal growth examined by a vet. They’ll do the proper investigations and recommend the appropriate course of treatment.

You can’t necessarily prevent your pup from getting any tumours or cysts. All you can do is master their diet to prevent major diseases and check your dog’s nails regularly for abnormalities.


Prevention Is the Best Medicine

So there you have it! The most common dog nail problems and how to solve them.

Remember that prevention is key. If you get your dog accustomed to having their nails groomed regularly, you’re more likely to prevent and treat any issues at the source. Before they get out of hand.

Check out our dog nail care series to help you master your dog’s nail health:

Related: Getting Your Puppy Accustomed To Having Their Nail's Clipped.
Related: How To Deal With Aggressive Dogs During Nail Clipping.
Related: Learn How To Cut Black Dog Nails In 4 Easy Steps.

FAQ

How can you stop your dog’s nails from bleeding?

The most effective way to stop your dog’s nails from bleeding is to use styptic powder. Styptic powder is a coagulant that helps blood to clot quickly. It’s available in most pet stores and horse care stores.

References:

  1. Turner, B. March 4, 2022. “How Often Should You Cut Your Dog's Nails?”. Preventative Vet. Retrieved August 5, 2023. https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/how-often-should-you-cut-your-dogs-nails
  2. Anderson, B. November 15, 2022. “What to Do When Your Dog's Nails Break or Split”. Fetch by WebMD. Retrieved August 5, 2023. https://www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/what-to-do-when-your-dogs-nails-break-or-split
  3. “How to help your pet with an ingrown nail”. WoofPurNay Veterinary Hospital. Retrieved August 5, 2023. https://www.woofpurnayvet.com.au/ingrown-nails-in-pets
  4. “Nail Infection (Paronychia)”. August 16, 2021. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved August 5, 2023. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15327-nail-infection-paronychia
  5. “Fungal Nail Infections”. September 13, 2022. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved August 5, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/nail-infections.html

Olivia De Santos


Olivia De Santos is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer and Video Content Creator.

Olivia has over 10 years of experience writing professionally and is a dog Mum to Pip, her Podengo and Blue, her Flat-coated Retriever. She loves writing pieces to help people to be better dog owners.

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