My Dog’s Nail Split Vertically! Why? What Should You Do Now?

If your poor pooch is prone to nail splitting, we understand how it can be tough for a pet parent to see their baby in such misery. It’s natural for our first instinct to panic and do something out of overwhelming anxiety that might worsen the injury, for instance, touching the wounded area with a dirty or unsanitized hand.

Therefore, before taking matters into your hands, we’d recommend you read this complete guide on what to do when your dog’s nails split vertically. However, in case the bleeding is too much or the wound is deep, we request you apply pressure with a clean gauze on the wound and rush your pup to a vet trauma care immediately rather than skimming through the internet.

For those looking to gain a deeper insight into dog’s nail splitting, read on to find out several underlying causes that might be the culprit behind your pooch’s nail splitting vertically, followed by some prevention strategies on how to preclude such unfortunate accidents. We will also talk about what you should do when the split isn’t bleeding and discuss further the budget you can expect to spend at a vet’s office to treat your dog’s vertical nail splits.

What Could Cause a Dog’s Nails to Split?

Lack of grooming:

Longer nails are definitely more prone to getting caught on things and splitting. So, if your pooch’s nails look long and untamed, it would be best to trim their nails before they become a victim of any nail accidents. If your dog’s long nail splits and gets caught on an item of clothing, blanket, or any obstacle, it can lead to traumatic tearing or pulling off of the entire nail from the nail bed.

When choosing your dog’s nail grooming product, our recommendation is to opt for the best dog nail groomer on the market. Low-quality dog nail clippers might not give a clean cut and won’t probably have a good range of grinding options available. Botched nails are vulnerable and can be easy targets for germs and parasites; worse, the infection can further exacerbate nail splitting issues.

Nail Trauma:

If your doggo recently had a paw accident, nail splitting is one of the common unfortunate outcomes of such accidents. Moreover, when a pooch’s nail is trimmed too deep or at an inappropriate angle, such cases can also lead to vertical nail splits.

Likewise, if your dog has struck their toe against a hard surface during one of their zoomies, their toenails might split as a consequence. However, if no such accidents have occurred recently and your dog’s nails look brittle and split every now and then, the underlying reason might be related to undiagnosed health issues.

Nutritional Deficiency:

While trauma nail splitting or breakage occurrences can victimize many dogs frequently, the issue might be nutrition-related if your dog’s nails are generally brittle. Like any other body part, various factors play a role in determining your pooch’s nail health. Especially if your dog is showing other symptoms such as lethargy and weight loss, it can indicate that your dog is not being fed a balanced diet or is unable to absorb nutrients from their food efficiently.

While a pet parent is normally able to figure out if or not their pup is eating well, a general rule of thumb is that if you’re feeding your pooch as per Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommendation, you probably won’t have to worry about their nutritional profile. 

Lupoid onychodystrophy:

Lupoid onychodystrophy is an inflammatory disease in dogs that attacks the pooch’s claws. Symptoms such as nail base inflammation, pain, swelling, and partial or entire separation of nails from the nail bed might accompany this disease. You might also notice partial nail splitting in some cases.

This immune-mediated disease often attacks not only one but multiple nails on your pooch’s feet. Lupoid onychodystrophy can be frustrating for your doggo to bear, and a vet consultation should be done as soon as possible to figure out the perfect medication plan for your pooch’s quick recovery.


In severe cases, tumors such as squamous cell carcinoma and nail bed melanoma can also be the reasons why your dog is experiencing split nails. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common nail bed cancer in dogs, in which you might witness lumps on your doggo’s nail bed. Nail bed melanoma, also called subungual melanoma, as the name suggests, results in a tumor in subungual crests (nail beds) in dogs.

These cancers can make your pooch’s nails more vulnerable to damage and splitting. Moreover, these malignant cancers can metastasize to other organs if left untreated. Therefore, it is imperative you take your pet to a vet if you notice even the slightest hint of a tumor.

Bacterial or Fungal Infection:

Bacterial/fungal infections can also be the culprit behind your dog’s nails splitting vertically. However, other signs of inflammation often accompany these infections, making it easier for you to recognize the root cause behind the split. Your pooch is also most likely to lick its claws to subside the itchiness and inflammation.

While it is entirely possible for your pooch to be infected by a microorganism out of the blue, such infections commonly follow a botched nail trim. So, always make sure to clean, sanitize, and protect the pooch’s nail injury with first aid. Moreover, food and environmental allergens might also cause inflammation and nail splits in your dog’s claws.


You might have witnessed how moisture exposure for a long-time during swimming or while doing chores softens your nails. While you and your doggo’s nails might look, feel, and function drastically different, they are basically made up of the same substance.

Therefore, if your doggo has been playing with water or wet grass for a few hours, its claws might become more soft and flexible. And when their claws are soft and vulnerable, it goes without saying that they are prone to damage and splits, and even the mildest trauma can trigger a vertical nail split.

What Should I Do If My Dog’s Nails Split Vertically?

Restrain your pooch:

Nail injury can be excruciating, and your pooch in such miserable condition might feel anxious and restless, thus harming themselves and others. Therefore, it is essential that you don’t let them move too much and restrain them in an area. You’ll need to examine the condition of the split next, and the chances are your doggo will probably fight or bite you as it wants nobody else messing around with the wound.

You’ll probably need somebody else to help your hold your pooch firmly and comfortably. If the injury is deep and the dog is being too aggressive, you might want to close their mouth using a mouth cap to ensure that the pooch doesn’t hurt anybody else in the process.  

Determine if it’s minor or major nail damage:

If your pooch suffered a minor accident or you trimmed their claws inappropriately, the nail splits aren’t probably severe. In such cases, at-home sanitization and care should resolve the issue within a few days or a week’s time.

However, if you notice major inflammation, bumps, or infection in the nail bed, you should implement a more serious action plan and rush your pooch to a vet as soon as possible. If the split has reached and wounded the quick, and there’s too much bleeding, depending only on first-aid kits is never a smart idea.

Trim the nail, if possible:

If the injury is minor, and we re-emphasize ‘minor,’ feel free to trim out the split nail barely hanging to the quick using a nail trimmer. Moreover, if the split hasn’t reached the delicate tissue underneath yet, trimming the split nail as quickly as possible is a great way to prevent any further trauma to the nail.

However, in case of serious injuries and infection, please do not try to trim the split nails by yourself by any means. Introduction of the unsanitized trimmer to the injury or, if trimmed incorrectly, there are chances that you might further worsen the condition and induce infections. Once you take your pet to a vet, they will trim the injured nail correctly if they deem it necessary.

Provide first aid care to your pooch:

If the bleeding is heavy, the first thing you need to do is suppress the blood flow using a clean gauze or a bandage. As the split is vertical, make sure you tie the bandage horizontally to ensure that the nail bed tissue isn’t further irritated. If the bleeding doesn’t stop after applying pressure for around 15 minutes, use cauterizing powder or a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding.

While if the case seems severe, you should rush your pooch to a vet as soon as you control the bleeding. However, in case of minor injuries, clean the area well and apply antiseptic liquid or powder to protect the nail bed from infection. You can then wrap the wound with a self-adhering bandage for further protection from contamination.   

Avoid giving any human medication:

While it might be tempting to feed your pooch an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever to subside their unbearable pain, human medications should not be fed to pets without recommendation. Unless you have a prescription dog pain-reliever at home, consult with your dog’s vet for appropriate medication for your pooch.

As it might take a while to reach a vet’s office, it is probably the best idea to feed them a dose of pain reliever to ensure that the pain is bearable and your pooch is comfortable on the way. Moreover, even in case of minor injuries, it is okay to feed a recommended dose of prescripted pain reliever to your doggo to help them heal with ease.

Consult with a vet:

Procedures such as the removal of nail splits are best done by a professional as it can be easy to mess up for noobs like us. So, for major injuries, illnesses, and messy minor injuries with heavy bleeding, consulting with a vet is the best way to move forward whenever your dog’s nail splits vertically.

If you’ve ruled out trauma as the root cause, it would be helpful to take notes of symptoms bothering your dog lately before the nail accident and report the information to the vet so that they can figure out the underlying cause. The vet will then put your doggo on supplements or a treatment regimen accordingly. Please note that if your dog’s nail is brittle and splits time and again, it is necessary to visit a vet even if the split doesn’t look severe at the moment.

What if The Split Nail Isn’t Bleeding?

Not every nail split results in excessive bleeding. While nails split from the quick or the base can be excruciatingly painful, a minor nail split that hasn’t done any serious damage will most likely not bleed much. It is a sign that a trip to a vet’s office is not necessary for this situation. Nonetheless, in some cases, bleeding might be minimal and can often be overlooked while accessing the trauma.

Tissues underneath the nail plate are nourished with multiple small blood vessels. You might have witnessed a splinter hemorrhage that manifests as blueish black lines or dots in your fingernails after a nail trauma, haven’t you? Your pooch’s nail anatomy is quite similar, and blood leak from the quick vessels underneath the nail split is quite common and often requires medical care.

Luckily, if your dog hasn’t bled despite the vertical split, it most likely means that the split didn’t do any damage to the blood vessels underneath. Nevertheless, ensure that you take care of the split and clean the area thoroughly before the broken nail gets the chance to be caught in some obstacle, leading to further damage. Moreover, please note that even if there’s little to no bleeding, nail soft tissue is incredibly sensitive, and even the slightest trauma can cause pain and irritation.

How Can I Prevent My Dog’s Nails from Splitting?

Regular check-ups:

We’ve discussed above how a nail split might indicate a much deeper issue than a broken nail. Experts recommend you take your dog to a complete physical check-up at least once a year so that any deficiencies, tumors, or infections can be diagnosed in time and further complications can be avoided. Such medical issues are best diagnosed and treated right away as, with time, it can be much more difficult to subside the symptoms and can take longer to heal the illness.

Please note that if your dog is young or if they have already been diagnosed with severe medical conditions, the frequency of vet visits must be much higher. It is imperative to keep the illness in check so that the disease cannot manifest painful symptoms such as nail splitting or completely falling from the nail bed.

Feed your dog a healthy diet:

We understand that you’re putting your absolute effort into feeding your pooch a balanced healthy diet. However, sometimes, it might simply not be enough. A pet parent should be aware of their pet’s nutritional requirements and learn to understand the ingredient labels. AAFCO and scientific papers are good resources to rely on for such information.

Nutritional deficiencies, for instance, Iron deficiency, can result in nail brittleness and splitting. Pups being fed a poor diet or a dog who has lost a significant amount of blood have this deficiency, and such deficiencies require medical attention as soon as possible. Weight loss, black poop, lethargy, and pale gums and eyes, are some of the symptoms of anemia in dogs.

Include supplements in the diet if necessary:

Sometimes your doggo might also need a vitamin or mineral supplement boost to keep their nails healthy and strong. Biotin (Vitamin B7) supplement is known to improve nail hardness as well as coat quality in pooches. Likewise, omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fish oil capsules, are also great for lubricating and elevating the quality of your doggo’s nails. This supplement also helps reduce inflammation around the nail beds.

Please note that healthy dogs being fed a nutritionally balanced diet as per recommendation should not be fed supplements without a prescription. Good quality commercial pet foods are formulated in a way to meet your doggo’s nutritional requirements. So, if you suspect that nutritional deficiencies have caused brittle nail problems in your dogs, please consult a vet for proper prescription supplements to prevent any future mishappenings.

Groom your dog’s nails:

We all know that prevention is the best cure. So, keeping your pup’s nails well-groomed is probably one of the best things you can do to avoid your pooch’s nails splitting vertically. PetMD recommends grooming your dog’s nails every 3 to 4 weeks. Also, as your pup’s foot is often dirty, it would be best for you to clean and inspect their paws every few days for any cuts, inflammations, and infections around the nails.

Ensuring that you’re using a quality trimmer to prevent botched nails and bleeding is essential. Our top recommended dog nail grinder is rechargeable, portable, and has many grinding options, making your job a lot easier. Besides trimming your dog’s nails every month or so, make sure to trim any split nails from minor trauma hanging from the nail bed as such nails are prone to further damage.

How Much Does a Dog’s Broken Nail Cost to Fix at The Vet?

The price of fixing your dog’s broken nail at a vet depends upon the severity of trauma or whatever the underlying medical issue if any, your pet is suffering from. The price can range from under $100 to $500 or more, depending upon the severity of the condition. Moreover, please note that the charges can vary greatly depending upon location, and if the vet visit was an emergency, you’re likely to be charged significantly more.  

In the case of trauma nail splitting, the overall cost estimate can be around $300, including the doctor’s fee, supplies, nail trim, and medication. However, depending on the severity, the price can go much higher, especially if the injury is severe and requires multiple hospital visits. Furthermore, the diagnosis and treatment plan can come with a hefty price tag in case of chronic or severe underlying health issues.  

While we understand the charges can seem expensive, taking your pooch to a vet in case of major accidents or if the nail splitting problem is chronic and accompanied by worrisome symptoms is probably the best care you can provide them. If you suspect an infection or an undiagnosed root cause, trust your gut instinct and get in touch with a professional as soon as possible. If left unattended and untreated, the infections and the tumors will only worsen and be more expensive financially as well as emotionally.


We want to remind you once again that the majority of nail trauma cases in dogs are caused due to botched nail trims or lack of grooming. Besides keeping your pooch’s nails short and comfortable, feeding them with a nutritious diet, and taking them to a vet at frequent intervals for regular check-ups, there’s only little you can do to prevent your doggo’s nail from splitting. If your dog’s nail splits vertically despite all the prevention, ensure that you assess the damage well, keep a first aid kit handy, and rush your dog to a hospital if the damage seems severe.