4 min read


Can a Dog's Nails Fall Off?



4 min read


Can a Dog's Nails Fall Off?


At some point during your dog's life, you will probably notice a broken or chipped nail, or you may even find one of their nails on the floor of your house. Is this normal? The answer is yes. 

While there are many things that can cause a dog's nail to become damaged or fall off, most of the time, it is nothing to worry about. In fact, a dog breaking off the occasional nail is not unusual, but if you notice your pooch seems to be losing nails on a more frequent basis, it's time to take a trip to the vet. It is also important to keep in mind that each dog is different, and some may be more at risk of losing a nail than others. 


Signs Your Dog Has Lost a Nail

If your dog has lost their entire nail, chances are you will know it. Many dogs lose their dew claws without even blinking an eye, so if you find a random nail in the dog bed, it's nothing to panic over. However, if the nail breaks off and it is bleeding, chances are it is bothering your pup and needs to be looked at. 

One of the number one reasons dogs lose their nails is because they are too long. When this is the case, they are more likely to snag and tear off. This can happen when they are walking or running on hard surfaces, or when it becomes tangled up in a blanket or piece of clothing. Some dogs simply have weaker nails than others, making them more susceptible to damage and losing their nails. 

There are many different signs to look for that will indicate your dog has lost a nail, including:

  • Limping or visibly refraining from putting weight on a specific paw
  • Blood on your dog's bedding, furniture, or in your bed
  • Constant licking of the paw¬†
  • Swollen paw¬†
  • Not letting you near a paw when you try to take a closer look¬†

If you notice any of the above, it could mean your dog has lost a nail or is suffering from a broken nail that may fall off eventually. Keep a close eye on your pup and if you notice any of the symptoms worsening, call your vet. Dogs can certainly lose a nail from time to time without any cause for concern, but when it becomes infected, is bleeding, or happens more frequently, it could indicate something more serious is going on. 

Body Language

These are some signs your dog has lost a nail:

  • Furrowed Brow
  • Sweaty Paws
  • Snapping
  • Licking

Other Signs

Here are some other signs your dog has a bothersome nail:

  • Not Allowing You Close To It
  • Limping Or Keeping The Weight Off Of One Paw
  • Excessive Licking

History of Dogs Losing Their Nails


Like humans, dogs can break a nail from time to time without them even noticing it. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to give your dog a once over on a regular basis to check for anything out of the ordinary. Look at their fur, feel their bellies, check their ears, and take a look at their nails. If you notice a broken or chipped nail that seems bothersome and your dog won't let you near it, give your vet a call. While most of the time a chipped nail isn't serious, there is a chance of infection. 

While we certainly can't trace the first instance of a dog losing a nail, we can commit to taking a more proactive approach to our dog's health and watching for things such as a chipped, broken, or lost nail. Dogs are quite similar to humans in the sense that they can have weak nails that break off because of environmental factors, or even genetics. 

Science Behind Dogs Losing a Nail


If you notice your furry friend is suddenly favoring a paw, you notice bleeding, or you find an intact nail in your house, the first thing you should do is get a good look at the paw. Make sure you examine the area in between the toes and webbing, too. Sometimes you will find a cut, foxtail, insect stinger, or another foreign object that may be causing them discomfort and pain. 

In most cases, a lost or broken nail is no big deal. It happens, and there are plenty of things you can do to clean it up and help it heal. While Fido's toenails may look quite tough, they are prone to snagging, tearing, fracturing, and breaking. 

Length is perhaps the number one reason dogs lose or break a nail, and some breeds have a more difficult time with this than others. Some dogs are also more predisposed to developing brittle nails than others. If your dog seems to lose nails pretty frequently, this may be something you should discuss with your vet. 

There are also numerous nail and nail bed disorders common to dogs, such as:

  • Infection
  • Bacteria or fungus
  • Tumor or cancer
  • Immune-related diseases¬†
  • Excessive levels of growth hormone¬†
  • Birth disorders¬†
  • Neoplasia¬†

If you think your dog may be suffering from one of the above or if you have any questions about why your dog is losing their nails, please contact your local veterinarian. 

Training Your Dog to Deal with Nail Problems


OK, so, you can't train your dog not to lose their nails, but there are a few things you can do to ensure it doesn't happen on a regular basis. If your dog has super-long nails that grow fast, it's important you either learn how to trim them yourself or bring your pooch to the groomer for regular nail trimmings. Nails being too long is the leading cause of lost or broken nails and is something that can be prevented. 

If your dog is prone to losing a nail, it may be a good idea to ask your vet what he or she recommends. Some dogs will let you touch their paws when they are in discomfort, but some simply won't have it. 

If possible, get your dog used to your checking them over from an early start. This will make your life a whole lot easier down the road, and will help you provide your pup with better care. Be sure and take your dog on regular walks, too, as this can help keep their nails trimmed down naturally. 

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Safety Tips for When Your Dog Loses a Nail:

  1. Sterilize the infected area, if your dog will let you near it.
  2. Contact your vet if they seem to be in pain or won't let you look at it.

Written by a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/29/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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