Dog Nail Split Vertically

dog nail split vertically

A dog nail split vertically rather than horizontally can cause excruciating pain and put the paw at risk of infection. It’s not uncommon for a dog’s nails to tear, crack, or break when running around, or if the nail gets caught on something. Diet, injury, overgrowth, exercise and health problems can all break claws. Today we’ll look at what to do if your dog’s nail has split vertically, how to treat a dog nail split vertically yourself, when to get it checked out by a veterinarian and how to prevent it from happening again in the future.


What is a Dog Nail Split Vertically?

Think of your own nails. When one breaks, it’s usually horizontally. Sometimes the nail is completely torn off, or it may still be partially attached. With a split nail, the cut is in half vertically. The danger is exposing the dog’s quick. This is a collection of nerves and blood vessels behind the nail, protected by a keratin layer. If the quick is exposed, it will bleed and be painful.

As a dog’s nails grow, so does the quick. Even removing a tiny bit of nail will hit this living tissue in overly long nails. It’s another reason why keeping your dog’s nails trimmed short is important. The quick connects to the bone, and an injury to the quick can lead to a bone infection, which is very serious.

How to Tell if Your Dog’s Nail Split Vertically

You may not immediately be aware that your dog has a split nail. The first sign is often a trail of blood as a dog’s nails tend to bleed a lot. However, if it happens outdoors, the first noticeable sign could be your dog limping or excessively licking the injured paw. Upon closer inspection, you may detect inflammation around the nail or toe.

What to do if a Dog Nail Splits Vertically

If the nail split is not very deep, it may not bleed, and your dog may not seem bothered by it. When the nail breaks off completely, you may be able to trim it so that it doesn’t get caught and rip it further.

If the split reaches the quick, blood will ooze from the blood vessels. The quick is attached to the bone and can damage it as well. It can be prone to infection and be extremely painful for your dog. If this happens, take your pet to visit the vet as soon as possible.

What Causes a Dog Nail to Split Vertically?

A dog’s nails get a lot of wear and tear, and there are a variety of reasons for a dog’s nails to split.


Trauma is the most common cause of nail splitting in dogs. Active dogs, in particular, are at risk if the dog jumps and the nail splits due to a sudden impact. However, a dog can snag a nail on the carpet or while walking on rough or uneven terrain.

Nutrient Deficiency

Another common reason a dog’s nails split is from a nutritional deficiency. Like human nails, a dog’s nails are made of a form of a protein called keratin. If your dog isn’t getting enough protein and other essential nutrients, nails can become brittle, which can cause them to split.

Health Conditions

Certain underlying medical conditions could also cause brittle, weakened nails that lead to nail splits. Autoimmune disorders, endocrine disorders, tumors, vasculitis, viruses, bacterial infections, parasites, ringworm, allergies, and fungal infections near the nail, are all possibilities.

It’s important to treat the underlying cause and prevent further nail splitting and breakage. In any of these cases, your dog needs to be assessed by a vet.

Long Nails

When a dog spends a lot of time running outdoors on different hard surfaces, their nails wear down naturally. But most pets are indoors much of the day, and their nails will become too long unless trimmed regularly. Long nails will constantly touch the ground and push on the nail bed, making walking and running painful for the dog. They also make him more susceptible to damage that can cause nail splitting.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Having Vertical Nail Splits

Preventing your dog from getting a nail split is always better than the pain and recovery process involved. Here are three ways to minimize the risk to your pet.

A Healthy Diet

Feeding your dog, a balanced diet is important for many reasons. Nutritional insufficiency can also make the nails brittle and easier to split.

When checking dog food labels, you not only want to look for good quality ingredients, but certain nutrients can strengthen the nails, making them much harder to split or break. Look for foods high in biotin and omega-3 or fish oil, as they can enhance skin and nail health.

Regular Nail Trimming

Keeping your dog’s nails short and smooth is the best way to ensure his nails won’t split. Long nails are far more likely to get caught on something and tear. Although you can pay a professional groomer, it’s a fairly simple task if you have the proper tools and make sure not to cut the nails too short so that the quick is exposed.

These nail trimming sessions are also an ideal time to check your dog’s toes and nails for any foreign objects such as thorns, splinters, or twigs that he’s picked up in his travels.

Check Regularly

Checking your dog’s nails frequently, will alert you to any nail splits, infections, or other nail disorders at an early stage. You may not notice your dog has a small nail split unless you inspect closely. But even small nail splits can be very painful for your pup and put him at risk of getting the nail caught in something that pulls it off completely.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Dealing with a Dog Nail Split Vertically

A vertical nail split can be very painful for your dog. It can also mean he has an underlying condition that needs treating. A visit to the vet is your best bet.

When they are all cleared up you might even want to slap on a coat of polish!

More About Treating your Dog at Home


The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website