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How do I treat my gundog’s broken toenails?

A vet advises ...

Q: What is the best way to deal with my Labrador’s broken toe nails? Whenever I let my dog’s get too long, they split and crack. They are obviously causing the dog discomfort so what can I do about it?

A: You have already got both the answer and the way to prevent this happening. It’s crucial to keep the dog’s nails – or rather claws – short. Some working dogs never need to get their nails cut – those that are working on hard ground and on flinty surfaces – which naturally wear the claw down. However gundogs that are only ever worked on soft grounds can grow nails that are too long.

Get your vet to show you how to clip them properly and to advise you on the best clippers to use.

Split nails should be carefully smoothed with a nail file to remove cracked, sharp edges.

Nails that become ?hinged? away from the quick need to be removed to avoid infection tracking up and into the joint.

Those that are hanging off can be sorted with a quick confident pull after gripping them with a pair of pliers but others will need general anaesthesia and veterinary expertise to strip out the damaged part.

The exposed quick is fairly sensitive and prone to further damage so may need protection until the nail re-grows.

I always like to give these patients a few days of antibiotics as joint infections inevitably require partial toe amputations; a disastrous outcome from a trivial injury.

Continuous problems with toe nails in the absence of obvious trauma suggests fungal or bacterial infection.

Affected nails can be removed, stuck in culture medium and sent to the lab for specific diagnosis. Treatment often needs to be prolonged.