HOW TO Treat Extremely Brittle Nails (Onychorrhexis)

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OnychorrhexisTo us, breaking a nail can be a mild annoyance, but to your pooch it can actually become a very painful experience and have serious underlying issues. reports, “One of the commonly faced nail problems in pet dogs is the problem of dry and brittle nails. Most times you will observe the nails crumbling easily while trimming or sloughing during grooming. Well, while breaking nails can be attributed to your dog’s active lifestyle which involves digging holes and scratching posts, brittle nails in dogs is usually a symptom of certain nail or nail bed disorders caused by infection, diseases or trauma to the nails.”

“The dog breeds most susceptible to this disease are Rottweilers and Greyhounds,” adds

What Causes Onychorrhexis?

According to PetMD, here are some of the common causes of brittle nails, also known as onychorrhexis:

i Love Dogs Infection

i Love Dogs Bacteria or fungus

i Love Dogs Tumor or cancer

i Love Dogs Trauma

i Love Dogs Immune system (immune-mediated) diseases

i Love Dogs Excessive levels of growth hormone

i Love Dogs Disorders present at birth (congenital)

i Love Dogs Cutting the nails too close to the nail bed

i Love Dogs Neoplasia – the abnormal proliferation of benign or malignant cells

What are the Symptoms of Onychorrhexis?

Some of the more common symptoms of Onychorrhexis listed by include:
i Love Dogs Licking at the paws

i Love Dogs Lameness; difficulty walking

i Love Dogs Pain in the feet

i Love Dogs Swelling or redness of the tissues surrounding the nails

i Love Dogs Nail plate deformity (the part of the nail that overlays the nail bed)

i Love Dogs Abnormal nail color

“In certain cases the removal of claws might be necessary in order to alleviate the pain,” mentions

How is Onychorrhexis Diagnosed?

If your dogs nails are cracking all the way back to the nail bed or if you notice that they are starting to fall off or becoming deformed, your vet may determine that there is an underlying medical cause.

According to, “In the event that there is a trauma to your dog’s nail bed, check to see if only a single nail is being affected. If multiple nails are affected, a serious underlying medical condition is the more likely cause for the disorder. A skin scraping may also be taken to determine what type of a skin condition your dog has, as well as a bacterial or fungal culture for further analysis.”

How is Onychorrhexis Treated?

There are several recommended treatment options for concerned pet parents depending on what the underlying medical issue is.

“If the nail area is inflamed, surgical removal of the nail plate (the hard part of the nail) may be necessary to encourage drainage of the underlying tissue. Antibiotic and antimicrobial soaks are also effective for preventing or reducing inflammation, and for encouraging the healing process. If the condition is related to a bacterial or a fungal infection, topical treatments and/or ointments are often administered to the affected area,” according to

Administering gelatin is another recommended way to help treat your dog’s brittle nails, but consult with your vet regarding dosage amounts.

“Adding zinc supplements to the diet and the presence of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids can resolve this issue. The effectiveness of brittle nails treatment is based on the underlying cause of the problem. While fungal and bacterial infections can be remedied by topical treatments or ointments which are administered to the affected area, in some cases surgical removal of the nail plate might be necessary,” according to


How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Onychorrhexis?

Maintaining your pooch’s nails is incredibly important, but be sure that you don’t allow the routine of this grooming habit to allow you to become careless. advises, “The best brittle nails remedy and prevention is to keep the dog’s nails groomed well. Also avoid clipping your dog’s toenails too close to the nail bed. These nicks might cause bleeding and infection in the dog’s paws.” adds, “It is essential that you look closely at your dog’s nails before cutting so that you know exactly where the free edge of the nail ends and the nail plate begins. Only the free edge of the nail should be cut.”

Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.

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Kara Ogushi

Contributing writer Kara Ogushi is a pet mom to two dogs and five rabbits. When she isn't writing travel tips for pooches, she's exploring new ways to share and create media.

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Poor puppies! Brittle nails can be very painful, ever had a nail break? Ouch!


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