You did everything right as you prepped to trim your dog’s nails. You looked for where your dog’s nail starts to curl and narrow, you steadied her paw with your hand, and you cut at a slight angle. But your dog jerked her paw at the last second, and now her nail is bleeding. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. Here’s how to stop that bleeding fast.

By Kate Eldredge Basedow, LVT
August 24, 2020
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Sahil Mehta / EyeEm / Getty

You did everything right as you prepped to trim your dog’s nails. You looked for where your dog’s nail starts to curl and narrow, you steadied her paw with your hand, and you cut at a slight angle. But your dog jerked her paw at the last second, and now her nail is bleeding. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. Here’s how to stop that bleeding quick.

Why Do Dog Nails Bleed?

Like every other part of your dog’s body, her toenails are supported by living tissue that produces the hard nail material. This is why her nails continue to grow throughout her life. Part of that living tissue is blood vessels and a nerve, and this duo is often referred to as the quick. Damage to the quick, whether from catching a nail in a fence and ripping it or from having the nail cut too short, results in pain and bleeding. If you have ever ripped a fingernail or badly stubbed your big toe, you have an idea what this feels like. 

Generally, you can easily tell where to trim your dog’s nails by looking for where the nail starts to curve and narrow. With white nails, you can even see the pink quick and easily avoid it. Some dogs, however, grow very thick nails that don’t taper at the ends, making the quick harder to identify. Or, If nails aren’t trimmed regularly, the quick will start to grow out too, meaning the next time you trim your dog’s nails the quick might be easier to hit accidentally.

Stay Calm & Soothe

If you do nick the quick and your dog’s nail starts bleeding, don’t panic—even if your dog yelps. Keeping calm will help your dog to stay calm, which will allow you to deal with the bleeding nail much more quickly and effectively. Soothe your dog if needed, and hold on to her paw so she doesn’t take off dripping blood around the house.

Ideally, you should already have supplies on hand to help with a bleeding nail. If not, consider having equipment ready next time. (See How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails for a list of gear we think you should have on hand when cutting nails.)

Using Styptic Powder to Stop the Bleeding

Styptic powder is the best and quickest way to stop toenail bleeding from a dog’s toenail. It’s available at any pet supply store or online. Kwik-Stop is one of the best-known brand names, but there are others available too.

  1. To use the powder, either get some on your finger and press onto the bleeding nail or pour some into the lid of the container and dunk your dog’s nail into it. 
  2. Apply pressure for several seconds. If the nail is bleeding badly, you may need to add more styptic powder. 
  3. When the nail no longer bleeds when you remove pressure, you can relax. 

Another option is to get sticks with styptic powder on the end, or silver nitrate sticks. All of these sting a little bit to one degree or another (including the powder), so your dog may flinch when you first contact the sensitive nerve. This discomfort will pass quickly.

Home Remedies to Stop Bleeding

No styptic powder on hand? There are several common household materials that can help in a pinch. Here are a few and how to use them:

  • Bar soap: Grab a plain bar of soap and soften it so it’s slightly mushy. Press your dog’s nail into the soap and hold in place for 3–5 minutes or until the bleeding stops.
  • Cornstarch: Plain cornstarch or cornstarch mixed with baking soda also work. Place a bit of the cornstarch in your hand and dip your dog’s nail in it. Apply pressure for several seconds—up to 2 minutes—then check if the bleeding has stopped.
  • Ice: Ice cubes can also help to slow bleeding, since the cold temperature causes the blood vessels to contract, resulting in less bleeding. Icing your dog’s toe will also numb the pain. If your dog objects to the ice, wrap the cube in a paper towel or thin cloth to act as a bit of a barrier. This will also help to absorb any blood or melting water.

After the Bleeding has Stopped

Once the bleeding has stopped, it’s time to do damage control to make sure this experience doesn’t taint future nail trims. Release your dog’s paw, then pick it back up again and tell her how perfect she is. Do this a couple times, gently massaging her toes and holding her paw for varying amounts of time with lots of praise. This is to remind her that when you handle her feet it’s a good thing.

If you aren’t done trimming all of her nails, keep going, but ramp up your usual praise-and-reward schedule. For example, if you normally give her a treat after each paw is done, reward her for every other toe or so. If she is really upset, you can even reward after each nail. Your goal is to overwrite the bad experience of having a nail clipped too short with the positive experience of a routine nail trim.

If you are stressed about continuing the nail trim, take a deep breath but persevere. You can do it! Even if you just take the slightest amount off the tip of each nail, you are still doing your part to help your dog remember that nail trims are okay. You can always come back and do a more thorough job another day when you are feeling more relaxed.

Limit your dog’s activity for the next couple hours. Running around can disturb the fragile blood clot and cause the bleeding to start back up. It’s also possible to get an infection if bacteria invades the quick, so prevent her from going outside during this time if at all possible. Keeping her paw clean and dry will set you up for success.

Prepare for Next Time

Though accidents can happen while doing routine nail trims, there are some ways to prep for the next trim that may help you avoid another painful nip:

  • Purchase some styptic powder and keep it close by when trimming nails. If nail trim day rolls around and you forgot, have one of the home remedies on hand.
  • Use treats liberally to make nail trimming a positive experience for your dog.
  • Play with your dog’s feet on a regular basis, including handling individual toes, so your dog will be less twitchy in the future.
  • Have a schedule for trimming nails, and stick to it. To keep nails at their best, trim once a week or every other week.
  • If your dog’s nails are overgrown and you aren’t sure how far out the quick is, err toward only clipping a little bit off the tip every four days or so. This will help to gradually trim back the nails and encourage the quick to recede with less risk of causing your dog to bleed.