A reader writes: "I have a 2-year old German Shepherd female in that I adopted from the Humane Society. She is in good health; has no problem walking or running, and there is no redness, swelling or drainage from her feet. However, I recently noticed ALL her toenails are hollow... the entire length of the underside of the nails, and they are very brittle and dry. It looks as if the quick of the nails is "missing." What can you tell me about this?"
Issues with the claw and nail are a real problem for dogs as the nail is very important to them. For people, nails protect our sensitive fingertips, but dogs use them to dig, tear up meat, grab at toys and protect themselves. Your dog also puts his weight on the nails whenever he stands or runs, and problems with the nail can result in significant discomfort and pain.
Hollow Dog Nails
All dogs' nails are hollow where they extend past the quick. If you look underneath, you can see that the base of the nail by the paw is not hollow; this is where the blood vessel lives inside the nail. Past the quick, the nail is hollow, though sometimes it fills with dirt. The hollow part of a dog's nail is simply the part of the nail that you cut. This just means it's time to trim your dog's nails!
Brittle Dog Nails
Brittle nails are another story, and you may find that the nail crumbles while trimming. Breaking nails could result from your pet's digging and scraping.
But they can also be a sign of a problem with the nail bed resulting from infection, ailment or a toenail accident. Possible causes for brittle nails include:
Fungal Infection: Fungal infection, or onychomycosis, occurs across the nail bed or within the claw folds. In addition to brittle nails, you may see your dog licking at his paws continuously.
Your vet needs to take a scraping of the skin to identify a fungus; an antifungal is generally prescribed to relieve the issue.
Nail Bed Tumors: Nail bed carcinomas can alter the nail beds and the nail matrix, which contains nerves and veins. In addition to brittle nails, tumors in the nail bed can lead to limping, bleeding and ulcerations. Diagnostic procedures that biopsy the tissue is necessary to make a diagnosis and potentially involves amputation of the affected digits.
Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy: This is an immune-related disease illness that leads to dry and brittle nails. Other symptoms include twisted claws, painful paws, limping and secondary infection. A biopsy of a claw is necessary for diagnosis. Treatment includes adding fatty acid supplements to the diet as well as the antibiotics niacinamide and tetracycline.
Lack of Proper Nutrition: Brittle and cracked nails can also result from a lack of essential vitamins and nutrients. Try adding zinc supplements to your dog's food along with omega-3 fatty acids.
Torn Toenail Q & A