Broken rabbit nails and dewclaws occur when they become excessively long and bent. Your rabbit’s toenails can easily get snagged and torn off. An injured or ripped out nail can bleed or become infected. You may also find that some rabbits’ nails just fall off without any signs of blood.
A rabbit’s torn nails will normally grow back, but it’s a process that will take 6+ months. Each of the nails grows at a different pace. Some rabbits will regrow a small stub. Also, the broken claw may not regrow at all if extensive damage has been done to the nail bed.
When a nail gets pulled out, it’s vital to keep the nail bed clean and dry to avoid infection. Applying pressure to the area for 1-2 minutes will minimize bleeding. Any redness and swelling that occurs over the next 24-72 hours are the most obvious signs that a bacterial infection has taken hold.
What To Do When a Rabbit’s Nail Falls Off
Torn toenails are very painful for rabbits, and typically occur when untrimmed nails get caught onto wire bottom cages, rugs, or gaps in ramps.
But torn, broken, and hanging toenails don’t require extensive aftercare once the blood flow has been adequately controlled.
Nail Torn Off
Torn toenails will usually experience some amount of bleeding. You can stop the bleeding by applying some gentle pressure to the affected area for a couple of minutes. Your rabbit may show aggression due to the pain.
Not alleviating pain after a toenail/dewclaw injury can lead to stress and further complications, such as appetite loss and anorexia.
According to Morehouse School of Medicine, your rabbit will return to its normal eating and drinking habits after its pain has been reduced.
If your rabbit returns to its usual behavior, monitoring the torn toenail for 3-4 days and making sure it’s clean and dry should be more than sufficient.
In some cases, the exposed tissue may develop an infection. If you notice any swelling or redness, this should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Nail Broken and Hanging Off
If the nail is broken right where it meets the flesh, you should carefully cut the hanging nail off. You’ll have to use a pair of scissor-type trimmers.
Allow your rabbit to hop around the floor before evaluating its behavior. If your rabbit shows signs of normal behavior and is in a good/happy mood, then the chances are that you don’t need to do anything else.
However, if the nail is torn at the nail bed and has damaged some skin, try to trim off whatever damaged nail you can. You can use a cat-claw trimmer to cut your rabbit’s nails. Choose a clipper based on the size of the rabbit.
Most people prefer scissor-style clippers that are used for cat nails because of the freedom of movement that they offer. However, you must avoid any of the following problems when cutting your rabbit’s nails:
- Cutting the quick. This is the blood vessel inside the nail. Any damage to the ‘quick’ will cause intense pain and bleeding.
- Putting pressure on the spine. The spine is extremely sensitive and vulnerable to breakage. It doesn’t take much pressure to damage it.
When you’re done, place your rabbit back on the floor and monitor its behavior for any obvious signs of discomfort.
Nail Bed Bleeding and Pain
If the nail is completely ripped or torn off, applying some gentle pressure to alleviate the bleeding will be beneficial.
Clean the nail bed thoroughly with Nolvasan. Follow this with a coating of antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin.
Do NOT use ‘Neosporin Plus’ or any other ointment containing cortisone. Corticosteroids are immunodepressants in rabbits.
If any visible nail remains on the nail bed, use styptic powder or flour to reduce the bleeding.
If you notice an infection, take your rabbit to the vet. Bacterial infections, if left untreated, can travel to the bone, resulting in further complications.
Will My Rabbit’s Nail Grow Back?
In most cases, a torn toenail will grow back completely, but it’s not a quick process. You’ll have to wait more than 6 months for this to happen.
However, if the nail bed is damaged severely as a result of a nail being ripped out, this may not happen. There is a chance that the nail will only partially return as a small, malformed stub or not grow back at all.
A nail that doesn’t grow back won’t be a problem for a pet rabbit.
Risks of Torn Claws in Rabbits
Some rabbits have a history of breaking their nails/claws. This is most common in more active rabbits as they’re more likely to get their nails caught in soft objects, gaps, and crevices around their cage.
Broken toenails are also very common among rabbits that don’t have a regular nail trimming schedule. Wild rabbits wear down their claws due to foraging, digging, climbing, and other routine day-to-day activities. As an indoor pet, you need to make sure that’s done for your rabbit.
Like any injury that involves tissue damage, there is a risk of infection with broken toenails. If this happens, you’ll notice redness and swelling around the site of the injury after a day or two has elapsed.
Sore Hocks / Pododermatitis
Not trimming a rabbit’s toenails can also cause sore hocks. This is where the fur on the hocks become painful and infected.
When a rabbit’s nail grows too long, it can start to grow at a different angle. A bent toenail can badly affect your rabbit’s gait.
A genetic trait of thin fur on the hocks can also increase the risk of developing sore hocks. Untrimmed nails will worsen the situation.
If your rabbit’s hind feet do not rest at a proper angle, its body weight is forced back onto its heels. This will lead to sore hocks.
How to Avoid Torn Nails in Rabbits
Torn toenails and sore hocks are most likely to happen to larger rabbits and rabbits kept in wire-bottom cages. If you have a wire-bottomed cage, securely placing wooden planks on top is recommended.
In addition to avoiding wire-bottomed cages and keeping away objects your rabbit’s nails get stuck on, you must also keep your rabbit’s nails short.
A rabbit’s nail can become too long. As they grow, it changes the angle, creating a hook. Long nails not only get snagged easily, but also cause extra wear to the joints because your rabbit is moving in an unnatural way.
Long nails get torn and pulled out easily. This is painful and there will likely be some bleeding. But in most cases, it can be resolved easily.
Broken or torn nails in rabbits usually grow back on their own. However, serious damage to the nail bed may prevent the nail from ever regrowing.