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Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help. Please give me a moment to review your concerns.
I'm sorry to hear that your fellow has a broken dewclaw nail. The short answer is yes, this is a concern.Once a nail breaks, or is split, it is painful; the loose nail will move and place sharp pressure on the quick, and it won't re-adhere. The loose nail piece needs to be removed. If we don't remove it he will understandably want to lick, because it hurts, which introduces bacteria into the raw quick, and the quick will be traumatized by the loose nail. Both of these things can lead to a painful secondary infection in the nailbed.He doesn't need to be seen on an emergency basis tonight, tomorrow is fine. But he would see his veterinarian as soon as possible to have the nail removed before the quick gets infected.He can have water until tomorrow morning, but no more food tonight and no breakfast tomorrow as they will likely need to sedate him to trim off the fractured nail and cauterize the quick.If he is licking a lot tonight I do recommend placing an elizabethan collar (lampshade collar) on him to stop him from traumatizing the nail bed further and causing an infection.
To keep the broken nail area clean and reduce painful inflammation you can soak his paw in a solution of warm water and epsom salts for 10-15 minutes at a time several times a day until he can be examined. This hypertonic solution draws out swelling and inflammation, helps kills bacteria, and improves comfort. Then flush the paw with cool water to remove the leftover salt solution and pat his paw dry. Do not let him lick or lap up the epsom salt solution as that can make him sick.Best of luck with your fellow and please let me know if you have any further questions.