Poor Koira had a rough day yesterday. At roughly 3:30 am, she asked to go outside to pee. She came back in seconds later on three legs and with a blood trail. Somehow she managed to catch her toenail in or on something (possibly the door jam?) and rip her toenail partially off. This caused the quick to be exposed and start spurting blood, and was probably incredibly painful for her.
I quickly flipped a light on and examined her foot. A light tug on the nail proved that it was still pretty firmly attached despite being at a right angle to how it was supposed to be. Instead of messing with it more, I wrapped her foot in gauze, taped the gauze down, then wrapped her whole foot and lower leg in vet wrap to keep the gauze on. As painful as I know it had to be, a broken toenail (or even a broken or dislocated toe, which were both slight possibilities) is not an emergency vet visit.
Luckily, my vet is awesome enough that they were able to get her in that afternoon despite a fully booked day. I dropped Koira off and they sedated her, did an x-ray (no breaks or dislocations, yay!), and removed the toenail. The toenail, despite being broken, was still attached firmly enough that sedation was necessary for removing it without some pretty intense pain. The vet was impressed with my 3 am wrap job (I guess all that wrapping at flyball really does pay off!). I picked Koira up a few hours later, still a little groggy from the sedation (and myself a little woozy from spending an hour at the dentist). She had a newly wrapped foot and leg, complete with chickens on it.
The nail should grow back on its own over time. Koira will be on antibiotics and pain meds for the next week, and leash walks only for at least a week. After that first week is up, we will have to play it by ear and see how she is healing. If the toenail starts growing back/hardening quickly, we can get back into things sooner. If she plays hard enough that she makes it bleed or break open again, we'll have to keep with lower activity until the nail is more advanced. After a few days in the wrap, we will be starting epsom salt soaks a couple times a day, which is supposed to both help prevent infection and promote hardening of the nail.
In case anyone is dealing with this same issue, or has it come up in the future, my personal experience so far tells me that if the nail were to completely come off, or be loose enough to easily be pulled off, a vet visit wouldn't be immediately necessary. However, if the nail is still pretty firmly attached, as Koira's was, it would be best to have a vet remove the rest of it under sedation, since it will be very painful. Also, if you don't immediately go into the vet, you should make sure the nail area is clean and contact the vet at any sign of infection. If treating at home, clean the nail area and wrap with gauze and vet wrap for at least three days, keeping the wrap clean and dry and checking for signs of infection such as swelling, increased pain, etc. Then start doing soaks in epsom salts twice a day for a week to harden off the nail and help prevent infection. Please keep in mind, though, that I am not a vet or medical professional of any kind- this is simply my own opinion and what I would likely do in the future.
I did have an adorable photo of Koira curled up in her bed with her little foot all wrapped up, but Flickr is apparently refusing to let me grab the html code on any of my photos. So you'll just have to picture it (and join me in hoping that flickr fixes this problem quickly!).