This is an immune mediated condition. It usually can be helped with medication but is a life long condition and can be quite serious.
There are other possibilities as well. Is it all 4 nails? Or just the front or back nails? If it is only happening on just the front feet, or just the back feet? If so, then I would be wondering if there is a neurological condition such as a back injury or other nerve injury. This can cause a dog to scuff the top of their nails as they walk.
There are some drug reactions that can cause a condition called vasculitis that can cause the nails to be brittle. These are rare though.
In theory, a bacterial or fungal infection could do this, but I can only think of one case in 15 years where I saw this.
There are some dogs that can have brittle nails because of a zinc deficiency. If this is the case then a zinc supplement could possibly help. But, you have to be careful with this because zinc can cause intestinal upset in dogs.
I would highly recommend having your vet examine your dog's nails. I don't think that this is a simple thing that can be treated at home. If your vet suspects an infection then they will likely start him on medication (either an antibiotic or antifungal). But, they may need to do other tests. They may start by culturing the area to look for bacteria or yeast. Or, they may have to do a biopsy which is the way to diagnose an immune mediated problem.
If you do get a diagnosis, please come back and update us with what the vet found.
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Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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