What to Do If Your Dog's Nails Are Infected

Closeup shot of a dogs paws and nails

Dogs have a number of uses for their nails. When standing, walking, or jogging, they give the most traction and stability. They also assist with activities like as play, digging, and grabbing items.

While keeping your dog's nails at a proper length and feeding them a well-balanced and nutritious food will help prevent issues, injuries, illnesses, and infections are still possible.

Serious nail issues can have a big influence on your dog's happiness. Because dogs walk with their weight on their nails, their nail discomfort is usually severe than in humans. Early discovery can make treatment easier and help your dog avoid more pain and discomfort.

The Anatomy of a Dog's Nail

A blood vessel and nerve are coated in thick, hard keratin in dog nails. The "quick" is the portion of the nail that contains the blood vessel and nerve. Because the nail's nerve and blood vessel usually finish before the keratin shell, the rest of the nail may appear empty or even filled with dirt. The nail bed is the area where the nail exits the digit of the paw.

Signs of Nail Problems in Dogs

Depending on the nature of the problem, dogs' nail problems can manifest in a variety of ways. Any of the indicators below might suggest an issue that need veterinarian intervention.

  • Limping or holding up the paw
  • Brittle nails
  • Discolored nails
  • Bleeding or discharge from the nail or nail bed
  • Swelling and/or redness of the nail or nail bed

Common Causes of Nail Problems in Dogs

Problems with dog nails are often caused by injuries, diseases, or even poor nutrition. Some of the more common problems are outlined below.

Nail Trim Accidents

Many of us have been shocked by the pain of clipping a dog's nail too short. It's quite simple to conduct this "quicking" by accident, which results in the blood vessel and nerve within the nail being severed. Heavy bleeding is frequent, and it causes the dog a lot of discomfort.

If you accidentally cut into the quick, the following steps are recommended:

  1. Try to remain calm. The bleeding may seem profuse, but the injury is probably not as bad as it seems.
  2. Apply pressure with a cloth or paper towel while you get something to stop the bleeding.
  3. If you have styptic powder (one brand name is Kwik Stop), you can dip the nail into some powder and press the powder to the end of the bleeding nail. If you do not have this product, cornstarch or flour can work in a pinch but is less effective and slower to stop bleeding.
  4. Try to keep your dog calm and still while you wait for the bleeding to stop.
  5. Contact your veterinarian if the bleeding continues for more than about 15 minutes, the nail or paw looks swollen, or your dog is limping or holding up the paw.

Nail Injuries

Nail injuries are relatively common in dogs. They can easily get caught on things while they are running around, causing the nail to tear or split.

If you suspect your dog has a nail damage, examine the paw thoroughly. If your dog allows it, stop any bleeding and clean the area. You should be able to clip off any sharp edges and watch the paw if just the keratin component of the nail was harmed.


A nail injury that affects the quick or nail bed or that appears red, swollen or produces a discharge should be seen by a veterinarian.

Nail Infections

Paronychia is an infection of the nail bed in dogs. Nail infections, on the other hand, might be caused by allergies, other skin issues, traumas, or nail diseases. Infections of the nail bed are generally bacterial or fungal.

  • Bacterial Nail Infections: These often cause swelling at the base of the nail and the digit of the paw. The area may be red and warm to the touch. There may also be a discharge from the area that looks like pus or fluid. It's common for the dog to lick or chew the affected paw and limp. Bacterial infections may be caused by an injury that did not get proper medical care but could also be related to other nail and/or skin disorders.
  • Fungal Nail Infections: Also called onychomycosis, these can cause the nails to become dry, brittle, and crumbly. To correctly diagnose and treat a fungal infection, your vet will need to take a scraping of the affected area to identify the fungus and will generally prescribe topical or oral antifungal products to treat the issue.

Treatment for nail infections may involve antibiotics or antifungal drugs, as well as topical and/or oral treatments and maybe medicated foot soaks. Some infections take a long time to heal and need constant attention from both the veterinarian and the pet owner.

Food or environmental allergies that induce and gnawing are frequently the cause of nail bed infections. To lessen the allergic response, your dog may need to adjust his or her lifestyle and/or nutrition.

Poor Nutrition

Brittle nails, poor coat quality, weight loss, and lethargy are some frequent symptoms that a dog's diet lacks the proper mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Your veterinarian will collaborate with you to develop a nutrition plan that is beneficial to your dog. Always with your veterinarian before feeding a homemade diet or giving supplements.

Autoimmune disorders

A number of autoimmune diseases affect the nails, while others affect the entire body. Many tests must be conducted to pinpoint the condition, therefore diagnosing autoimmune illnesses might take some time for veterinarians. Treatment varies depending on the condition, however immunosuppressive medicines are frequently used for a long time.


Tumors on the paws or in the nail beds might affect nail development. Some of these tumors are malignant and can cause significant damage to the surrounding region. To obtain a clearer sense of what's going on, your veterinarian may need to collect samples and do radiographs (X-rays). Surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy are all options for treatment.

How to Prevent Nail Problems in Dogs

Taking proper care of your dog's nails is the greatest approach to avoid a nail problem. Keeping your dog's nails clipped short (without cutting the quick) will help him prevent injury. Regular nail cutting also allows you to examine your dog's nails and detect any problems before they become serious.

If you find a problem with your nails, consult your veterinarian immediately away. Also, as indicated by your veterinarian, take your dog to the vet for routine health checkups once or twice a year. It's also crucial to feed a high-quality food that is comprehensive and balanced according to your veterinarian's recommendations.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


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