Nail Bed Infection in Dogs

An infection can turn healthy nails into nasty-colored and nasty-smelling nails.
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When an infection rears its ugly head, your pup is not going to enjoy his daily regimen of antibiotics and paw cleanings. Although infections are dangerous, a trip to the vet and a bit of care at home will put your dog on the fast track to recovery.


Plenty of signs will alert you to an infection in your pup's nail bed. A nasty smell is the hallmark symptom of infection. Think of the smell as a wet dog smell but a lot worse. Often all the nails on the affected paw or sometimes just the problem nail will have pus inside. If you squeeze the nail gently, grind or clip the nail, you'll see it seep out. Your dog may also lick the affected paw all over, not just at the problem nails, and a reddish-purple color will appear on his skin due to the irritation. Your little guy's nails may also appear hollow, allowing you to see from the top of the nail all the way down to the quick. He'll also usually have a fever, which is a temperature of over 103 degrees in dogs. Tenderness can also be a sign that the area is infected, but it's also a sign that the area is just sore or even on the recovery, so don't put too much emphasis on his level of pain.


Trauma and post-operative complications usually cause infections in the nail bed area. Trauma most often includes a puncture at the site of the nail bed, a cracked nail or a nail that has been completely torn off with the quick exposed. If your pup ever has surgery in that area, your vet will send you home with plenty of cleaning solution which you should use as directed. Cutting slightly into the quick when you snip your pup's nails usually will not put your dog at risk of an infection, although to be safe, you should clean the area with lukewarm water to remove any dirt. Make sure your pup's nails are trimmed and avoid the sides of roads, dumpsters and other areas littered with glass and sharp objects to prevent trauma.

Vet Visit

Any time you think your pup has an infection, always make a vet appointment immediately. Infections can spread quickly, and the longer you wait, the more difficult they are to treat. If your pup cracked or broke off his nail or punctured the area around his nail, always take a ride to the vet. Skip the poor advice of applying a bit of antibiotic cream and wrapping the foot when an injury occurs and get to your vet instead. Your dog's nail bed is constantly exposed to bacteria, and oral antibiotics are almost always required to prevent an infection from setting in when trauma occurs.


In the case of infection, you always want your dog's paw to remain dry. That's easier said than done when your little guy goes to town and soaks the area with his tongue. Wrapping it won't help, because the wrap will still get wet and the area won't be exposed to the air. Instead, try an Elizabethan collar, also known as an e-collar. An e-collar forms a cone around your pup's head, making his attempts at licking his wounds futile. The collar sits above your pup's regular collar and should be snug, but loose enough that you can get two fingers between the collar and your pup's skin. Always make sure the end of the collar extends slightly beyond your dog's nose so there's no way for him to get that slobbering tongue on his paw. If the ground is wet when you let him outside, wrap his foot in a bag and secure it to his leg with self-adhesive wrap.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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