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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Nail Bed Infections View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition

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Condition Overview

Dogs and cats feet are often exposed to bacteria and fungi in dirt and grass. A split or torn nail opens up the nail bed to germs, and fungi like ringworm eat keratin (the non-living part of the claw) and can weaken and infect the nail.

Symptoms

The infection attacks the nail root where it grows out of the toe. The skin around the claw swells, turns red and crusty, and may smell bad. In severe cases, the nail becomes brittle or powdery, deformed, or even loosens in the flesh. Pus collects in the area. Pets with nail bed infections may limp, and often lick the sore or itchy area.

Causes

Nail bed infections can be cause by simple injury or serious internal health conditions.

Diagnosis

If more than one nail bed is infected, have your vet examine your pet right away. There may be something more serious going on, and your pet may require antibiotics or even refer you to a veterinary dermatologist.

Treatment

If only one nail bed is infected, you can treat it at home. If the infection does not improve after 3 - 5 days of home treatment, the vet should examine your pet. Severe cases may require oral antibiotics or an antifungal drug like griseofulvin (Fulvicin).

  1. Watch for sudden symptoms - It is likely to be a bacterial infection when symptoms come on suddenly (within a 2 - 3 day period) and your pet's paws and toes are very painful. If the is happens, it is important to have your pet examined by your vet right away.
  2. Soak the foot in epsom salts - Whether bacteria or fungi cause the problem, an Epsom salt soak will help clean out the infection and make your pet's foot feel better. Use 1 cup per 2 gallons of lukewarm water and soak the affected foot for 10 minutes at a time. You will want to rinse off the Epsom salts so he doesn't lick them off. The salts are not dangerous, but they may cause diarrhea. Dry the foot thoroughly.
  3. Clean with a soft brush - For tender toes, use a soft brush with any mild antibacterial soap to clean the crusty material and debris from the nail bed. A complexion brush or even a soft tooth brush works well. Use warm water, and be sure to completely rinse off the soap and dry thoroughly, or it can cause even more irritation.
  4. Keep your pet still - Even when their feet aren't sore, pets often resent having their paws handled. You may need 2 people to treat tender feet, but dogs with itchy toes may actually enjoy the treatment. Small dogs and cats can be wrapped in a towel or pillow case with one foot exposed at a time. If you have a larger dog, kneel beside him on the floor, with one arm around his neck and the other under and around his chest. Then hug him to your chest.
  5. Trim damaged nails carefully - When bacterial infection develops from a nail injury, you must trim off the damaged part of the nail above the split or tear before the wound will heal. Do this only if the nail is broken or split and the damage has not reached the quick (blood vessel inside the nail). If the nail damage includes the quick, do not attempt to cut it. Bandage it loosely to prevent further damage, and go to the vet. Use rubbing alcohol to sterilize the nail clippers or scissors before you trim the nail. Hold the paw securely, put the clipper in position, and make a quick, decisive cut.
  6. Have him wear socks - To keep your dog from licking, put a plain cotton sock over his paw. The cotton allows the area to breathe so that it will heal. Put the sock on and use adhesive tape or elastic adhesive bandage like Elastoplast to secure the leg.

    Be sure to change the sock at least once a day to help keep the area clean and dry. It is a good idea for dogs to wear socks when they go outside, but you should change the sock when they return. This will keep the sore nails from being re-exposed to more bacteria in the yard.
  7. Use soft litter - Cat claws will heal faster if your cat doesn't have to use them to dig through tough litter. You can try switching to a product with softer granules, like yesterdays news cat litter, which is a recycled newspaper product that won't irritate sore paws. Keep the litter box clean so that your cat doesn't re-infect his claws from the bacteria in the box.

If fungi are present - Fungi attack over a period of weeks, and your pet's toes won't be as tender, but the infection lasts longer and is harder to cure. Fungi can turn the nails brittle or make them grow deformed, and your pet's toes will feel itchy. If your pet exhibits any of these signs, it is a good idea to make a trip to the vet. Once he makes a diagnosis, he will provide a home treatment plan.

Prevention

Keep your pets paws in top condition with regular nail trimmings and thorough grooming.

Support

Contact your veterinarian if you have questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +

Sources

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

2 Comments For "Nail Bed Infections"

Guest

Guest

my dog chilli had a nail removed by the vet, every now and then it bleeds, at the moment it smells awful and is red and sore, I have washed it with stuff off the vet and i put Melolin on then a bandage and a sock she keep off her paw as much as she can, she is 12yrs, can you give me any more tips ,

May 5, 2012 at 11:12AM  Sign In or Join to Comment

Guest

Guest

My cat is 1 1/2 yrs old. He just recently started going outside. I noticed this morning that his back paw is hurting. I looked at it and the skin around one of the toenails has separated from the nail. He wont let me touch it. It's a little swollen but there isn't any smell,bleeding or pussing. Not sure what this could be and if I need to be worried.

May 15, 2012 at 12:21PM  Sign In or Join to Comment