Bacterial claw infections are relatively common among dogs. Although they’re easily remedied, these paw problems shouldn’t be taken lightly. Infections that go unchecked can and will develop into something more difficult to treat and, in the worst cases, might become risky.
Take a moment to learn what bacterial claw infections look like and how to prevent them from affecting your pup in the first place.
Is your dog’s claw infected?
The symptoms of a bacterial claw infection are pretty easy to spot. Redness, swelling and pus around the nail usually indicate a bacterial or fungal infection. Dogs might be unable to leave their paws alone or show signs of pain while walking, as well.
Dogs with infected claws may exhibit one or many symptoms, and the combination of symptoms can say a lot about the underlying cause. For example, constantly licking of the nails or paw pads most likely means the dog has sustained a wound that’s causing irritation. Trauma to the nail bed may present itself as pain or lameness. If your dog appears to be in no pain, the bacterial claw infection might have been caused by an underlying health condition, not an injury or poor trimming technique.
No matter the cause, bacterial claw infections are almost always accompanied by peeling, brittle, soft or chipped nails. Affected nails might even become discolored. If you take a close look at your pup’s paws, you should be able to notice that something’s not right.
Causes of bacterial claw infections
A bacterial claw infection can stem from many different causes. If only a single claw has been affected, some type of trauma might have led to the infection. This can happen when owners trim nails too close to the nail bed or accidentally clip part of the dog’s skin. Dogs can also get injured from playing outside and damaging a claw in the process.
If there are multiple affected claws, there’s usually a deeper-rooted issue causing the infection. Malnutrition might cause nails on all four paws to peel or break apart. If no sign of injury is present, your dog might be facing an autoimmune disease where their immune system has targeted cells in the nail plates. Abnormal growth caused by cancerous tumors or neoplasia is another underlying cause that leads to more than one affected nail.
Complications that might arise
In most cases, a healthy dog can grow back damaged nails with zero complications. The unlucky few may suffer from permanent deformity, especially if the bacterial claw infection goes untreated. The deformity may appear as a misshapen or ingrown nail that is wider or narrower than the other claws. Infections that go unchecked can also inhibit claw growth, causing them to break and split before they have a chance to grow longer.
Pet parents should be aware that bacterial claw infections can spread to other parts of the body. What starts off as a manageable infection of the nails might seep into their skeletal system if the problem isn’t brought under control. Bone infections, otherwise known as osteomyelitis, are difficult to diagnose and require more rigorous treatment. For these reasons, early detection of bacterial claw infections is imperative.
Treatment plans for different causes
As soon as you notice signs of a nail infection, you’ll want to book an appointment with your vet for examination and testing. Once the vet comes up with a diagnosis, you can move forward with their recommended treatment plan.
Treatment for a bacterial claw infection hinges upon the underlying cause. Bacterial and fungal infections are often treated with a topical ointment to manage symptoms and prevent the infection from spreading. Your vet might also recommend paw soaks or Epsom salts to draw pus out of the affected nail beds. Infections that have spread to other parts of the body usually require oral antibiotics.
If your dog sustained a paw-related injury, they’ll have to wear a waterproof boot or sock so debris doesn’t enter the wound while it heals. Pet parents should keep an eye on the affected area to make sure their dogs recover properly from the bacterial claw infection. Complications will require another trip to the vet’s office for additional examinations.
How to prevent future infections
An owner can reduce their dog’s risk of contracting a bacterial claw infection with first aid and good trimming technique. Pet parents should clean injuries right away and prevent debris from entering the wound. While trimming a dog’s nails, don’t cut too close to the nail beds or accidentally cut their skin. Ask your vet or a trusted dog groomer to do it for you if you’re worried about doing it yourself.
For the most part, bacterial claw infections are no big deal. Just remember they could possibly indicate the presence of a deeply rooted issue and always warrant a trip to the vet. With the right treatment plan, your furry friend will be up on their feet in no time!