A dog’s nails are an essential part of its anatomy. They serve a variety of purposes. For example, they help your canine friend stand stable.
They help provide traction with activities like walking, running, and turning corners swiftly. In addition, nails come in handy when the dog has to scratch an itch or dig or hold objects.
Many nails and nail bed disorders can lead to the dog experiencing discomfort and pain. Some disorders can severely impact your pet’s quality of life.
Today, we will be attempting to answer the query, why is my dog’s nail black? Your dog’s nails could turn black as a part of its aging process, or it could be bacterial, fungal infections, allergies, or auto-immune diseases.
Let us understand the different causes and treatments for nail disorders and prevention practices that can help keep your dog’s nails healthy.
- Why is My Dog’s Nail Turned Black? – 7 Possible Causes
- What are Some Symptoms of Nail Disorders in Dogs?
- How to Diagnose the Cause of Dog’s nails turning black?
- What Treatment Options are Available in dogs Nail Black?
- How to Prevent Nail Problems in Dogs?
Why is My Dog’s Nail Turned Black? – 7 Possible Causes
Your dog’s nails could change color as it grows up, or it could be a symptom of a harmful disease. Here are seven possible causes why your dog’s nails turn black.
1. Natural Aging Process
For some dogs, black nails are a part of their anatomy. Nail colors are dictated by the dog’s skin and fur color. For example, if your dog has black fur, its nails will also be black. The fact is also true for dogs with darker coat colors.
It is believed that the similar color scheme of the skin, coat, and nails helped the dog survive in the wild. It served as a camouflage mechanism. If a black coat dog had white or pinkish nails, it would have been easily spotted by predators.
As newborn puppies, such dogs may have clear, white, or pinkish nails. As the puppy grows, its nails will turn a shade closer to its coat color.
So, if you have a dark-colored dog, it is normal for their nails to turn black or a darker brown shade as a part of their aging process. Therefore, this is not a cause for concern.
All is good if the dog is healthy and does not show symptoms like excessive licking, swelling, or discharge around the nails. If you do have concerns, please consult with the vet.
Dogs can suffer from bacterial and fungal infections around the nail and nail beds. One of the symptoms of these infections could be your dog’s nails turning black.
Infections can be a result of your dog’s active lifestyle. For example, the dog could pick up these unwanted organisms while playing around in the dirt or running up a mountain on a hike.
If you do not clean the dog’s paws and nail thoroughly after a day out of playing, running, or swimming, the environment becomes favorable for organisms to grow and multiply.
Bacterial infections could be a secondary condition resulting from causes like injury, allergies, or systemic diseases like diabetes mellitus.
In the case of bacterial infections, inflammation and redness are two common signs. In addition, the area around the nail may swell and become warm to the touch. There could also be pus or discharge around the nail.
In case of fungal infections, the nails could become dry and brittle. Yeast infections will cause your dog’s nails to turn a shade of reddish-brown.
Regardless of the infection’s cause, the condition needs to be treated by the vet. If you let it be, the infection can spread to other nails, thus doing simple acts like walking uncomfortable or painful for the pet.
3. Injury or Trauma
Nail injuries are common in the canine world, especially for highly energetic and active dogs.
They might hurt their nails when running enthusiastically on rough terrain. Also, long, unkempt nails may get caught on objects or carpets.
They might have accidents wherein their paws could have been met by sudden force or pressure. For example, the dog may put its paw on the frame when you are about to close the door. Or you may accidentally drop a heavy object on the dog’s paws.
In such scenarios, one or a few of your dog’s nails can turn black.
Nail injuries and traumas can be minor and heal with time, or they could be major and need vet care. For example, if the dog hurts only the upper layer of the nail, trimming the nail and monitoring the paw for additional signs should be enough.
If the quick of the nail is injured, there may be bleeding. You can control the bleeding with styptic powder if it is a small nick.
If the injury is major and you notice signs like swelling, redness, or discharge, then please contact the vet.
An allergy is when the dog’s immune system shows hypersensitivity to a foreign substance known as an allergen. Itching, skin irritation, vomiting, hives, coughing, sneezing, and diarrhea are some of the common symptoms when it comes to dog allergies.
You may not associate your dog’s nails turning a darker color with allergies; it is less common but still a sign of an allergy. The type of allergy determines the signs your dog will show.
For example, some allergy types canines can suffer from are flea, skin contact, food, environmental, acute, and seasonal.
Food and environmental allergies can cause your dog’s nails to turn black. Dairy, chicken, and gluten are examples of food allergens. Grass, mold, and pollen are examples of environmental allergens.
According to AKC, the best way to deal with allergies is to keep the dog away from the allergen. This understandably may not always be possible. But repeated exposure to such allergens can also lead to bacterial infections.
5. Auto-immune Diseases
This cause is rare, but auto-immune diseases can lead to changes in nail color, texture, and shape.
Pemphigus is a common skin auto-immune disease found in both canines and cats. It affects the animals’ skin and mucous membranes. Genetic predisposition, chronic skin allergies, viral infections, and extreme exposure to UV lights are possible causes of auto-immune disease.
There are three types of this condition: vulgaris, erythematosus, and foliaceus. Skin lesions, hair loss, and ulcers are some common symptoms. In rare cases, it causes nail discoloration and inflammation around the nail bed.
Another auto-immune disease that can present a range of nail-related symptoms is Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy or SLO. It commonly presents symptoms like brittle, misshapen, and thickened nails. In rare scenarios, it can lead to changes in nail color.
6. Improper Grooming
As we have seen above, nails are functionally important for canines. If you ignore nail grooming routines, the dog is at risk of getting hurt.
For example, walking can get uncomfortable if the dog’s nails are too long. In addition, there is an increased risk of the nails getting caught in the carpet or a piece of furniture. Thus regular grooming is necessary.
But it would be best if you exercise caution when trimming your dog’s nails. This is because the nails contain a sensitive part called the quick. It consists of the blood vessels and nerves that run through the dog’s nails.
If you accidentally touch or cut the quick during nail trimming, it can lead to bleeding. You can control the situation at home by applying gentle pressure to the nail with a towel to stop the bleeding. Styptic powder, baking powder, or a bar of soap can also help.
Once the bleeding stops, the dog’s paw can be sensitive. That particular nail can turn a darker color.
If the bleeding does not stop, the nail or paw is swollen, or the dog limps, then it would be best to contact the vet.
Unusual growth, lumps, and tumors around the nail or paws can also present nail-related symptoms. These could be inflammation, infection, nails turning black, and discharge.
These tumors can originate on the paws or somewhere around the legs and spread to the nail bed. The growth could be benign or cancerous.
In either case, you need to visit the vet for a proper diagnosis. Even if the growth is benign, leaving it untreated can cause the dog discomfort. Recurring infections, discharge, and pain are additional symptoms you will have to deal with.
There could also be the possibility of a foreign object finding its way into the deeper layers of the paw skin. For example, you may not have removed thorns, stones, or glass completely, or the injury was tended to properly.
In such cases, there might be swelling, giving the impression of unusual tumor-like growth around the paw area. Again, contacting the vet would be the best course of action.
What are Some Symptoms of Nail Disorders in Dogs?
If your puppy’s nails are turning black and the change is gradual, there is no need to worry. But if your puppy or adult dog’s nails have suddenly turned black, the cause needs to be investigated. You need to monitor the pet’s paws for additional signs and contact the vet accordingly.
If your dog is suffering from a nail disorder, injury, or other diseases, apart from a change in nail color, it can show additional symptoms like:
- Excessive licking of paws
- Swelling of paws
- Pus, fluid discharge, or bleeding
- Paw being sensitive to touch
- Brittle, dry, cracking, peeling of nails
- Leg pain
- Limping or favoring a leg while walking
How to Diagnose the Cause of Dog’s nails turning black?
When the dog starts showing signs of a nail disorder, it is essential to monitor the paw for any changes. Also, make a note of any changes you have made in the dog’s diet or routine. Moreover, depending on the severity of the symptom, you can talk to the vet over a call or drive down to the clinic.
If it is an injury, the vet will first stop the bleeding, if any, proceed with a thorough physical examination and conduct additional tests like x-rays if required.
If it is a nail disorder, the diagnosis will depend on the symptoms. For example, if there is any discharge, skin irritation, or abnormal growth, the vet will scrape samples to determine the cause. In case of infections, further bacterial and fungal cultures will be done.
Complete blood work might be necessary if the vet suspects an auto-immune disease.
All the causes will require you to inform the vet of any signs you notice, the canine’s medical history, and changes to its routine. This can further help the vet narrow down the cause.
What Treatment Options are Available in dogs Nail Black?
Now that we have explored the causes for the question, why is my dog’s nail black? Let us understand the different treatment plans available. Here are some common options.
If the cause is a bacterial or fungal infection, then the vet will prescribe antibiotic or antifungal medications, respectively. Ensure to administer the medication consistently over the recommended course, or there are chances of the infection recurring.
In the case of auto-immune diseases, medications such as corticosteroids are typically prescribed to help with the symptoms.
If the dog is in pain because of an injury, the vet may give pain medications to relieve the dog of some pain.
2. Topical Treatments
In case of infections, the vet may provide topicals, salves, and ointments apart from medications. Antimicrobial soaks may also be recommended to help with the healing process.
If the skin is irritated, there is inflammation or an injury; accordingly, the vet will prescribe other ointments and sprays.
3. Change in Diet
If the cause is narrowed down to a food allergy, the best way to help the dog would be to change its diet. If the allergen was a nutrient-rich food your pet enjoyed, the vet could provide you with alternatives.
If the cause is an auto-immune disease, then the vet may add supplements to your dog’s diet to help manage the symptoms. However, please do not add nutritional supplements to your dog’s diet on your own accord, especially when they are suffering from a health condition.
The vet will recommend the right supplement and dosage. You might be tempted to increase the dosage to help your pet, but a proper nutritional balance needs to be maintained for optimal results.
4. Surgical Removal of Nail
If the nail bed is cracked, or there is too much peeling and chipping, then a part of the nail will have to be trimmed or removed to relieve the dog’s pain.
If the nail has become inflamed, the upper layer will have to be surgically removed to encourage drainage. In case of tumors, benign or cancerous, surgery may be necessary.
How to Prevent Nail Problems in Dogs?
Here are some techniques that can help keep your dog’s nails in good health.
1. Regular Nail Grooming
Grooming is one of the best ways to prevent nail disorders or injuries in dogs. Keeping the nails trimmed and short reduces the chances of them getting caught onto everyday objects or the floor and resulting in injuries.
Ensure you learn the proper technique of nail trimming from your vet to avoid hurting the quick of the nail. If your pet has had a bad nail trimming experience or gets extremely fidgety or anxious, consider visiting a professional groomer.
If you prefer trimming the pet’s nails at home, enlist the help of a family member or friend to keep the pet calm during the routine.
2. Proper Cleaning
You may clean your dog’s face, body, and paws once it is back from its walk, a playdate in the dog park, or a fun day at the beach.
But nails often get ignored during the cleaning process. So ensure you also give your dog’s paws a proper once-over when it returns home. If dirt, grass, or mud is stuck under its paws, get rid of them.
Once you remove the dirt, use warm water to clean the nails. You can either soak the dog’s paws or rinse them under running water.
3. Good Diet
Your dog’s nails may not turn black, but poor nutrition can result in dry and brittle, poor-quality nails. Ensuring the dog is on a balanced diet will help with nail quality and the pet’s overall health.
You can discuss the symptoms and concerns with the vet, and they can come up with a customized diet plan for your pet.
4. Vet Visits
Ensure you keep up with regular vet visits. The visits provide an opportunity to catch issues, if any, on a proactive basis.
If you feel the dog is behaving differently than usual, there is swelling around the nails, or unusual growth you cannot really distinguish; you can discuss your concerns with the vet and accordingly schedule a visit.
Why is my dog’s nail black? As we have seen above, there could be several possible reasons for your dog’s nails to change color.
If your puppy’s nails gradually change color, it is entirely normal and a part of its aging process.
If there are signs like swelling, discharge, and inflammation, the cause could be bacterial, fungal infections or allergies.
If the nails have also become brittle, malformed, and are chipping, the cause could be an auto-immune disease or tumors. Grooming mistakes or accidents could also be why your dog’s nails have turned black.
Treatment for nail disorders can include medications, topicals, surgery, and change in diet and routine. If you notice any signs of nail disorders, please get in touch with the vet for further advice.
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.