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Treating Nail Bed Infections in Dogs

2 sets of dog paws

Infection-causing bacteria and fungi are always hovering around dogs. As soon as a nail bed is exposed, these pathogenic organisms tend to develop a claw infection. Similarly, the dogs that chew and lick their nails can also suffer from these infections. This is because they transfer the bacteria from their mouth to their claw which speeds up the infecting process. For these reasons, nail bed infections are fairly common in dogs.

Whether the infection is caused by an illness or it developed due to trauma, it is always a secondary problem. Having said that, it is extremely dangerous and can lead to a number of critical issues, including bone infection. Although there are different types of nail-bed infections, yeast paw infection is one of the most widespread ones. Treating nail bed infections in dogs should always be done with the help of your vet.

Important: If you suspect your dog has an infection in their nail bed, always work with your vet on treating the nail bed infection. They can be dangerous and you should not try to take this on without appropriate medical care.

Dog Nail Bed Yeast Infection

Curious puppy with head tilted sitting on dirt

Basically, yeast are microscopic fungi that are present virtually everywhere (over 1500 species) on the Earth. Generally, yeasts don’t infect a dog by themselves. They do need a sufficient amount of support from bacterial activity to develop a yeast infection. The presence of yeast infection is indicated by a lot of symptoms but the itchiness is always the first sign. Some other symptoms of dog nail bed yeast infection are listed below.

Symptoms of Yeast Infection

  • Chewing
  • Swollen nail beds
  • Thickened and greasy skin
  • Discharge of pus from nails
  • Smelly paws
  • Discolored Nails

Dog Toenail Smell

Did you feel a strong, nasty smell from your dog’s nail bed? It could well be a sign of an infection. Have a closer look at the concerned paw and look for any swelling or pus in the nail(s). If you think there is an infection in any nail, squeeze it gently to verify. If pus seeps out of it, there is an infection inside that claw.

In addition to smell and pus, you may notice that your dog is also suffering from fever (over 103o F). Likewise, the nails of some dogs become hollow when infected. In these cases, you can see all the way down to the quick vein. Even though the tenderness of claws is also used as an indicator, it can be a little ambiguous sometimes.

If you suspect an infection, you must immediately make an appointment with your vet. Given the fact that infections spread swiftly, it is vital to stop them in the early stages. If the infection has developed following a trauma (puncturing nail bed), you should never try any home-based remedies without seeing your vet.

How to Clean a Dog Nail Bed?

White dog paw in human hand

It is extremely important to do a complete physical check on your dog before starting the treatment. Once your vet has analyzed the situation in detail, he will decide the most suitable treatment for your dog. Usually, different antibiotics and antifungal drugs are used for curing nail bed infections. In the case of a fungal infection, medicated bandages are used for covering the wound.

Home Remedies

If the situation is not too serious, it is quite possible that your vet recommends home treatment. There are several ways of cleaning a dog nail bed at home and some of them are discussed below.

Epsom Salts

These salts are ideal for treating both types (bacterial and fungal) of infections. Add 1 cup of an Epsom salt in 2 gallons of warm water to make a solution. Soak the affected paw in this mixture for 10 minutes, 3-4 times a day. Make sure you wash the foot thoroughly after this procedure because these salts can cause diarrhea if ingested.

You can get Epsom Salts delivered to your door through like this Natural Epsom Salt by Health Smart.

Natural Epsom Salt (Original) 16oz

Trim Injured Nail

Human hands trimming dog nail while holding paw.

This method is quite useful for those infections that have been caused by injuries. Trimming the damaged part before the healing of the wound avoids many other complications. It is important to sterilize the nail clipper with alcohol (no more bacteria in the nail bed). Don’t use this technique EVER if the injured nail is touching the quick.

Antibacterial Soap

Cleaning the debris and other irritating materials from the nail bed can relax your dog a bit. For this purpose, you should apply some antibacterial soap on a soft toothbrush and rub the wound softly. Don’t forget to rinse the soap with warm water. Similarly, dry the nail completely as moisture can make the situation even worse.


Make your dog wear a soft cotton sock over the infected paw to keep it safe from more bacteria. In addition to protection, the socks allow the air to pass which is necessary for the healing process. However, you should change the sock on a daily basis to keep it clean and dry. Likewise, a clean sock should be used after coming back from a walk.

Other Treatments

Boston Terrier laying on belly with socks on

If the situation is more severe, the vet may advise you to use antibiotic ointments and paw soaks (found on Amazon). Paw soaks have a mixture of Epsom salts and 2-4% Chlorhexidine which reduces inflammation. The doctor may even prescribe some oral antibiotics if the infection has spread beyond the nail bed. Clindamycin is one of the most popular antibiotics that are given to dogs.

You can also use a waterproof dog bootie that you can find on Amazon to keep the infected paw dry and clean. In the case of fungal infections, the vet may suggest long-term antifungal therapy. It will require proper hygiene and regular nail trimmings to complete successful treatment.

What to do When the Dog is Licking their Infected Toe?

Close up of shaggy dog licking paw

It is essential to keep the infected toe dry at all times because moisture can enhance bacterial activity. Although it seems a pretty simple task at first, it is anything but that because the irritation in the wound urges your dog to lick the infected nail bed. In this case, wrapping is also not a solution as your pet keeps wetting it (and the wound eventually). In these circumstances, you need some specialized measures to keep your dog at bay.

Elizabethan Collar

Also known as an e-collar, it makes a cone around your dog’s head. Consequently, all his efforts to lick the infected paw results in failure. Even though the collar should be snug, it should be tight enough to do its designated task.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Wash the paws of your dog with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. This will keep him away from licking his injured nail bed because dogs are not fond of vinegar. In addition to this purpose, vinegar, being an excellent antiseptic, is also useful for the healing process.  

The Bottom Line on Treating Nail Bed Infections in Dogs

Gloved hands holding a dogs paw with person in plaid in background

Nail bed infections can be really painful for your dogs and you should ALWAYS keep an eye for them. Timely diagnosis and proper treatment of a nail bed infection can save your pet a lot of discomfort. Never take the swelling on their paw lightly and contact your vet as soon as you see the first symptom which can include dog nails turning red, brown or black.

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