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Why do dogs have black nails?

Why do dogs have black nails?

Why do dogs have black nails? This has been a perplexing question among dog owners over the years.

I, therefore, took the time to do some research as to why some dogs have black nails, and what I found out may be of interest to you.

In this article, we shall look at some of the causes of black nails in dogs, which mainly include genetics, infections, and diet.  We shall also talk about the symptoms to look out for in dogs as well as other nail disorders that you need to be aware of. Finally, we shall consider interventions or steps that you should take to prevent your dog from getting black nails if they are not genetic.

Why do dogs have black nails? Top 5 Reasons

  • Infection

If your dog was born with clear nails then they suddenly change to black, it could be due to a nail bed ailment, which attacks the claw or the area around it. This underlying medical condition is also known as dystrophy.

In some instances, you may notice a single nail turning black which may be caused by anemia diabetes, kidney infection, or heart disease. The infection normally affects the skin and the nail that is the dermis and epidermis.

An overactive dog while in the park may break its nails and when this happens it can leave them vulnerable to infections when not treated. Due to the nail bleeding and eventual blood clot, creating a single black nail or nails depending on the number of nails that the dog broke.

  • Genetics

Similarly, it may be a genetic predisposition for some dogs to possess black nails. So you don’t have to be stressed or anxious because there is much you can do. There is a breed of dogs that is prone to black nail disorders such as German Shepherd, American Cocker, and King Charles Spaniel.

  • Diets and nutrients

When a dog does not get a diet appropriate for its age or breed, it may lead to nutrition deficiency. This lack of adequate nutrients and minerals may cause nail discoloration.

  • Food allergy

Hypersensitivity to a certain type of food or food additives may cause the nails to change their color or paw disorders.  So it is essential to monitor the food that reacts with your dog. In case food allergy is the cause of nail discoloration, a change of diet may be deemed necessary.

In case you opt for food supplements, you must first consult with the vet so that you can be advised on the best.

  • Environmental allergy

When the environment is dirty then parasites and bacteria will have a place to foster; hence, increasing the chances of your dog getting infected. This may as well happen to the dog when the environment is excessively wet or dry.

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Symptoms to look out for in nail disorders and prevention measures

The tell-tale signs of possible nail disorders may include:

1. Difficulty or abnormal walking

A dog may have difficulty or abnormal walking due to painful feet and nails.

This is a condition that goes by the name Perionyxis and involves inflammation of the nail fold. The inflammation tends to make the dog very uncomfortable when touched underneath the paws and may alter its way of walking.

2. Redness and rashes of the skin tissues around the nail

Dogs whose nails were initially white then start to turn reddish are experiencing Onychogryphosis. Make sure you get him to the vet to be tasted just to be sure

3. The assortment of nail colors

This is a key signal of fungal infections affecting your dog or an allergy, so you need to get it checked by the vet for clarification.

5. Deformed nail plate

The nail plate is the part of the nail that overlays the nail bed.

A deformed nail plate leads to a disease called Onyxis that may affect multiple or a single nail depending on the root cause of the infection. It may affect the whole nail or part of it.

6. When the dog starts to lick its paws

When a dog has itchy paws know that it has contracted fungal contamination of the nails and this is followed by licking its paws. A dog with a fungal nail infection will scratch its claws against the floor or chew them in extreme situations.

Dogs tend to lick where they are wounded instinctively in an attempt to provide a natural cure that they possess inside themselves. The dog’s saliva has enzymes (antibacterial, Lactoferrin & anti-viral mixtures) that aid in breaking down the cell walls of bacteria that are harmful.

When the dog licks its paws then it is to promotes wound healing. In its saliva, there is a compound by the name Opiorphin which is a natural pain reliever.

This, however, could lead to more bacterial infection to the wound thereby causing more harm than good. So take note when the dog starts to lick his paws then this could a symptom of an infection. 

7. Smelly nails and Pus (severe condition)

If left unchecked it may lead to severe health problems such as arthritis, pneumonia, and other bone diseases.

8. Nail Chewing

This is a disorder that is triggered by a mineral deficiency of hookworm infection. This is the situation that may be solved by regular vet visits for a checkup.

What possible interventions can one take for dogs with black nails?

If your dog is suffering from fungus infection on the nails, then you will need antifungal treatment. For the medicine to be effective, remove loose brittle nails and apply the antifungal cream as per the vet’s instructions.

Take immediate action of visiting your vet to get medical assistance. It is also advantageous to do so as this will save you money and stop your dog from further suffering. Maintain appropriate hygiene for the duration of the treatment and afterward to prevent reinfection. Soaking the infected nails in disinfectant solutions will also be helpful to shorten the healing process.

In less severe bacterial infections topical antibiotics can be used while for severe cases then oral antibiotics will be administered. Trim the infected nails from time to time and take them for analysis until such a time the fungus clears from the infected nails. Grind your pet’s nails with LuckyTail’s uniquely designed claw grinder safely and painlessly.

Use the Elizabethan collar, a recommended collar made of plastic and placed around the neck, stopping the dog from licking the medication applied on his paws or nails. This collar can also prevent the dog from chewing his nails, leading to further infection and grievous harm.

FAQ about why do dogs have black nails

1. Show you be worried if your dog has black nails?

Many times the black nails start when the skin which is surrounding the nails becomes red.  This may lead to discomfort and lesions as well as pains will be displayed by the dog.

This condition could be a disease by the name Leukonychia that alters the color of the dog nails. Sometimes the dog’s nails may start to peel and eventually crack but that should not necessarily mean it’s Leukonychia. It may be a result of the surroundings or the weather conditions that have affected the dog which is a natural reaction.

You should be concerned as a caring dog lover about the welfare of your dog. When you notice the nail’s discoloration begins to take effect, take your dog to the vet. The vet will perform medical examinations that may include blood testing to conclusively know the cause of blackening nails.

2. Why does dark blood form from inside dog nails?

When there is a lack of regular trimming of dog nails, some nails can overgrow and put pressure on the nail base when it is running or jumping. This will cause the nail to break at the base and lead to clotting of the blood due to nail trauma.

Nail trauma can also happen when the dog is actively playing and it fractures a nail in the process.

If nail trauma is left unchecked or untreated over a long period of time, it may result in lameness.

Generally, long nails can cause additional trouble since they can curve back, digging into the footpad of the dog. This will make the skin tear and cause discomfort and infections that cause lameness. The dog may even refuse to have its nails trimmed due to excessive pain and sensitivity when the paws are touched. So ensure you regularly trim the nails on your dog to avert this crisis.

Video of how to trim dark nails and clear nails

See also: Best dog nail clippers for black nails


So why do dogs have black nails?  There are several causes of black nails in dogs but the main ones are genes and infections.  Some dog breeds are born with black nails while for others the nails turn black due to infections and nail trauma. Other reasons may include poor nutrition and allergens. If you notice a sudden or gradual change in the color of your dog’s nails, the best course of action is to call your vet for appropriate interventions or advice. However, it is also important that you learn how to groom your dog by trimming the nails using because you intend to be together for a long time and create a strong bond between the two of you.

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