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What is Bacterial Claw Infection?

If your dog suffers from chronic bacterial claw infections, permanent defects to the claw can occur as well as hinder claw growth. If you do not properly treat the infection, more serious health issues such as a bone infection, or osteomyelitis, can arise. You will notice swelling in the nail bed area and pus formation when your dog is suffering from a bacterial claw infection. 

Dogs of any age and breed can develop a bacterial claw infection. If you suspect your dog is suffering from an infection of their claw, make an appointment with your veterinarian and have a proper diagnosis completed. Typical treatment includes topical antibiotics. If the infection is more advanced, oral antibiotics will be necessary.

It is common for your dog to develop a bacterial claw infection. Usually, this is considered to be a secondary problem that occurs after another condition has already developed. Trauma is the most common underlying cause of a bacterial claw infection in dogs. Other conditions or illnesses that can cause bacterial claw infections include diabetes mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism, hyperthyroidism, immune mediated diseases, hypersensitivities and onychodystrophy.

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Symptoms of Bacterial Claw Infection in Dogs

If you notice your dog paying extra attention to one of their feet, take a few minutes to examine the affected foot. Carefully feel along the top of the foot and then closely examine the pad and between the toes. Also be sure to look closely at the claws, or nails, for any abnormalities. Have your veterinarian thoroughly check your dog over if you think there is a possible infection. 

Symptoms of a bacterial claw infection in dogs include:

  • Swollen nail bed
  • Pain in the foot
  • Limping
  • Pus coming out of the nail bed
  • Discolored claw
  • Soft claw
  • Brittle claw

Causes of Bacterial Claw Infection in Dogs

Bacterial infection of the claw can occur when your dog has a small cut or scrape near their claw and then they walk on ground that is contaminated with bacteria. They can also get a bacterial infection from chewing at their nails and having the bacteria transfer from their mouth to their claw bed. 

Keeping your dog’s feet, including their claws, clean and well trimmed to help keep them from picking up excessive bacteria and causing bacterial claw infections. If you are unsure of how to properly care for your dog’s feet and claws, speak with your veterinarian about proper foot care.

Diagnosis of Bacterial Claw Infection in Dogs

When you arrive for your veterinary appointment, you will be asked for your dog’s medical history and your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination. During the examination, your veterinarian will pay close attention to your dog’s foot pads and claws. If the initial examination shows that only one claw is affected, infection or trauma will be suspected. When more than one claw is affected, fungal disease, parasitic infections or nutritional imbalances may be suspected.

Your veterinarian will order additional tests to definitively diagnose a bacterial claw infection. These tests may include a complete blood count, biochemistry panel, claw bed scraping and bacterial and/or fungal culture. In more severe cases of bacterial claw infection radiographs and biopsies may be needed to determine the extent of damage caused by the bacterial infection and whether or not the infection has gone into the bone.

Treatment of Bacterial Claw Infection in Dogs

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with a bacterial claw infection, they will then discuss treatment options with you. Most treatments will include topical antibiotic ointments and paw soaks. Paw soaks will generally be two percent to four percent chlorhexidine and also include Epsom salts to draw any pus and reduce inflammation while promoting healing. 

If the bacterial infection has progressed beyond just the claw and claw bed, then your veterinarian will probably prescribe oral antibiotics for about four to six weeks to ensure the bacterial infection has been resolved. Your veterinarian may prescribe cephalexin or clindamycin.

Be sure to keep your dog’s affected foot clean and free of dirt or debris. Your veterinarian may recommend your dog wear a waterproof bootie on the affected foot when they go outside. The bootie will keep the affected claw clean and dry.

Recovery of Bacterial Claw Infection in Dogs

Follow dosing instructions as instructed to ensure your dog makes a full recovery from the bacterial claw infection. If you are unsure about your dog’s treatment plan, contact your veterinarian.

Proper treatment of a bacterial claw infection will enable your dog to make a full recovery. However, if your dog is prone to bacterial claw infections, you should speak with your veterinarian about ways to prevent infections from occurring.

Bacterial Claw Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Labrador Retriever
6 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Redness and swollen

My dog has a Lick granuloma (her second one). Her first one was last year and it healed and her fur grew back. This one is lower, right on top of her paw between her large pad on the bottom of her foot and the few claw. I have been treating it daily and keeping it wrapped and it had started to heal. About the 8th day she had managed to remove the bandage over night and licked it until it bled, so all the progress made was lost and it was larger. I had to wrap it higher up her leg and over the dew claw. After a couple days the area between her claw and foot became red and moist looking. So I tried wrapping the gauze under and then over the claw leaving the claw extended from the bandage. The bandage had rolled and when I removed it her pad on her dew claw was red red and now swollen. It appeared to be worse and I wondered if it had injured it. At this point I don't know if I should wrapped the claw or leave it exposed so air can get to it. I clean the Lick granuloma with antiseptic and apply atypical solution of Ichthammol ointment with antibiotic ointment and I used this also between her claw. The Lick granuloma is starting to heal but now I am worried about her claw and not sure what to do. Please help me.

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2 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Toe nail infected and swollen no p

Hi My baby girl greatdane has a infected toe nail. I have some cephalexin 500mg at home she is 60kg. How much do I give her per dose and how often?
I have soaked her foot not sure how long she has had a sore toe for a week maybe? My daughter said she vomited yesterday. Not sure if this is realated.Before I can take her to a vet.Please and Thankyou in advance.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
Without examining Ahari, I can't determine what might be gong on, or what medications might be appropriate. If this has been going on for a week and isn't improving, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine and diagnose her problem, and advise you on what medication might be best for her.

My dog Oscar currently has a nailbed infection over last 3 weeks been prescribed 7 days of therios antibiotics each week, then the 3rd sake tablets and hibiscrub soaks twice a day? His final antibiotic was yesterday I’m taking him back tomorrow but I’m not sure if correct treatment has been given? Please advised me of correct procedure around this? Thanks

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9 Years
Serious condition
2 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Swollen toe/raw underside nail
Swollen toe/raw underside nai

On Feb 16th, Cephalexin 500 MG was prescribed 2 times per day.They were cut in half.It said 20 tabs on the bottle.There was no improvement of her swollen toe so I took her back on March 12th the vet prescribed SMZ-TMP 960MG 1 tablet 2 times per day.28 tablets in the bottle.They were not cut in half.I have 13 tablets left to give.I am not seeing an improvement.He did not order blood work or prescribe any topical ointment.Upon examination he stated that he feared it to be a cancerous tumor and that surgery would likely be necessary.I asked if the 1st antibiotic wasn't strong enough on the second visit.That's when he gave the SMZ-TMP.I Google the SMZ-TMP and don't seem to be the appropriate antibiotic for her swollen toe.The Cephalexin they say is appropriate but at a higher dosage and a longer duration.It seems like the vet is delaying the treatment that she needs just in order to have me make multiple visits and multiple payments.I told him that I was soaking her foot in Epsom salt and applying iodine to the toe.He had never suggested that I do anything other than to give her the antibiotics.I feel I need to do more for her on my own.Tonight I soaked her foot in Epsom salt with iodine in the water.I applied a triple antibiotic cream (that I had for humans) on a cotton ball and pressed against the underside of the infected nail and wrapped it.I will do this each day and finish the antibiotics. Since he only seems interested in surgery, which is costly and that I can't afford,please tell me if there is any other meds or ointment or procedure that I can do for her.I don't want this infection to spread to her bones.And if it is cancer, I know that prolonging the right treatment that see needs is detrimental.He only seems to care about the money.What antibiotic should she be taking? I don't want her to develop a resistance to an antibiotic after the way he has prescribed them.What can I do for her? PLEASE HELP ME!!!Mary

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Ideally if you believe that your Veterinarian is stalling treatment, you should visit another Veterinarian for an examination and second opinion; nail infections are typically treated with cephalexin (10-15mg/lb) or clindamycin for a period of four to six weeks which is typically two weeks after the symptoms have resolved, Epsom Salts and chlorhexidine soaks are also useful in these cases. A concern is that an infection works its way into the bone which would create a more serious problem, if there was no improvement with the cephalexin I would suggest a culture and sensitivity test to be done to find which antibiotic the infection is susceptible to. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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