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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bacterial Claw Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Miniature Pinscher/chihuahua

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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Has Symptoms

Swelling

Swollen dewclaw on left forelimb, limping. No visible wounds. I have tried applying triple antibiotics and then Vetericyn daily and it seemed to recede a little bit, but regressed after about a week.

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that is happening with your dog. It may be an infection, a tumor, or an injury. Without being able to see her, it is difficult for me to say. If you have tried treating it and it is not worked and it has been over a week, it would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine the area, see what might be going on, and let you know any recommendations for treatment. I hope that everything goes well.

July 26, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Paw Swelling

dog has a swollen toe. was limping. took to vet. they xrayed. no tumors or cancer, they said it was an infection. dog also has arthritis. was on antibiotic, now toe swolen again and he lick at it and is limping.

July 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello I'm so sorry to see that your pup has a swollen toe. He may need an anti-inflammatory medication to help decrease the swelling. If that does not help, the next step might be a biopsy of the toe to send off a sample to the lab. There they can tell if he has an infection or cancer. You can also try (in the mean time) to apply a cool compress to the area for five minutes 2-3 times a day until you can get back in with your vet. Good luck.

July 18, 2020

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Puggle

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Discolored Nail

My dog has one black nail and when I touch the nail he pulls it away .. however there is no pus or limping. Please advise what to do next for him .

July 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, Your dog may have injured this nail. It may be very painful for a few days. Your vet can prescribe your dog some pain medication to help this area feel much better.

July 12, 2020

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Bullmastiff

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Toe Nail Green Ooze

When I went to cut her nails with the drummel, this nail started oozing green puss.. I looked and her pad around the toe was swollen. What can I do to treat without spending tons at the vet?

July 11, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, Some dogs can get a disease called Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy. This will cause all the signs that you are describing. You can try to soak his feet in Epson salt and apply triple antibiotic cream to the nails. If this does not help, you will need to see your vet for antibiotics. Many times topical treatment alone will not cure this issue. I hope your dog starts to improve quickly.

July 11, 2020

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Pitbull

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6.5 years

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Toe That Is Lightly Pussing From Nail Bed

I took Maggie to the beach this past Monday, & on Tuesday I noticed one of her toes was swollen. I initially thought it might’ve been a bug bite but it still hasn’t gone away. I soaked in it epsom salt once yesterday & today & no chance. She is licking it like crazy & there is a little bit of puss coming from where her skin meets her nail. I don’t want to rush her to the vet so I am seeking advice on how to move forward. My vet recommended the epsom salt & if that didn’t work they want me to make an appointment but I would like to do what I can at home before bringing her.

July 11, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, Epson salt is a good thing to do. Try to also apply some triple antibiotic cream to this toe. If she continues to lick at this area, you may have to get her a cone to wear. If this does not help, it would be best to see your vet. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 11, 2020

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Moody

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Mastiff

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Puss, Toe Infection

My dog has an infection in his toe. My vet took a swab which showed a lot of different things. He took a biopsy and it turns out it’s Staff and bacterial. He is on Orbax and we are soaking twice a day in Nolvasan solution. A lot of puss has been coming out around his nail. Today, 5 days later, a lot of puss came out and then blood. Does this mean it’s healing?

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Coco

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Doberman Pinscher

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

I have an 8 year old female Doberman. She has a swollen toe on her left rear paw. Her nail is in tact. She has been licking this toe for quite some time and there was a bare spot on it. The swelling appeared very suddenly.....overnight. She is not having problems running or walking. I've been cleaning it 4 times daily, soaking the paw, applying peroxide and neosporin. There is no discharge from the area or from the nail. It originally appeared like her paws were sensitive to something in the yard like grass or some kind of weed.

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Guinness

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Wire Fox Terrier

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Brittle Nails
Pus In Nail
Nail Discoloratio

Hi my Wired Fox Terrier has brittle, discolored nails and some has little pus in the nail. His nails are long and we've been trying to grind them down. I went to 4 different vets and all four have different opinion. Diagnosis were allergy, genetic, bacteria infections and undetermined. He has been a few courses of antibiotics and no improvement. Currently, he is on 1 gel of Omega 3 everyday and one vet recommended that I soak his paws with iodine and water solution, which I will start tonight). Any thoughts? thank you very much!

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Macy

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Boxer

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Limping
Mild Swealing

A couple days ago I noticed Macy had been licking her right front paw and it seemed to be bothering her, so I checked her foot and noticed a blister on the side of her paw pad. I didn’t think it was very serious so I found some natural creme that we had and put some of that on her blister and put a sock over her paw so she wouldn’t lick it. Her blister doesn’t seem to be getting a whole lot better, but now I’ve noticed that she has some brown spots on the top of some of her nails that weren’t there before! I always put booties on her before we go for a walk but I have noticed that sometimes her paws are a little damp after we come back. Not sure if that can cause any thing though? I feel like if she isent getting better in the next few days I might have to think about bringing her to the vet. But the only problem is that I don’t really have the money for those crazy expensive vet bills right now! Is there possibly any way that I would be able to treat this from home? Or would I have no choice but to go to a vet? But of course if I have no choice then I’ll bring her to the vet because I do care about her very very much and want what’s best for her!

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Mila

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Miniature Pinscher

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Pustules
Infection

Mila has a swollen front toe after playing outside and after 10 days I took her to a doctor and prescribed her some antibiotics in hope to clear her swelling. I’ve also started giving her betadine paw soaks and give her neosporin. At the moment, she is wearing a cone so she won’t lick herself and continue to irritate it. I have noticed the nail on the affected finger is tender and I can almost tug on it and see it come out as I try to clean and inspect the finger. It’s been 3 days since we’ve seen the vet and her finger swelling has gone down a bit. However, I am concerned if her nail will fall off or needs to be drained.

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