Bacterial Claw Infection in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 07/19/2017Updated: 12/22/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Bacterial Claw Infection in Dogs - Signs, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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 may 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 oral or topical antibiotics, as well as pain control if needed.  

It is not uncommon for dogs to develop a bacterial claw infection. Often, 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 might recommend 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 or oral antibiotic ointments and paw soaks. Paw soaks might include chlorhexidine or 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 four to six weeks to ensure the bacterial infection has been resolved. 

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.

Bacterial claw infections can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

Bacterial Claw Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals





Two Years


7 found this helpful


7 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
My dog has a pad injury for 6 days that I've been treating with 1x per day 500mg lupin, plus keeping it clean with wound spray/triple antibiotic ointment and wrapped with gauze. He wont use the foot, which i figured is understandable but today i noticed his nail is white and soft. I dont know if this is a normal healing process due to the trauma on his pad or if this is an indicator that he's not healing properly. I tried to get a vet appointment the first day and every vet I've called is booked 2weeks out and im becoming worried.

April 16, 2021

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

7 Recommendations

Hello this still looks infected. I would try to get him into the vet. I would continue treating with the topical medication until you can get into the vet. Paw injuries can take a long time to heal.

April 16, 2021

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Bull Terrier



Seventeen Months


20 found this helpful


20 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Broken Nail Ans Bacterial Infection
My dogs nail is split down the middle, now his paw has an infection. There is a bubble resembling a blood blister, and his paw is swollen and oozing a bit. Can it wait 4 days for his appointment or should he be seen immediately?

Dec. 30, 2020

Answered by Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

20 Recommendations

This requires urgent attention so we can start pain relief, anti inflammatories and antibiotics. Delaying treatment will cause pain and may result in a more serious infection (and even a septicaemia).

Dec. 30, 2020

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