Claw and Nail Disorders in Dogs

Claw and Nail Disorders in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
33 Veterinary Answers

Prepare for unexpected vet bills

Claw and Nail Disorders in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Prepare for unexpected vet bills

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What are Claw and Nail Disorders?

The study of the nails is called onychology and has recently become more of a focus in the veterinary field. Research is extensively underway in order for those in the veterinary field to understand more about the complexities of the claws, their function, and how to treat injury and disease. Claw and nail disorders are not often seen in veterinary clinics as a single disorder. For example, a bacterial infection of the nail can run concurrently with a skin condition as it is a continuation of the epidermis and dermis. Other conditions may be an abnormal growth formation or an infection. Systemic diseases can also affect the claws and nails.

Diseases and abnormalities of the nail and claw are quite numerous in nature and often accompany skin disorders. Nail and claw dystrophy can occur as the result of a trauma, infection, or abnormal formation, to name a few. Because the nail is such an important part of movement, grasping, and defense, any nail or claw problem should be examined by your veterinarian as these conditions can become very uncomfortable for your dog.

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Claw and Nail Disorders Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$600

Symptoms of Claw and Nail Disorders in Dogs

Diseased claws and nails can predispose your pet to trauma, lameness, and pain. If you see that your dog’s nails are not looking as they normally do, a visit to the veterinarian is in order.

  • Reddish colored claws
  • Whiter than normal claws
  • Nails that are wider or narrower than normal
  • Splitting of the nail
  • Softness
  • Curving
  • Swelling
  • Looseness of claws
  • Sloughing off of claw plate
  • Brittleness
  • Pus
  • Claws that break easily
  • Ingrown appearance
  • Licking and chewing
  • Pain upon walking
  • Secondary symptoms on the footpad and surrounding skin

Types

The types of claw and nail disorders are many in number. A very few of them are listed here.

  • Onychomadesis - sloughing of the nail

  • Onychodystrophy - abnormal claw formation
  • Macronychia - nails that are unusually large

  • Onychitis - inflammation in the matrix of the claw
  • Paronychia - inflammation of the nail fold

  • Onychoschizia - splitting of the nail
  • Onychomalacia - softening of the claw

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Causes of Claw and Nail Disorders in Dogs

The reasons for your pet to have a problem with the nail or claw range greatly in cause, some of which are listed here.

  • Exposure to the environment (wet too often or excessively dry)
  • Human error in nail clipping
  • Viruses such as distemper
  • Age
  • Parasites
  • Fungus
  • Bacteria
  • Neoplasia
  • Food hypersensitivity
  • Infection secondary to hypoadrenocorticism or diabetes
  • Trauma
  • Autoimmune disease such as pemphigus vulgaris
  • Nutrition
  • Genetics
  • Breed disposition (for example, Schnauzer, Greyhound, Labrador Retriever, and German Shepherd are predisposed to idiopathic symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy)
  • King Charles Spaniel, American Cocker Spaniel, and German Shepherds are prone to many nail diseases
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Diagnosis of Claw and Nail Disorders in Dogs

The exact cause and reason for disorders like sloughing of the nails or curvature of the claw can sometimes be hard to specifically diagnose. Along with the fact that there are many illnesses that can lead to cracking of the nails or loosening of the claw for example, pinpointing why there are situations of persistent inflammation or infection can be a challenge.

Cytology tests, which will aid the veterinarian in the process of diagnosis, are indicative tools that are used to examine tissue. Neoplasia (abnormal tissue growth), paronychia (inflammation of the soft tissue around the claw), bacteria, and fungal disorders can be identified through this diagnostic mechanism. Skin and nail scrapings may be done to verify the presence of mites. 

If there is a suspicion of a food-related cause like an allergy or intolerance, the conclusion of the problem could take more time because your pet may have to be put on an elimination diet in order to determine foods or additives that could be causing concerning effects to the nail.

Radiographs of the claws or biopsy of the nail are other tests that your veterinarian may have to do if other approaches cannot resolve the diagnostic question. Serum biochemical analysis, urinalysis, and complete blood count are additional methods to check the health of your beloved pet, verifying the enzyme levels and checking for systemic diseases.

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Treatment of Claw and Nail Disorders in Dogs

The type of treatment that your pet may have to undergo in order to rectify the nail disorder will depend on the cause; the range of reasons for a claw problem are many. Before your veterinarian does begin treatment, however, he will take some considerations into account.

  • Is one paw affected, or all four?
  • Has the deterioration of the nail been a slow progression or is it an acute situation?
  • Is there a breed disposition?
  • Is there a systemic disease that needs to be treated concurrently?
  • What is your pet’s age?

Because canine claws take six to nine months to completely regrow, many of the therapies (and the results from them) will be seen only after 6 to 8 months of the regimen. 

Parasitic effects on a claw can be resolved by eliminating the parasite and then repairing the nail. A bacterial infection will be eradicated with antibiotics; the course of the medication may be required for several months. A nail damaged by trauma could see a treatment of daily antiseptic soaks, along with a removal of the cracked or broken claw. A dog with an immuno-suppressive disorder will need a prescription for oral prednisone. The dose is usually tapered off as the nail heals. Topical creams, Omega 3, and vitamin A and E supplementation could be recommended in addition to other therapy.

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Recovery of Claw and Nail Disorders in Dogs

Depending on the type of claw and nail disorder, there can be a chance of relapse after cessation of the treatment. Some conditions need lifelong therapy in order to keep the nail destruction at bay. Your veterinarian will advise you based on the situation, but it is known that canines should be kept on a good quality high nutrient food which allows for the growth of a healthy nail. Supplementation of vitamins, gelatin and biotin are often needed as a preventative for future recurrences. Frequent nail trimming is always a good idea, to help keep the claw strong and to avoid splitting or breaking.

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Claw and Nail Disorders Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$600

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Claw and Nail Disorders Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Pomeranian

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12 Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My pomeranian poodle mix sudden has 1 nail on his back foot that is HUGE, I think it got caught on something and now he is limping.. I have a nail grinder that we typically use 1× a month but this nail is easily 3x as long as the others and appears to be growing thicker. Do I just need to keep up on this more frequently? And trim every few days to get it back to a normal length?

Sept. 13, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

This can occur in older dogs and is sometimes secondary to trauma. The nail likely needs more regular trimming, yes. Monitor for any concerning signs such as swelling above the nail base or bleeding.

Sept. 13, 2021

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Miniature Pinscher

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hi ! My dog has been licking this paw daily, I thought she was bored or her allergies, but today after a walk I noticed it was bleeding . She lets me touch it and she isn’t crying or whining.

Jan. 31, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Hello, this could be allergy-related and she now is it inflamed. I would recommend that you give her Benadryl, the dosage is 1mg/pound twice a day. Also, clean her feet with a damp cloth after your walks to help remove any allergens from her feet. If this does not get better, your vet can prescribe prescription allergy medication.

Feb. 1, 2021

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Claw and Nail Disorders Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$600

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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