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What You Should Know About Black Dog Nails

If your dogs toenails have turned black, then your first instinct may be to worry.

However, there are lots of reasons your dogs nails can turn black.

Below we’ll go over the reasons why your dog’s nails are black, and let you know when you should worry about it.

Why Did My Dog’s Toenail Turn Black?

Often, a black toenail on a dog is nothing to worry about because it can be a completely natural occurence.

However, in some instances it is caused by a health problem that your dog is experiencing.

Here are the reasons why your dog’s nail is black:

  • trauma to the nail
  • infection (fungal, yeast, bacterial)
  • allergies
  • aging
  • autoimmune disorder
  • tumor or growth

Below we’ll take a closer look at these.

Dog Nail Discoloration From Trauma

Dogs are a rambunctious bunch, and all that rough housing means that the dog’s nails can get damaged and turn black from the trauma.

A dew claw injury can also result in a black dog nail.

If the trauma has resulted in the dog’s nail getting detached, then it will turn black as a result of the detachment because the nail is dead.

Depending on the extent of the trauma to the nail, you may need to take your dog to the vet.

Dog Nail Discoloration From Infection

Both bacterial and fungal infections can turn your dog’s nails black.

These infections may also turn the nail brown or white as well.

This type of infection commonly comes from moist soil that your dog has walked on.

If a yeast infection is the cause, then you’re looking at brown or red dog nails.

The thing about an infected dog toenail that has turned black is that if you don’t treat it early, then it will spread to all of the other nails.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of fungal infection in dog toenails:

  • Swelling around the black toenail
  • Limping or favoring one leg
  • Excessive licking or chewing at the area
  • Tenderness in the area
  • Dark spots or other noticeable problems with the nail

Dog Nail Discoloration From Allergies

Just like humans, dogs have allergies and those allergies can present in the dog’s nails.

However, instead of black nails it is more common to see dogs with red nails or brown nails if allergies are the cause.

You can take your dog to the vet if you are concerned about his allergies.

Dog Nail Discoloration From Aging

As your dog gets older, it is normal for his nails to change in color and texture.

In fact, as a dog ages the nails get thicker and firmer and the color changes.

This process is completely normal for dogs and nothing to worry about.

Dog Nail Discoloration From Autoimmune Disorder

There is something called symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy (SLO) that affects dogs and can result in nail discloration.

In fact, symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy can cause black toenails in dogs.

However, symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy is more common in certain breeds (Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds).

You should consult with your vet to check if your dog has symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy.

Dog Nail Discoloration From Tumor or Growth

If you notice a growth or lump on your dog’s black toenail, then there is a slight chance that a tumor is to blame.

Please note that this is very rare.

However, if you have found a growth or lump, it is a good idea to let your vet check it out.

How To Treat Discolored Black Dog Nails

If your dog’s toenails are discolored because of an infection, then you can often get the infection treated by your vet – and this will resolve the black nails problem.

It is ideal to take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice this problem, otherwise the infection will spread.

At the vet, the doctor will likely trim your dog’s nails and use anti-fungal treatment for the infection.

If the infection is bacterial, then you should expect antibiotics for your dog to treat the infection.

As you can see, black dog nails are not something that you should try treating by yourself at home.

How to Prevent Dog Nails From Turning Black

It is a good idea to try to prevent your dog’s nails from turning black to begin with.

To avoid infections and prevent black dog nails, we recommend:

  • keeping your dog’s nails trimmed
  • regular grooming and cleaning
  • always clean your dog’s paws after he’s been outside

You can also promote good nail health by giving your dog fish oil for dogs.

Final Word

As you can see, black dog nails may be a completely normal occurrence, or it may be a sign of something more serious.

It is a good idea to inspect your dog’s nails to get a better idea of what is going on, and to consult your vet with any concerns.

And remember to practice good nail care and nail health to prevent this from happening to your dog.

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National Canine Research Association of America