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Dog Nails Turning Red – What To Do, Meaning, Remedies & FAQs

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Nail discoloration in dogs can be a sign of various health problems or changes.
  • Red dog nails can be caused by nail bed infections, fungal infections, allergies, aging, trauma, or staining from saliva.
  • Fungal infections and allergies require veterinary treatment with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication respectively.
  • Aging dogs may benefit from targeted senior dog food and regular exercise.
  • Stained nails can be addressed by addressing the underlying problem and maintaining good hygiene, or with the help of a veterinarian or groomer.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Sunday 6 June 2021
Last updated on
Thursday 20 July 2023
dog nails turning red
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When you notice a concerning change in your dog, it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what’s going on. You might wonder if it’s something you can treat at home or if a visit to the vet is necessary. One common worry is when you see your dog’s nails turning red. This often leads owners to spend hours trying to figure out the cause and what to do.

Today, we’ll explain the various causes and treatments for red dog nails, so you can make informed decisions. There isn’t just one cause for red nails in dogs, which is why we’ll go through each possibility to help you determine what might be affecting your dog. Some causes require treatment, while others may not need any intervention. To assess the severity properly, it’s important to have all the facts. So, let’s dive in and explore.

What is Nail Discoloration?

Nail discoloration is where the color of your dog’s nails changes from what is normal. Dog’s will either have light pink and white nails or black nails. Some dogs can have a mixture of these two colors as well. Any colors other than these can be referred to as nail discoloration. Different nail colors can signify different problems or changes within your dog. We will briefly explain the colors and potential problems below.

  • Black (If they are not normally): dog nail bed infection, fungal infection, aging
  • Brown: yeast infection,
  • Red: fungal infection, allergy, age, yeast infection, trauma, staining

As you can see, red dog nails have the most variation of causes. Therefore it is important for us to be able to understand which one is affecting our dog. That way we can avoid unnecessary stress and vet bills from a vet visit. Similarly, we can make sure we do not just leave an affected nail to worsen.

Possible Causes of Red Dog Nails

When nails appear red, many owners assume their dog has injured their nail, leading to internal bleeding. They may think the nail will heal on its own. While this is a possibility, there are other reasons for red nails in dogs that cannot be left untreated and require proper treatment.

Fungal Infection

One of the main signs that your dog is suffering from a fungal infection is your dog’s nails turning red. This can quickly progress into a yeast infection if left untreated. Some fungal infections that can affect your dog include onychomycosis and blastomyces dermatitidis. Yeast infections thrive in warm and damp areas. When a dog is in pain they will often repeatedly lick the injured area, leading to moisture all around the nails. Furthermore, as dogs curl up they can lie with their feet tucked towards their body leading to an insulated pocket around the nails. This is extra for dogs with thick fur between their paws.


When your dog is suffering from an allergy there are many areas of their body that become affected or show symptoms. Skin irritation is one of the main signs and this branches into the dog’s nail bed. It too becomes inflamed leading to the red coloring due to increased blood flow and itchiness. Hence why you may see your dog excessively grooming their nails as a sign of an allergy. This moisture from their saliva in an already hot area can lead to a yeast infection when untreated. Allergies may arise due to substances that touch your dog’s skin such as a material, or due to a food allergy.


As dogs age, they can change physically. The number of nutrients that the nails receive becomes less and this can lead to health problems. Older dogs can also have weaker immune systems alongside a higher level of vulnerability. This means dogs are more susceptible to infections. Furthermore, mild trauma can lead to the nails reddening much more severely than in younger dogs. Younger dogs and puppies will also have a reduced immune system and can be vulnerable to infections. Furthermore, as puppies grow their colors can change and some dogs will have their nails change colors over the first year of life. However, this color should never be red.


Trauma is often assumed to be the cause of your dog’s nails turning red, but yeast infections are actually the most common cause. An injury will very rarely lead to a whole toenail becoming red. Injuries will more commonly damage the nails, lead to internal bruising and external bleeding. Therefore the inside of the toenail will be darker colors. If blood from the injury remains inside the nail it will also darken due to the hemoglobin in the blood breaking down and becoming methemoglobin, and then hemichrome. Leading to a black appearance. So if your dog has red nails, it is much more likely to be an infection of some kind.

Staining from Saliva

If your dog is often licking their nails for long periods of time then their saliva may be staining the nails to be a red color. This is due to a substance within their saliva called porphyrin which can stain things to be red or brown in color. You may recognize it more through tear staining in white dogs as it is present in tears as well. However, if the porphyrin is staining your dog’s nails it either means they are obsessive compulsively licking the areas or that there is something wrong within their saliva. This could be higher acidic levels due to dental problems, wounds leading to excess drooling, or even stress and hormonal changes. This will require a vet visit to investigate further.

dog nail fungal infections
If you see signs of fungal infection, take your dog to the vet!


Depending on the cause, there are different treatments to consider. Here are the four main causes and their forms of treatment.

For Fungal Infections

You will need a vet visit to help your dog with a nail bed fungal infection. They will prescribe antibiotics in either cream or oral form depending on your dog and their infection. Your dog may also receive a medicated foot soak to aid them. These antibiotics will work in one of two ways, they will either help your dog’s immune system to battle the infection internally, or they will attack the fungal growth head-on. If your dog is prescribed oral medication, make sure that they are taking the full amount each time. For some dogs it is better to give it with treats, others to directly squirt to the back of their mouth. As for cream treatment, ensure your dog does not lick it off and it can soak in.

For Allergies

If your dog is being affected by an allergy leading to their red nails, the first thing to do is to identify the allergen and remove it. The best way to do so is to identify what has changed, when, and if this timing matches up with the development of the nail discoloration. If it could be hayfever or a seasonal allergy it is worth looking into anti-inflammatory medication that can be given daily with food. However, if it is a food or material allergy then you will need to remove the source to help your dog. In extreme cases be sure to visit your vet as they can provide the proper medication and run tests to he;p find the cause.

For Old Age

Older dogs need more help, and this can be provided in their care. Specifically a targeted elderly dog food. This will give your dog all the nutrients they need to help their nails, immune system, and overall health. There are a wide range of senior dog foods to consider so look through reviews and ask your vet for recommendations. Providing regular dog food will give incorrect amounts of the needed food groups and nutrients for your dog. So a senior mix truly is best for your elderly pup. Keeping your elderly dog active can also help their overall health so try to incorporate the right kind and types of exercise for them.

For Stained Nails

There are many ways to aid stained nails but it is important to deal with the underlying problem leading to the staining. A vet visit will help you to know if there is a mild or serious problem behind the staining within your dog’s saliva. Now, as for the staining you can remove it with regular paw cleaning. One of which is using a mixture of warm water and apple cider vinegar over the nails to help remove staining. However, if you have any concerns then be sure to visit your local groomer. They will have advice or services to help the problem.

Dog Nails Turning Red: FAQ

Do you still have some questions about your dog’s nails turning red? Well don’t worry, we have you covered with further answers below.

What are other symptoms of nail infections?

It’s difficult to detect nail infections before they become moderate in severity. But here are some other symptoms you can keep an eye out for:
– Brittle, cracking, or easily breaking nails
– Obsessing licking or gnawing at their paws or nails
Regular health checks of your dog will help you to see anything out of the normal.

How do I prevent nail infections?

Here are a few tips we recommend to prevent nail infections:
– Good hygiene: make sure the environment your dog is in is clean. If it can’t be clean, like whilst on a walk, clean your dog’s paws after the walk. Also be sure to bathe them regularly and generally keep them well-groomed
– Feed them an appropriate diet: depending on their age and size they will need a different diet. Make sure the diet you are providing your dog is suitable and high quality so they are getting all the nutrients they need for good health
– If they are displaying any mild symptoms of nail infections, head to the vet to treat this before it becomes any more serious

Apart from apple cider vinegar, what are other natural treatments for fungal infections?

There are quite a few other home remedies for treating fungal infections. These could include garlic, soap, coconut oil, and aloe vera. However, it is important that the ingredients are safe for your dog if you are going to use them so be sure to check as garlic, for instance, can be deadly for dogs.

What are the effects of yeast infection in dogs?

Yeast infections can spread from the infected area to the whole body of the dog without treatment. Gradually the infection will attack areas and gradually destroy them in effect. In the case of a dog’s nail and nail bed it could be destroyed to the point where it can no longer form. Or the nail may grow back brittle and malformed.

How long before a dog recovers from a yeast infection?

Treatment of a yeast infection will take anywhere from 4-7 weeks before your dog has completely recovered. It depends on the severity of the case and the vulnerability of your dog.

So, if you see your dog with red nails it is important to check them out and go for a vet visit. They can stop a problem from becoming more severe and recommend any at-home changes you can pursue. A red dog nail is never normal so never leave them to see if they improve. An infection, improper diet, and allergy are all cases that need aid to get your dog feeling better.

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