When you see a worrying change in your dog it can be overwhelming if you do not know what it is. You may wonder if this is something you can treat at home or if a vet visit is required. When you see your dog’s nails turning red, owners often worry so much and spend hours trying to figure out what it is and what to do.
Today we explain every cause and treatment for dog nails becoming red, so you can make the right decisions. There is no one cause of red dog nails which is why we will be going through each cause so you can figure out which one is affecting your dog. Some are health concerns that will require treatment whereas others will not require anything. To properly judge the severity you need to know all the facts, and that’s what we are going to go into now. Let’s take a look.
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
Due to the color of the nail being red, many owners assume their dog has caught their nail which has led to internal bleeding. Therefore, they can simply leave the nail to heal by itself. Although this is a possible scenario, there are also many other reasons for red dog nails. Some of which cannot be left alone and that require treatment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.