Unhealthy dog nails can lead to discomfort and problems with walking, which is why it’s important to recognize the signs of potential issues.

If you notice unusual signs or changes in your dog’s nails, these could indicate underlying problems ranging from injuries to nutritional deficiencies or infections. Addressing these promptly prevents this case from worsening and saves you from expensive vet bills.

In this article, you’ll learn how to spot unhealthy nails in dogs, what causes these conditions, and practical measures to prevent and address them.

Recognizing Symptoms of Unhealthy Dog Nails

When assessing your dog’s nail health, thoroughly check every corner. Look for the following indicators that could suggest your dog is experiencing discomfort around their paws:

  • Excessive licking: If your dog persistently licks their paws, this could be a telltale sign of discomfort or infection around his feet or nails. PetMd’s Lauren Jones, VMD, reinforces this statement by stating that this behavior could root from pain.
  • Inflammation: According to VCA Hospital’s Tammy Hunter, DVM and Ernest Ward, DVM, swollen paw or nail beds often point to underlying issues, like allergies or infections. These should signal the need for a closer examination that should be done by a licensed veterinarian.
  • Deformities: Keep an eye out for changes in nail shape, such as curving or thickening, which might indicate a problem, such as nutritional deficiencies, fungal infections, or even cancer.

There are other symptoms to observe, and it’s crucial that you take these seriously. After all, these can negatively impact your dog’s comfort and day-to-day mobility. 

Discomfort may be visible through signs like:

  • Limping or favoring one paw over the others.
  • Hesitation to walk or play as usual.
  • Sensitivity upon touch may manifest as a reluctance to allow nail trimming.

A consultation with a vet can provide a definitive course of action and potentially help you find treatment for dog nail infections. Detecting these symptoms early can be vital in maintaining your dog’s health and well-being.

Common Causes of Nail Disorders in Dogs

Nail disorders in dogs have many causes. Understanding these underlying factors would significantly help effectively treat and prevent this undesirable health situation for your canine. 


Nail disorders in dogs can be triggered by fungal and bacterial infections. These organisms can invade a nail damaged by minor cuts or breaks, leading to inflammation and weakening of the nail structure.

To better understand their difference, go through their descriptions below:

  • Fungal infections: A fungal infection typically stems from yeast or dermatophytes, causing the nail to thicken and change color.
  • Bacterial infections: Bacterial infections often lead to symptoms like redness, swelling, and pus formation around the nail bed.


Accidents can cause dog nails to break, split, or become misshapen. Rough play or accidentally snagging a nail on surfaces can lead to acute damage, while repetitive actions such as running on hard ground may cause chronic issues.

Genetic Factors

Specific breeds, like German Shepherd Dogs and Gordon Setters, may be prone to nail disorders, like lupoid onychodystrophy, because of genetic predispositions. Inherited conditions can cause malformed or unusually fragile claws.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Prioritizing your dog’s health also significantly touches the aspect of proper nutrition. As suggested by Veterinary Information Network’s Amelia White, DVM, DACVD, a diet lacking key nutrients may cause your dog’s nails to become brittle or grow abnormally.

Being aware of these common causes enables you to take steps to protect your dog’s nails from painful nail disorders. From infections and trauma to genetic predispositions and nutritional deficiencies, each cause has specific implications for care and prevention. 

Overview of Common Dog Nail Disorders

Nail disorders in dogs are not only caused by various factors, but they also come in many forms. Some of these are ingrown nails, nail fractures, and infections. All these can lead to several outcomes, such as bleeding paws, nail splits, and brittle nails.

Here are some common dog nail ailments to note:

  • Ingrown nails: Ingrown nails in dogs occur when a nail grows into the pad of the paw, causing pain and potentially leading to infection. It’s crucial to trim your dog’s nails regularly to prevent this.
  • Nail fractures: Nail fractures can result from trauma or accidental injury. Nail splits, cracks, or breaks must be taken care of immediately, especially since they can lead to nail bed infections, which can be severely painful.
  • Infected nails: Infections in nails are either bacterial or fungal. If your dog has any of the two left untreated, it may lead to lameness or more systemic health issues.

Your dog’s nails are a clear indicator of their health. Regular maintenance, awareness of common issues, and prompt veterinary attention when dog nail problems arise can keep their paws in good health.

Effective Treatment Strategies for Unhealthy Dog Nails

You can only successfully remedy unhealthy dog nails if you know the main cause of their condition. So, after having learned the common claw and nail disorders in dogs, here are the general steps you may take to bring relief to your dog’s paws:

  • For fungal infections, treatment typically involves antifungal medications. Improvised care at home may consist of antifungal creams or washes, but always seek veterinary advice.
  • In cases of bacterial nail infections, antibiotics may be necessary, but you have to choose the appropriate antibiotic, according to MSD Vet Manual’s Karen A. Moriello , DVM, DACVD. This is to ensure the problem is treated properly. Keeping the nails dry and clean is also recommended to prevent further infection.
  • If brittle or cracked nails are the issue, dietary adjustments and supplements such as biotin or omega fatty acids might help.
  • Ingrown nails require careful clipping; you can leave this for a professional groomer if you’re unsure how to properly do it. In other cases, veterinary intervention may be needed to prevent discomfort and complications.

You should never underestimate the importance of correct diagnosis and treatment plans, which a veterinarian can provide. Misdiagnosis can lead to worsening conditions or ineffective treatments. 

Therefore, your first action should be scheduling a visit to a professional if you notice any abnormalities in your dog’s nails. With the right care, most dog nail conditions can be effectively managed or cured, ensuring your four-legged companion’s health.

Preventive Measures for Maintaining Healthy Dog Nails

To ensure your dog’s nails remain healthy, incorporate regular grooming practices into your routine. Here’s a list of what you can do to protect your dog from any potential nail disorders:

  • Check Nails Regularly: Look for signs of damage or infection.
  • Trim Carefully: Use the right tools and avoid the quick. Seek professional help if needed.
  • Nutrition Matters: A balanced diet with omega fatty acids and biotin supplements supports nail health.
  • Exercise: Helps prevent overgrowth and naturally files the nails.
  • Veterinary Check-ups: Essential for monitoring nails and general health.

Consistent care ensures your dog’s paws remain healthy, making every step comfortable for them.

Where to Go to Ensure Healthy Dog Nails?

If you aren’t confident about your nail trimming skills, you may consider going to a licensed veterinarian to perform the task for you. They may even give you health checks and advice to guide your dog ownership. 

Another option would be going to a professional groomer. They are generally affordable and convenient, plus they can do other grooming tasks your dog needs, such as baths, ear cleaning, and more. What’s more, mobile groomers now bring their service right to your doorstep.

If you like the practical idea behind this, Singapore’s most trusted is Likeable Pets. You won’t have to worry about unhealthy dog nails with your dog under their care!

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Do Bad Dog Nails Look Like?

Unhealthy dog nails often appear brittle, cracked, or discolored. You may notice your dog’s nails peeling away from the nail bed, typically a sign of distress. If the nails are too long, they may curl back and poke the pad, which can be painful.

2. What Happens if You Don’t Trim Dogs Nails?

If you neglect trimming your dog’s nails, they can become overgrown. Overgrown nails can lead to problems, including joint pain, improper posture, and potential injuries from nails catching or splitting.

3. How Do You Know if Your Dog’s Nails Are Healthy?

A healthy dog nail is smooth, solid, and consistent coloration complements the dog’s natural coloring. You’d also know that your dog’s nails are in good condition if they do not touch the ground while standing and you don’t hear a tapping noise as they walk on hard surfaces.


Proper nail care is essential to maintaining your dog’s health and comfort. Ignoring their nail condition can lead to various issues that may range from minor discomfort to serious health problems.

Remember that prevention is key; address any abnormalities promptly to ensure your pet’s nails remain healthy. Consult a licensed vet if you notice any irregularities or prevent it from happening by contacting a mobile dog groomer, such as Likeable Pets. Contact us on WhatsApp at 86852360 to schedule your appointment. Treat your pet to the expert grooming services they deserve at Likeable Pets!