If you've noticed your dog's toenail looking inflamed or irritated, there's a good chance it is infected. Dog toes can develop infections for a variety of reasons, most of which need veterinary care to resolve. Infections can become quite serious if left untreated, so it is important to seek medical treatment for the nail as soon as possible if there is cause for concern.
Dogs with claw infections can present a variety of symptoms. They may constantly lick their toe or foot or become protective of the paw. You may notice the dog's toe looks red or swollen and it could possibly omit a discharge. The dog may limp because of the pain associated with infection and you might notice an unpleasant odour coming from the foot. If the infection is caused by a foreign object in or around the claw, you may notice the object jutting out from the foot.
Infections can be caused by bacteria, yeast or a combination of both, according to Dr. Gary Thompson of the Toledo Blade. Aggressive tumours in the toes can cause infections, as can foreign bodies, such as burrs and splinters. A dog with allergies may constantly lick his feet, which can cause an infection because of the moisture and trauma.
If you suspect your dog has a claw infection, allow a veterinarian to examine the toe and make a diagnosis. If the infection is caused by something serious, such as a tumour, the veterinarian can determine if the tumour is malignant, and begin to take steps for its treatment. The sooner the doctor does this, the better. Waiting for an infection to resolve on its own only wastes time and could lower the dog's chances of making a recovery. In addition, certain infection-causing elements, such as bacteria and yeast, usually require medication to resolve, and will only get worse if left untreated.
A veterinarian likely will prescribe antibiotics or medications designed to eliminate yeast to help the dog's claw infection. Thompson states that if the infection has settled into the bone, toe amputation may be needed. The doctor may take radiographs of the toe if a tumour is suspected, and if found, the doctor may perform surgery to remove the mass. Dogs that lick their feet due to allergies could benefit from being placed on antihistamines. While this type of medication doesn't resolve the foot infection, it may prevent the dog from licking his feet and causing more damage. The doctor may place a bandage on the toe and an Elizabethan collar on the dog to prevent him from removing the wrap.
A veterinarian may suggest home care to help the infection heal. This typically consists of using hydrogen peroxide daily on the foot to keep it clean. It might also consist of changing the bandage. In addition, you may need to cut some hair away from the infection to keep it from entering and irritating the toe. Foot hair that is kept short also helps keep burrs and other plant material from attaching onto the foot and causing irritation.