Why are my dogs toes turning black?

Answered by Robert Dupre

There can be several reasons why a dog’s toes are turning black, but the most common cause is an injury. When a dog injures its toe, whether from trauma or excessive scratching, it can lead to bruising under the nail. This bruising causes the color of the nail to darken, initially turning red due to the presence of dark blood. However, as time passes and the blood breaks down, the nail gradually changes color from red to black.

Injuries to a dog’s toes can occur in various ways. For example, if a dog accidentally stubs its toe on a hard surface or gets it caught in something, it can cause damage to the blood vessels underneath the nail. This damage results in the accumulation of blood, leading to the initial red coloration. Over time, as the body breaks down the hemoglobin in the blood, it forms methemoglobin and hemichrome, which are responsible for the black color.

Another common cause of blackened toes in dogs is excessive scratching or gnawing at their paws. Dogs may scratch or chew at their paws due to allergies, skin irritations, or even anxiety. This repetitive behavior can cause trauma to the nail bed, leading to bruising and discoloration. If left untreated, this can progress to more severe issues such as infections or the development of hot spots.

Certain medical conditions can also contribute to a dog’s toes turning black. One such condition is called lupoid onychodystrophy, which is an autoimmune disease that affects the nails. In this condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks the nail matrix, causing the nails to become brittle, discolored, and prone to infections. Other conditions, such as fungal or bacterial infections, can also cause discoloration of the nails.

It’s important to note that not all cases of blackened toes in dogs are necessarily concerning. Sometimes, the change in color may be due to natural pigmentation or genetics. Certain breeds, such as the Black Russian Terrier or the Rottweiler, are more prone to having black nails. In these cases, the black coloration is usually present from birth and not a cause for alarm.

However, if you notice a sudden change in the color of your dog’s toes, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as limping, pain, swelling, or discharge, it is essential to consult a veterinarian. They can examine your dog’s paws, perform diagnostic tests if necessary, and provide appropriate treatment based on the underlying cause.

Injuries are the most common cause of a dog’s toes turning black. Bruising under the nail leads to the initial red coloration, which gradually changes to black as the body breaks down the blood. Excessive scratching, medical conditions, or natural pigmentation can also contribute to the discoloration. If you have any concerns about your dog’s toes turning black, it is best to seek veterinary advice for a proper diagnosis and treatment.