Why Did My Dog’s Nail Turned Black? Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Imagine this: you’re playing fetch with your dog at the park, and you glance down at their paws.

You’ve always known their nails to be a light color, maybe even a translucent white or beige. 

But now, you’re seeing a dramatic change – they’re becoming as dark as a moonless night. 

Before you start to panic or make a beeline for the vet, let’s explore why your dog’s nails turned black and what you can do about it.

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Why is Your Dog’s Nail Turning Black? List of 5 Reasons

Why is Your Dogs Nail Turning Black

Your pet’s nails might have become black for a number of different causes.

Knowing these could help you decide if it’s time for a quick vet visit.

1. Natural changes

Let’s start with the least scary reason.

For some breeds, the change in nail color may be natural. 

There are dogs that are born with naturally dark nails, while others begin with white or light-colored nails that gradually become darker as they age.

2. Accident

Sometimes, it’s as simple as a little accident. Your pet might have bumped into a piece of furniture, or something accidentally fell on that nail. 

Imagine it as a bruise under the nail that may transform its appearance.

3. Infections

Infections can also be a sneaky culprit. Bacterial or fungal invaders can darken those nails, giving them a brown or blackish hue.

4. Allergies

Allergies can play a part too, making your pup scratch more and causing the fur around their nails to grow faster, leading to hyperpigmentation.

5. Illnesses

Believe it or not, the darkening of nails can also sometimes be caused by diseases. 

There is an autoimmune condition known as symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy that can make your pet’s nails change color.

Last but not least, tumors can also turn your pet’s pinkish nails black. 

So, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for any odd nail changes in your furry friend and chat with your vet. 

Is It Normal for a Dog to Have Black Nails?

Yes, it’s perfectly normal for some dogs to have black nails. 

This natural nail color is commonly found in certain breeds. 

So, if your dog’s nails are black, it’s likely just their natural look, thanks to melanin pigmentation.

Is a Dog’s Black Nail a Symptom of a Health Problem?

If your pet’s nails suddenly turned black and they’re not one of the big breeds I mention (in a section below), or if the nail color change comes with other worrisome symptoms, then it might signal an underlying health issue.

Inflammation is a common symptom of a fungal or bacterial infection. When these microorganisms invade the nail bed, they can trigger swelling. 

As a result of the strain this swelling puts on the nail tissue of your pet, the nail may eventually become black.

Or, the discoloration could be because of the buildup of blood and other substances in the nail bed. It could appear like a bruise under the nail, making you think that it is the actual nail that is darkened. 

Another health problem that could be causing this change in nail color is a tumor.

The growth can change the nail color due to the pressure it exerts on the surrounding tissue. 

As the tumor gets bigger, it can disrupt the normal production of nail material, causing the nail to darken. 

What Color Should a Dog’s Nail Be?

What Color Should a Dog’s Nail Be

A dog’s nail color generally matches the fur. 

If they have white fur, you’ll often find whitish nails, and for those with brown or black fur, it’s usually black nails. 

Sometimes, those light-colored nails might even show a hint of pinkishness because of the little blood vessels underneath. 

What is Melanonychia in Dogs?

Melanonychia is a serious-sounding term that simply means there’s a dark pigmented streak running down the dog’s nail. It is like a little line of extra color. 

This streak goes from the bottom of the nail, where it meets the skin, all the way to the tip of the nail.

Now, this streak can show up for various reasons. It might be because of something called melanocytic neoplasms which are kind of like unusual cell growths. 

These can happen on the skin or even in the mouth. In fact, about 30 to 40 percent of mouth growths in dogs are these melanocytic neoplasms.

What is Nail Bed Cancer?

Nail bed cancer in dogs is a specific type of cancer that targets the nail and the tissues underneath it.

Luckily, it’s pretty rare and belongs to the fancy-sounding group called acral lentiginous melanoma. 

This type doesn’t show up very often, making up less than 5% of all the melanomas you can find in our furry pals.

This type of cancer can be a bit of a tough cookie. It tends to be more aggressive than other melanomas, and its appearance can be quite different from case to case. 

But it’s not the only cancer that can have a go at our pets’ nails and nail beds.

There are a few others like squamous cell carcinoma, mast cell tumors, osteosarcomas, and fibrosarcomas.

What Should You Do if Your Dog’s Nails Change Color?

So, you’ve determined that the change in your pet’s nail color isn’t natural. What should you do now? 

The smartest move is usually to have a quick chat with your vet. Getting expert opinions early on can make a huge difference.

While you’re keeping an eye on that mysterious nail, also watch out for any other strange signs your pet might show.

Watch out for swelling or bleeding and report those unusual symptoms to your vet.

Now, if it turns out that the nail darkened because of a little accident or something easily treatable, you can certainly give some home remedies a shot. 

Try using a warm compress or cooling it down with ice. But, I’ll say it again, it’s always safest to get the vet’s okay before you start any DIY nail care, and the easiest way is to chat with an online vet.

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What Are the Treatment Options for a Dog’s Nail Turning Black?

When you notice your dog’s nail changing color, the next steps depend on what’s behind this transformation. 

For the milder scenarios, like when overly long nails are causing pressure and darkening, a simple nail trim often provides quick relief.

If the color change is linked to an infection or a minor injury, your vet can come to the rescue. 

They might recommend antibiotics, antifungal meds, or pain relief, all while guiding you on how to care for your pet’s nail during the recovery.

However, when it ventures into potentially more serious territory, such as autoimmune disorders or the presence of growth on the nail bed, the approach takes a different turn. 

Surgery might be the solution, but not before your vet conducts a biopsy to determine if the growth is harmless or more worrisome.

When Should You See a Vet for Dog Black Nails?

If your dog’s nail has turned black due to a recent injury or trauma, it often heals naturally within a couple of weeks, and you can observe it during this time. 

There’s usually nothing to be too concerned about.

However, should your dog’s nail darken because of an infection caused by bacteria or a fungus, it’s a sign to consider a vet visit. 

Topical medications can handle mild infections, but if it’s more severe, you may need your pet’s vet to suggest a course of oral antibiotics or other treatments for effective resolution.

In general, when you notice a sudden change in your dog’s nail color to black, especially when it’s accompanied by additional worrisome symptoms like pain, swelling, or discharge, it’s wise to seek veterinary attention without delay. 

What Breeds Are More Common to Have Black Nails?

What Breeds Are More Common to Have Black Nails

Black nails are more commonly found in certain dog breeds. 

Larger breeds such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Rottweilers, Black Russian Terriers, and Newfoundlands often have black nails as a natural trait. 

Additionally, some smaller breeds like Pugs, Black Labrador Retrievers, Dobermans, Pulis, and Dachshunds also commonly sport black nails due to melanin pigmentation.

How to Prevent Dog Nails From Turning Black? Tips on Caring for Your Dog’s Nails

Regularly trimming your dog’s nails is essential, as overgrown nails can cause discomfort and even lead to infections. 

You can try to trim your dog’s nails at home, but if you are unsure how to do it and want to avoid unnecessary grooming injuries, be sure to seek the help of a professional groomer or veterinarian to ensure they’re at the right length.

Keeping your dog’s nails clean is another important step in preventing issues. 

Clean nails can help prevent infections, and you can easily do this with a damp cloth or a pet-safe nail cleaner.

I always tell my patients this: Just be mindful and do a quick check each and every day on your dog’s body, looking out for anything irregular such as such as redness, swelling, or discharge.

If you notice any concerning changes, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary attention immediately. Quick action can make all the difference in your dog’s health and comfort.

A healthy diet plays a role in maintaining your dog’s nail health. Ensure your dog’s diet is well-balanced and provides all the necessary nutrients to keep their nails healthy and strong.

If your dog is active and spends a lot of time outdoors, consider using protective gear like booties to prevent injuries to their nails.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why does my dog have some black nails and some white ones?

Many dogs have a mix of black and white nails due to natural pigmentation. Certain breeds start with white nails as puppies and gradually develop black nails as they grow. However, nail discoloration can also result from issues like infections or trauma.

Should I let my dog lick his broken nail?

No, you should avoid allowing your dog to lick a broken nail. It can create a moist environment, increasing the risk of bacterial or yeast infections. An Elizabethan collar will help prevent them from doing so.

Why does my dog have one black nail?

One black nail in dogs can result from various factors. While it can be due to natural hyperpigmentation and genetics in some breeds, it’s essential to consider other possibilities. It might be the result of trauma, such as being accidentally smashed with a heavy object, an infection, or even a tumor. 

Can a dog’s black nail grow longer than the other nails?

Yes, a dog’s black nail can indeed grow longer than the other nails. It’s not uncommon for one nail to grow faster or longer than the rest. Regular nail trimming helps maintain all the nails at an even and comfortable length for your dog.

Can a dog’s black nail fall off or break?

Yes, a dog’s black nail can potentially fall off or break, particularly if it’s injured.

How to treat a dog’s discolored nails that is caused by an infection?

Topical remedies, oral antibiotics, or even surgical excision in extreme circumstances are all possible forms of treatment for nail discoloration because of an infection.

Why might a dog’s nails turn red?

One of the most common causes of red nails in dogs is that the quick, which is the sensitive part of the nail containing blood vessels and nerves, may be closer to the tip of the nail. This can make the nails appear red, especially after trimming. Other reasons include trauma, infection, or underlying medical conditions.

Why did my dog’s nails turn brown?

Dogs’ nails may turn brown for a variety of reasons, including age, diet, and exposure to dirt and debris in the environment. Typically, there is no reason to worry, but you should check with your vet for your peace of mind.

In Conclusion: Why Dog’s Nail Turned Black

Whether it’s due to genetics, age, or just plain old wear and tear, those ebony nails are nothing to be afraid of. 

BUT, it’s essential to keep an eye on them, trim them when needed, and consult your vet if you notice any unusual changes or discomfort in your furry friend!

Hey! If you found this post useful, check out these dog care tips too:

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Daily Dog Drama!

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