Have you noticed something that seems rather peculiar: your dog has both black and white nails.
Are you a little concerned why this is?
What it can mean?
What is happening?
Well, if that sounds like you then you’ve come to the right place.
Having observed this in my own dog, I decided to consult with a few vets to find out for good what was going on.
I am going to relay all that I was told here today.
Why Does My Dog Have Some Black Nails And Some White?
Most dogs will have some black nails and some white due to natural pigmentation. Though, white discoloration can occur due to medical conditions, with fungal/bacteria infections or as a result of trauma being the most likely.
Natural Nail Pigmentation
Let’s begin with the most common reason – natural nail pigmentation.
Similar to our skin, hair, and eyes, the color of a dog’s nails is primarily determined by their genes, which dictates the amount of melanin present in each nail.
Our dogs’ nails are akin to our fingernails, although they are significantly harder and more durable.
In my case, I’ve noticed that my Cockapoo has a mix of both black and white nails.
Now here’s the good news.
It’s perfectly natural for some nails to be darker (black or brown) and others to be lighter (white or clear), even on the same paw!
A less pleasant cause, but one that’s important to acknowledge, is the possibility of a fungal infection.
These infections can change the color of your dog’s nails, often leading to darker or even black nails.
Fortunately, in my experience as a dog owner, these infections are relatively rare and often accompanied by other noticeable symptoms such as nail brittleness, unpleasant odor, or even discomfort when walking.
But they are still a possibility.
Fungal infections in dogs’ nails typically occur due to exposure to certain types of fungi in their environment.
These can be found in various places, but common sources are soil, decaying organic material, and even the feces of other animals.
Now, if you’re like me and your dog enjoys digging in the garden, roaming in the park, or just generally exploring outdoors, it’s possible that they could come into contact with these fungi.
Additionally, nail injuries (see below) can also make dogs more susceptible to fungal infections.
When a dog’s nail is cracked or broken, it allows an easy entry point for fungi.
If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from a fungal infection, it’s essential to seek professional help.
Timely treatment can prevent the infection from spreading or leading to more severe health problems.
Trauma or Nail Damage
Our dogs like to be adventurous, often resulting in scrapes, cuts, and, yes, sometimes nail damage.
Just as we can bruise or discolor our nails due to injury, dogs’ nails can darken if they’ve experienced trauma.
In my dog’s case, a rather enthusiastic digging session in the garden resulted in a slightly darker nail (making the others appear lighter).
But after a quick trip to the vet, we were relieved to learn it was only a minor injury, and the color returned to normal once the nail healed.
When to Be Worried About Your Dog’s White Nails
Most of the time there is no cause for concern if your dog presents with black and white nails. However, if this is a recent change, or most nails are turning white over time, it’s a good idea to get your dog checked over by a vet.
Remember, dogs can’t communicate their discomfort as we do, and often changes in their body could be their way of telling us something’s wrong.
Therefore, if you notice sudden or dramatic changes in the color of your dog’s nails or other worrying symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or changes in their walking pattern, it’s time to make an appointment with your vet.
What Should Healthy Dogs Nails Look Like?
Healthy dog nails are typically smooth and solid, without cracks or spots. Their color can range from black, brown, white, or a mix of these, depending on the dog’s natural pigmentation and general health condition. Regardless of color, they should be hard, but not brittle, and cause no pain or discomfort during movement.
To check if your dog’s nails are healthy, observe how they look, feel (gently) their texture and watch your dog’s walking and running patterns.
What Does An Infected Dog Nail Look Like?
An infected dog nail often appears discolored, typically darker or black, and may be accompanied by brittleness or an unusual odor. Additionally, swelling or redness around the nail bed could indicate an infection.
How To Keep Your Dogs Nails Healthy
Keeping your dog’s nails healthy involves regular checks, appropriate grooming, and a keen eye for any changes.
Overgrown nails can cause discomfort, difficulty in walking, and increase the risk of nail injuries.
Invest in a good quality dog nail clipper or grinder and aim for a nail-trimming session every 3 to 4 weeks.
Here’s my recommended tool -> LuckyTail Nail Grinder Review [Here Is Why You Need It]
A balanced diet that provides all the necessary nutrients can help maintain strong and healthy nails.
Consider foods rich in protein and essential fatty acids, as these are particularly beneficial for keratin production, a key component of nails.
Regular Vet Check-ups
Routine veterinary check-ups can help detect any potential nail health issues early.
If you notice any unusual changes in your dog’s nails, such as discoloration, brittleness, or if your dog shows signs of discomfort, schedule a vet visit as soon as possible.
Caring for your dog’s paws is as crucial as caring for their nails.
Regular cleaning can help prevent the build-up of dirt and bacteria, which can lead to infections.
Consider using paw balm or wax to protect their paws from harsh surfaces and weather conditions.
Exercise on Different Surfaces
Regular exercise on various surfaces can naturally help keep your dog’s nails trimmed.
While it’s normal for our dogs to have nails of different colors, we should always remain vigilant to any drastic changes and not hesitate to seek expert advice when necessary.
Most of the time, it’s no cause for concern.
But you would never forgive yourself if something was going on that you could have addressed sooner.
Or if your dog was in pain, unnecessarily.
Related guides you may want to read:
- How To Keep Dog Nails Short Without Clipping [4 Alternate Solutions]
- How To Grind Dogs Nails [Everything To Do & Consider]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.