6 Reasons Why Your Dog is Chewing His Nails
28 March, 2016
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By: Lisa Fimberg

Dogs chew on their nails as part of their grooming process and is expected and natural.  However, when the chewing becomes chronic, it usually means something is wrong with your pup or is bothering him.  It could be a simple answer or something more complicated like a new behavioral pattern.

First thing you should do is check your dogs nails.   Your dog might merely be licking or chewing at his paws because  something is  stuck in their pad.  If his pads look clean, there are reasons why your dog is chewing his nails.

Here are 6 reasons why your dog is chewing his nails:

1. Your dog is chewing his nails because they are too long!

Your dog may be biting his nails because they are too long and he is biting them off.  Nails at their longest should just clear the ground when the puppy stands in place. If you hear your puppy clicking on your kitchen floor, it’s time to trim those nails.   Some dogs’ nails naturally break on their own while walking, but if your dog is chewing them, this clearly isn’t the case.  You can always trim the nails yourself or if that is too hard, take your dog to the groomer or vet to have them do it for you.

2. Your dog is chewing on a nail because it’s broken

Broken nails aren’t always obvious. Sometimes they break at the very base of the nail, where the nail is still attached to your pup’s skin.  And this type of break will bother your dog causing him to chew on it. Your little guy may start biting at and licking the out-of-order nail. Broken nails do sometimes come off on their own, but don’t let the situation resolve itself and become infected.

3. Your dog could chew his nails because he is allergic to outdoor allergens

Allergies to food or to grass, pollen and other outdoor allergens can make your dog itchy; and chewing on paws is a symptom. Inhalant allergies, also known as atopy are another cause of repeated paw licking and  nail biting and itching of the skin, especially the feet and toes. Dogs then lick the feet and bite their nails because of the itching. The moisture and infection in the saliva then encourages a secondary bacterial or fungal infection on the feet which is why it’s important to stop this behavior as soon as you have seen it occurring.  A re-occurring condition like atopy can be serious and on-going and the cost can add up which is why pet insurance can be extremely helpful.

4. Your dog might have an infection in his nails

Your dog may be chewing his nails because the nail bed has a fungal infection. It might also be a result of injuring a nail.   If a nail is injured, and the wound is exposed, infection may result. An exposed and untreated wound may lead to infection and make your dog itch.

An infection, such as a bacterial infection is sometimes characterized by swollen, oozing, and fractured claws, and are often secondary to another condition. If only one claw is affected, it is more likely due to trauma, while multiple infected claws point to other underlying medical problems.  This can lead to a paw injury which a pet insurance company like Healthy Paws would cover if the paw is seriously infected (and another reason to have pet insurance).

Various parasites can cause your dog’s nails to grow abnormally and become inflamed. Most common is demodicosis which is caused by demodex mites that normally live on the skin.

You will have to take your pooch to the veterinarian for treatment with an antibiotic for any infection.

5. Your dog could be chewing on his nails because he is anxious

Some dogs are neurotic or just anxious. Sometimes a case of separation anxiety or stress about his surroundings will have your dog chewing on his nails to relieve his nervousness.  Chewing nails, defecating in the house and destructive behavior are common signs of anxiety.

Anxiety can cause your dog to use his teeth and grind his nails. In instances, something like a dog parking too loudly outside or fireworks can get a dog worked up  to the point that he develops a compulsive behavior he falls back on every time he’s scared.

Separation anxiety can also cause dog chewing. Instead of sleeping while you’re gone, your pup may chew his nails, feet and skin.  He is nervous, bored and misses you.  Try to leave him ropes, balls and especially treat dispensers to stymie his boredom and mild cases of separation anxiety.  Maybe a bone to chew on (raw-hide) would help so he can bit that instead of his nails.

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, it might be worth seeing a dog behavioral specialist to see if that can help your dog’s anxiety.  In fact, some insurance plans, like Embrace, covers behavioral therapy.

6. Your dog is chewing on his nails because he is bored.

Stimulating a dog’s senses is essential. Exercise, playtime, talking and training are all essential. A bored dog will become destructive to himself and his surroundings. Nail biting is a common sign of boredom. Make sure to have interactive play toys when another dog or human interaction isn’t possible.

Before you leave each day, make sure to walk your dog or let him run in the yard.  A tired dog is a happy dog and will most likely sleep and not chew is paws.

If your dog continues to chew on his or her nails and they have been groomed, take your dog to the vet for a check-up.  If your vet determines that it is not a medical condition, then it most likely is a behavioral condition and needs to be addressed differently.

If you think pet insurance might now be necessary for your dog, there are a few pet insurance companies with short waiting periods so that you can check with those companies first.

9 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why Your Dog is Chewing His Nails”

  1. What if my do won’t allow me or someone else cut her nails? Should I look at it and allow her to handle it on her own?

    1. You should definitely get them cut. If a groomer can’t do it, than ask your veterinarian. Chewing the nails on her own will make it worse.

  2. Hi, My Gia never chewed her nails not when to night time. She starts, my other little girl starts licking the couch. Could if be stress?

  3. Hi Mary Ann- could definitely be stress. Did something change in your home? Is there any other reason she might be stressed? Just try to comfort her when she is biting her nails or figure out what might be causing it. Good Luck!

  4. After I trim my dog’s nails she starts to bite her paws/nails. Maybe she’s trying to smooth it out? I’ve tried using a file to smooth the rough edges but it’s hard enough cutting her nails so I haven’t been able to. I’ve spent this entire weekend getting two paws done little by little.

  5. Hi Bindra, your dog might have allergies and that is why she is biting her paws. Or maybe you aren’t cutting them properly. I would take your dog to the groomer or your vet so they can cut them properly. Your vet, if you decide to go to her, will then be able to see if there is something else going on. Good luck! Lisa

  6. My dog is 2 years old full grown, she is a red haired heeler mix with I think Australian shepherd. She is healthy, caught up with everything and for the past couple days, all she ever does is constantly bite her duclaws. She was a rescue animal. And dr says it’s pointless to remove them now without undergoing surgery.

  7. Do you think your dog could have picked up an allergy? It can even be something as simple as something in her claws or an allergy to grass or pollen. Try to see if you can find something in her paws or you can try something soothing to help minimize the chewing. Good luck!

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