Nail-biting isn’t just a human habit, but dogs can exhibit this tendency as well. Is it a cute puppy habit, or can nail-biting signify a deeper health issue?
You won’t want to run to the vet for every little issue, but you wouldn’t want to be faced with a more severe issue because the problem wasn’t diagnosed early on.
We’ll tackle the reasons why your dog bites his nails and when to worry about it.
Table of Contents
Why Do Dogs Chew Their Nails?
Let’s take a look at the most common reasons why dogs bite their nails.
It’s Time for a Trim
The most basic reason why your dog is biting nails and one that is of the least amount of concern is grooming. Your pooch is simply chewing on his nails because they’re too long.
To be sure of this, inspect the length of his nails when he is in a standing position. Your dog’s nails should not touch the ground. If you notice they are about the graze the floor, then give them a quick trim.
Long nails can cause muscle development issues and splayed feet. At times, long nails on dogs can cause injury as well. Since your dog’s paws are areas that see heavy contact, it will also take longer to heal, so make sure to keep your dog’s nails trim and short.
If you don’t cut your dog’s nails enough, the quick, which is the collection of nerves in the center, will grow along with the nails. In order to keep them short, we would suggest a nail trim once a week.
Another reason why dogs bite their nails is allergies. A lot of the time, a dog notifies owners of allergies by licking their feet and biting their paws.
Nail-biting is also a result of some kind of allergy. Your dog can be allergic to grass, food, and other seasonal stimulants.
Unfortunately, dogs who are allergic to grass have the short end of the stick, because grass is ubiquitous in most suburban and rural areas.
A grass allergy is usually determined early on, with the vet providing you with a variety of options to help manage it. Some helpful remedies include oatmeal shampoos and ones meant for sensitive skin.
Food allergies are more avoidable, but determining the culprit is the difficult part. Once you have narrowed down the possible catalysts, it’s just a question of not feeding your dog food that will irritate him.
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Seasonal allergies are an unfortunate fact that you may have to deal with on occasion. Again, your vet could offer invaluable advice on how to make it easier on your dog during the spring and summer months.
Anxiety is a prevalent mental issue for dogs, and they can manifest in many different ways. Sometimes it’s endless crying and hiding, other times it is accidents inside the house. A dog biting his nails can also be a signifier of anxiety. Maybe your dog is anxious about something, but other times he could just be bored.
Assess if there have been any changes in your life that may uproot your dog’s routine. Some dogs don’t do well with changes and can get uncharacteristically unsettled. Also, pay attention to when your dog bites his nails. If he often does it at a certain time or when a specific event occurs, then you can better decide how to remedy it.
For example, if your dog often chews and bites his nails when you’re getting ready to head out, then it’s more than likely he has separation anxiety.
Another common answer to why do dogs bite their nails is skin problems. Most of the time, if the reason for chewing his nails is a skin-related issue, it won’t be localized to just the paw.
You may also see your dog nipping and biting at other parts of his body. During regular grooming sessions, ask the groomer or take the time yourself to check under your dog’s fur to see if you can spot any rashes or hair loss.
Dogs also have a tendency to lick their wounds, which is where the phrase came from. It’s also possible that a dog biting his nails is due to an injury.
As we mentioned, without regular maintenance your dog could crack or split his nail. If he is in pain or bleeding, he may start biting or licking his paws and nails.
Your best bet is to inspect the area to make sure everything is okay. Look for growths between the toes while you’re at it. We have had experience with dogs that grow cysts in the crevices that can cause discomfort.
Related: 5 Best Nail Grinders for Dogs
Flea or Tick Infestation
Lastly, another common reason why your dog is chewing his nails is fleas or ticks. Dog parents know that dogs are natural furnaces. They are warm, cuddly, and excellent for snuggling with on a cold winter day. Unfortunately, fleas and ticks also share this sentiment. They love to burrow into our fur babies and make a home under their fur and in their crevices.
One such crevice that is particularly susceptible to flea infestation is between your dog’s toes. You can remove some ticks from the surface with a flea or tick comb, but the best way to make sure they have been completely eradicated is to visit the vet. The vet may then suggest tick and flea prevention that could be topical ointments or flea collars.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I get my dog to stop chewing his nails?
You can get your dog to stop biting his nails by first determining the reason behind the behavior. A dog biting nails could be due to boredom or anxiety, injuries or infections, or flea and ticks.
Once you notice your pups are biting their nails, look at the length. Nail trimming is integral to grooming, and most groomers will make sure they are kept short. However, you may be required to perform regular maintenance between grooming.
It’s also a good idea to inspect the area and see if your dog is showing any other abnormal signs such as itching or whining. Your dog scratching a lot could mean he has an allergy or something unrelated to the length of your dog’s nails. If the reason for the biting is allergies or separation anxiety, then it’s time to visit the veterinarian for the next steps.
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Is it bad for dogs to chew on their nails?
Yes, it’s bad for dogs to chew on their nails. It’s okay if it’s done occasionally, but excessive chewing can become a problem. If you keep up with regular nail trimming, then the chewing and biting on the paws could happen less often. Once you notice excessive chewing, you should look for other symptoms that may accompany it and indicate further health issues.
What is nail-biting a symptom of?
Nail-biting is a symptom of many things including allergies, injuries, fleas and ticks, random growths, or long nails. In order to treat the biting and chewing, you have to understand why your pup is doing it.
Inspect your dog’s nails to see if they are too long. If so, you need to step up your regular nail trimming. If you see a split nail, that could be the reason behind the biting.
Injured paws can also result in nail chewing as well as separation anxiety and allergies. Whenever you are in doubt as to why your dog is chewing and biting, a veterinarian can help you find the answer.
Can dogs feel pain in their nails?
Does can feel pain in the quick, which is the concentration of nerves at the center of their nails, similar to our nail bed. A pooch with clear nails will have very visible quicks, while a pup with dark nails won’t.
During nail cutting, it’s very important to avoid cutting the quick. The pain is similar to when you cut too close or onto your nail bed, but more severe.
If you cut a dog’s quick, he will bleed and the wound will take very long to heal. You will have to use a cone to prevent your pup from licking the injury and refrain from exercising him too much.
Why is my dog licking his paws?
Your dog is licking his paws for a variety of reasons, some of which can include boredom, allergies, anxiety and fear, and skin problems. The way to stop your dog from licking his paws is similar to preventing him from biting his nails. First, determine the cause, then move to eliminate it.
Occasional nail chewing and biting is not a cause for alarm, but relentless tugging at them can become a problem.
There are many reasons why a dog will do this, and it’s even possible he’s grooming what’s stuck beneath them. It’s always better to inspect the area to make sure there are no visible lacerations, fleas or ticks, and growths.
Try not to put any ointment on your dog’s paws without checking with the veterinarian first. Always ask a professional before you attempt a home remedy.
Did You Know?
On white dogs, excessive licking can cause their fur on the paws to turn pink. This is called inflamed feet, and shaving off the affected fur will get rid of the pink visually, but it will return if your dog continues to lick.
Neosporin is okay to use on your dog in small amounts, but keep your dog from licking it off. Betadine and other home remedies such as chamomile can also be safe in small amounts, but remember to ask your veterinarian first.