Why Do Dogs Chew Their Nails?

Cuteness may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

While paw and nail chewing are common behaviors in dogs, Dr. Phillips Animal Hospital asserts you should always have your dog checked out by a veterinarian, especially if the paw and nail biting behavior is new or persistent. Boredom, anxiety, overgrown nails, allergies, and infections are common causes for dog nail chewing. Some causes can easily be resolved by a trip to the pet store for new food and toys, while other conditions will require a prescription from a veterinarian.

Boredom, anxiety, overgrown nails, allergies, and infections are common causes for dog nail chewing.
Image Credit: Cavan Images/iStock/GettyImages

Allergies in dogs

Allergic reactions to food, fleas, or environmental factors can lead to nail biting in dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, the most common places a dog affected with food or environmental allergies itch are their ears and paws. Other signs of a possible allergic reaction in dogs are hives, red, inflamed skin, itchiness, sneezing, diarrhea, vomiting, constant licking, itchy, runny eyes, chronic ear infections, and swelling of the eyelids, earflaps, face, lips, or ears.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the most common food allergens in dogs are proteins, especially those found in chicken, beef, chicken eggs, dairy products, soy, lamb, or gluten (wheat). Environmental allergens, such as grass and tree pollen may only cause problems for dogs at certain times of the year. Because the symptoms of allergies in dogs can be caused by other conditions, you should take your dog to the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan if you notice your dog having issues.

Advertisement

Your veterinarian will work with you on an appropriate treatment plan for your dog's specific allergies. For instance, if your dog is allergic to chicken, a diet change is in order. If your dog has seasonal allergies to grass pollen, your vet may prescribe an allergy medication to help control your dog's allergy symptoms.

Nail chewing can cause infections

If a nail is injured and the wound is exposed, a bacterial infection can set in. A bacterial infection can also result from your dog chewing on his or her paw or nails. If the area around the dog's nails appears red, swollen, tender to the touch, or is seeping, the nail or paw may be infected. An antibiotic is required to treat the infection, so a trip to the vet is necessary.

Advertisement

Separation anxiety in dogs

Separation anxiety can cause some dogs to chew on their nails.
Image Credit: Natael Júnior/iStock/GettyImages

Separation anxiety can cause some dogs to chew on their nails. Other signs of separation anxiety include excessive howling or barking, panting, pacing, urinating or defecating in the house, digging at doorways, chewing on household objects, and destroying household items. Not only may the dog engage in these behaviors when they are separated from their guardian, they may engage in these behaviors when their guardian is preparing to leave them alone. You can work with a pet behaviorist to help your dog deal with separation anxiety.

Advertisement

Boredom can lead to destructive behaviors

A bored dog will find something to do. If your dog is bored, they might chew on their nails, chew your furniture or other household items, unroll your toilet paper, dig holes in the yard, or knock over trash cans.

Provide your dog with plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation. Regular walks are essential for dogs, but a short stroll around the block is unlikely to be enough physical activity for most dogs. Give your dog an opportunity to get more physical exercise. Play a game of fetch with them or allow them to run around for a while in your fenced-in backyard.

Advertisement

Play interactive games with your dog, such as tug of war. Puzzle toys are great for mental stimulation. The American Kennel Club suggests regularly rotating your dog's toys so that he or she stays interested in them. Obedience and trick training also provide your dog with mental stimulation.

Socialization can give your dog physical exercise and mental stimulation. Arrange for a dog playdate with another dog. Check out the dog parks in your area.

Overgrown nails can cause nail chewing

Some dogs chew on their nails simply because they need to be trimmed.
Image Credit: Maryna Terletska/Moment/GettyImages

Some dogs chew on their nails simply because they need to be trimmed. Visit the vet's office, a grooming salon, or invest in dog nail clippers. The nails should be kept trimmed to just above the quick. Have a vet or grooming salon show you how to do this task if you wish to maintain the dog's nails at home. Overgrown nails lead to cracks, chips and more nail chewing from your dog.

Advertisement

references