Like many dog owners, I often catch my dog lying on her bed, chomping on her nails. For a while I assumed it meant it was time to clip them — she hates getting her nails trimmed, so frequent trimmings can be tricky. But does that explain why she's biting them? I asked a couple vets to find out. The consensus? Maybe yes, maybe not. Dog nail biting is often the result of a number of conditions. Here's what vets had to say and what you should do to help your dog stop the habit.
Why Do Dogs Bite Their Nails?
Dogs can bite their nails as part of the grooming process, especially if their nails are very long and uncomfortable. However, they tend to bite more for medical reasons, like allergies, a skin condition or infection, or even anxiety.
"Toes and paws can certainly have skin issues — it's a common place for us to see them," Beth Spencer, DVM, medical director at Goodheart Animal Health Centre in Denver, told POPSUGAR. "Because their feet touch everything, oftentimes nail biting is related to allergens they've picked up walking around."
Christie Long, DVM, chief veterinarian for PetCoach, agreed that environmental allergies are usually the main culprit behind nail biting in dogs. "Allergens stimulate a hypersensitivity response, which results in inflammation," she told POPSUGAR. A dog may turn to biting for relief.
Dr. Spencer also noted that biting nails can be a sign of anxiety in dogs and might be diagnosed as such, especially if that habit pairs with other anxious behaviours, like cowering or pacing.
Is It Unsafe For My Dog to Bite Their Nails?
It's not particularly safe for dogs to nibble on their feet because they can make any existing problems, whether allergies or anxiety, worse. "It's usually a sign of discomfort, so it's best to have your vet take a quick peek," Dr. Spencer said. Talk to your vet to identify the reason why they are biting their nails, especially if it's frequent.
How Can I Get My Dog to Stop Biting Their Nails?
While talking to your vet is the best course of action to identify the reasons and the treatments for nail biting, especially if they are doing it a lot, there are some things pet owners can try to see if it gives them relief.
Make sure your dog gets regular grooming and nail clipping, and ensure their paws and nails are clean and washed. "Simple things like rinsing their feet off when they come inside, in case there are any pollens that are annoying them, can be super helpful," Dr. Spencer said.
Dogs also can take medication for allergies or be treated for anxiety with medication, but again, that treatment plan should be made with your vet.