If your dog is biting or chewing his nails, it’s unlikely he’s trying to give himself a manicure. A dog biting its nails is usually a sign of discomfort and may be caused by anything from a nail injury, to anxiety, to allergies. This article looks at the possible causes behind your dog’s nail chewing and what you can do to help them break the habit.
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Before we get into the possible reasons why dogs chew their nails, let’s take a look at why our dogs bite and chew at themselves in the first place. While your dog can often relieve an itch with its back paws, there are several areas it cannot reach. This is where their mouths come in to act as the fingers they do not have.
However, just as humans sometimes pick when they are uncomfortable, our dogs are doing the same thing. Biting or chewing at an area of your dog’s body is the same as scratching or picking. And while this may be down to several possible causes, the root cause is always the same – discomfort.
Now that we know your dog is nail biting due to discomfort, it’s important to understand where the discomfort is coming from to resolve the habit. Let’s look at five possible reasons why your dog is chewing his nails and what you can do about it.
1. Your Dog’s Nails Are Too Long
Your dog isn’t biting their nails because they care about its aesthetics. If your dog is biting nails because they’re too long, then they’re likely interfering with your pup’s daily activities. Long nails can cause discomfort while walking due to the increased pressure on the paw pad, and severely overgrown nails may begin to dig into your dog’s skin.
Extremely overgrown nails can cause pain, infection, and nail injury, so it’s essential to give them a regular nail trimming. In the case of an extremely fluffy dog, you not only need to worry about nail growth but the growth of their fur in between their toes. This can be incredibly irritating to a fluffy pup, and you may see them nibbling at their toes, trying to relieve the hair wedged between them!
2. Your Dog is Experiencing Anxiety
According to a Finnish study, over 72% of dogs exhibit anxiety-induced behavior, with self-biting being the most commonly reported. This is no different than a human biting nails as a nervous habit and can occur due to separation anxiety, a change in surroundings, and even boredom.
If your dog’s chewing behavior is due to boredom caused by your absence, then ensure you leave them something to do while you are away. Several toys are safe for a dog to chew on unsupervised, including Snuffle Matts. These are great for keeping your dog entertained and can help them get out excess energy while you are away.
If your furry friend is experiencing anxiety, they may also be exhibiting other forms of destructive behaviors. Dog owners coming home to their possessions torn apart are more than likely dealing with a dog with separation anxiety, while others may display their anxious behavior by urinating in the house, panting, or licking. While CBD and hemp oil may take the edge off a nervous dog, your veterinarian can prescribe anxiety medication for more extreme cases.
3. Your Dog Has Allergies
Allergies are one of the most common causes of excessive paw licking, paw chewing, and paw biting, and your poor pup may be trying to get some relief. While a dog with grass or seasonal allergies may only engage in this behavior during certain times of the year, dogs with food allergies will remain uncomfortable until the source of their irritation is removed.
The most common food allergies in dogs are chicken, lamb, beef, egg, dairy, wheat, pork, rabbit, soy, and fish, and at least one of these ingredients is present in every major dog food brand on the market. Get to the source of your dog’s food allergies by slowly eliminating these common culprits or have your dog tested for allergies by a veterinarian. You can also use a home allergy test that can be purchased online.
4. Your Dog Has Fleas
Unfortunately, the source of your poor pooch’s discomfort may be the pesky ectoparasites known as fleas. While fleas love to hide behind your dog’s elbows and in their groin area, they also prefer the protected areas between their toes.
Carefully spread your dog’s toes to see if you can see any sign of fleas. An adult dog flea is roughly one eight of an inch long and is reddish brown. If you spot fleas, you will also see raised red bumps or scabs where your pup has been bitten. Wash your dog with flea shampoo immediately, and use a flea and tick spray to kill the fleas between your dog’s toes. If you’re unsure how to obliterate fleas or are uncomfortable doing so, seek the advice of your veterinarian immediately.
5. Skin Conditions & Infections
Several skin conditions and infections could be causing redness, itchy skin, and irritation between your dog’s toes and paws, causing it to chew its nails. These include ringworm (which can be caused by fleas), yeast overgrowth, and bacterial infections. The skin between your dog’s toes is an easy place for a skin condition to turn into infection when your dog starts adding the moisture of its saliva to it.
While the exact reasoning behind your dog chewing his nails may not immediately be clear, you can be sure that your dog is trying to tell you something with this behavior. While occasionally chewing his nails may not present an issue, chronic nail biting may be caused by severe anxiety and even obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Take your furry friend to the veterinarian for a checkup and to come up with the best plan possible for your pup. Your dog may be experiencing one or even several of the causes of nail chewing on this list!