Why Do Dogs Chew Their Nails?

Your pup's nails might look perfectly fine, but he must know otherwise.
i Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

With all the squeaky balls and toys and chews your pup could jaw on all day, he's chomping down on his toenails? As with everything in a dog's world, there's a reason for his nail biting. Dog nail biting usually points to a medical condition that your vet can remedy.

Broken Nail

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; such a break will still be very bothersome to your pup. Your little guy may start biting at and licking the out-of-order nail. He may do it because it's causing him pain and it's the only thing he knows to do in response, or he may be trying to actually take the bothersome thing off his foot. Broken nails do sometimes come off on their own, but don't let the situation resolve itself. Lots of blood will be covering your floor, and there's a good chance of infection, so go see your vet.

Boredom and Anxiety

If your pup becomes significantly bored, he might try to entertain himself with nail biting. At this point, your dog's lack of stimulation and exercise is affecting his mental and physical health. He needs daily walks, training and games.

Anxiety can cause your furry friend to use his teeth and grind his nails. In instances, something like fireworks can get a pup so worked up that he develops a compulsive behavior he falls back on every time he's scared.

Separation anxiety can be the culprit: Instead of sleeping while you're gone, your pup may chew his nails, feet and skin; he's generally a complete mess until you return. Leave him ropes, balls and especially treat dispensers to stymie his boredom and mild cases of separation anxiety.

Counter conditioning -- teaching him to embrace whatever he's scared of through positive reinforcement -- will make a lot of fears a thing of the past, but severe separation anxiety might require the help of your vet.


Healthy paws and nails usually block bacteria and fungi, but one slice of a paw pad, or a broken nail, can deplete that level of natural protection. An infected nail bed is painful and itchy for your poor pup, too; he'll lick and chew his paw and nails incessantly. The area will usually be crusty, and pus will seep out. A bit of medication can thwart the unwelcome bacteria or fungi and usually in short time, so always pay your vet a visit.

Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy

Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy, known as SLO, will have your pup biting at his nails feverishly. In the case of SLO, your pup's immune system has had enough of his nails and launches a full attack against him. The nails lift up from the quick, or break at the base, and eventually fall off. You'll obviously see them start to fall off or separate from the quick, but the beginning stages aren't so obvious. Still, your pup knows something's wrong and will often bite at his nails in response to the discomfort. As terrifying as this disease might sound, it's not that common and you can put it in remission with a bit of medication. Your vet can diagnosed the disease and get you started on a treatment plan.

Looks Like Nail Biting

What looks like nail biting isn't always actually nail biting. Dogs lick and chew at areas of their paws when something's stuck in their pad or when they have allergies, but both cases usually result in pups biting at their paws instead of the actual nails. But your little guy is biting at something, and that needs to be fixed; so whisk him away to the vet's office as soon as possible.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest